“Nobody has ever gone broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” I’ve never fully agreed with this famous H. L. Mencken statement, but I will say that most car buyers really don’t know or care much about what’s under the skin of the vehicle they just bought. There is likely nobody in history who understood this and capitalized on it as much as the late, great Lee A. Iacocca. As President of Ford, he used the same basic ingredients in his automotive cupboard and made as many possible recipes as he possibly could, admittedly stretching the legitimacy of some of his creations.
Boy, was he successful. Iacocca took the underpinnings of the cheap, plain-as-turnips Falcon and created not just the Mustang but the whole “Pony Car” category. Later he added a Rolls Royce-style grille and a tire hump to the Ford Thunderbird to turn it into the sinister-looking Lincoln Mark III, a car that beat the Cadillac Eldorado in sales despite being far, far less sophisticated.
sources: Wikipedia/Kroelleboelle, Orlando Classic Cars (car for sale), Wikipedia/João Tavares de Medeiros
It should go without saying that there was immense profit packed into solutions like this. Automotive journalists and corporate critics scoffed, but if the buyers were happy with the way these cars performed and, more importantly, the way those cars made them feel; what was wrong with that? Nothing, really. His well-know endeavors of turning the K-Car platform into everything from “luxury” cars to minivan during his tenure at Chrysler were surprisingly effective in the market. Still, it was here that he started to take things a bit too far.
For example, in 1980, he used his friendship with Alejandro DeTomaso (of the Pantera and Mangusta fame) to create a special sports car. The resulting machine was a Dodge Omni 024 coupe dolled up with a bunch of items that you might be able to get from a Pep Boys or JC Whitney catalog; rear window louvers, decals, and a wraparound silver “targa” bar but no performance modifications whatsoever. This thing fooled no one, but Lee seemed undeterred and made even more embarrassing choices (the owner of the car below appears to really dig broke ass Chryslers, doesn’t he? Is he an Autopian?):
Later in the decade, DeTomaso was now the owner of Maserati, and Iacocca decided that Chrysler should team up with the storied firm to make a “halo” car. After many delays, the Chrysler TC by Maserati landed with a thud on the marketplace. Based on a Dodge Daytona chassis (itself a K Car variant) it was supposed to precede and introduce the styling of the mass production Chrysler LeBaron, but ultimately it was released after that much cheaper car. The hardtop with porthole windows (which could inadvertently set fire to the interior carpet in some cases) was the crowning glory.
Near the end of the eighties, an even stranger Italian/American collaboration took place. Iacocca was able to purchase the prestigious-but-always-struggling Lamborghini — an exotic car builder now owned by the makers of the Plymouth Reliant. Always short on cash, Lamborghini had the ability now to develop new cars and even concepts such as the Portofino sedan which ultimately became the influential ‘cab forward’ LH cars. Still, there was a darkness that only the work of crafty Iacocca subordinates could keep below the surface.
It should surprise nobody, but Lido did not purchase Lamborghini to have a premier 300-car-per-year boutique brand under Chrysler’s belt. No, he wanted the prestige, and if you review the history that I’ve just presented above you just know that he was going to capitalize on the name in the most cost-effective way possible. Stories have been told of K-Car-based “Lamborghini” sedan concepts being developed, with cringing designers and executives wondering what to do to stop this sacrilegious work. Can you imagine what a bunch of Lamborghinis based on proletarian mainstream Dodges and Plymouths would look like?
Well, imagine no more Autopians! I hope you haven’t eaten lunch yet because below I am going to show you the “Iacocca-approved” profit-packed Lamborghini lineup of imaginary-1993! They’re all named after breeds of Spanish fighting bulls, and I promise that you’ll want to stab these things with an espada sword yourself after seeing them. Let’s get started!
Parlade. Based On: Dodge Stealth
To complement the legendary Diablo exotic, in our fake reality Chrysler-owned Lamborghini would have offered the smaller 2+2 Parlade, a front-engined all-wheel-drive coupe with a look that emulated the top-of-the-line V12 car. Under the hood would have been a twin turbocharged V6 with, uh, some Japanese engineering BUT cast aluminum valve covers that say LAMBORGHINI on them. The press reps at the launch kept calling it ‘a very STEALTH sports car’, and they said that again and again for some reason. Strange, huh?
Saltillo. Based On: Dodge Intrepid
Here is the family vehicle of the ChryslerGhini lineup, a front-wheel-drive five-passenger sedan that featured a 3.5 liter V6 Lamborghini engine. Well, it would have been a Chrysler block, but the Italian firm would have added DOHC heads, modified intakes and exhaust to make it their own. The Saltillo would have been about the size of, say, a Dodge Intrepid, though it would have had nothing to do with that working class four door. How dare you suggest that it would? Did an Intrepid feature pop up lights and sophisticated C pillar air management vents? No, it did not.
Murube. Based On: Dodge Caravan
In 1988, Bertone displayed an odd minivan-like vehicle called the Genesis. This strange creation was powered by a Lamborghini V-12 mounted under a big hump between the front seats like an old Ford Econoline van.
Somehow, in our imaginary universe, Iacocca would have felt that he could productionize this concept to make the first (and last) seven passenger Lamborghini, the Murube. Under the hood would exist the same DOHC V6 as the Salito, in this case powering all four wheels (with a rear bias). Retracting headlamps, ground effects, and a wrap-over rear roof spoiler let you know that this is a pure exotic car that just happens to be able to carry a 4×8 sheet of lumber in back. It’s almost as if a Plymouth Grand Voyager was under this lovely exterior.
Do not fear, Autopians. You can wake up now. This was just a bad dream fabricated by yours truly. In reality the executives at Chrysler who were true fans of the Sant’aga brand were able to direct the soon-to-retire Lido’s attention elsewhere before such abominations were released to the public. Lamborghini was able to stay true to its sports car roots all the way up until Chrysler was forced to offloaded the brand in 1994.
Thank God this never happened. If it did, today we might see insane concoctions like Lamborghini-branded SUVs sitting on VW Touareg platforms with Audi engines or something. Could you imagine that?
Our Daydreaming Designer Imagines Corvette Sedan And Wagon In 1978 – The Autopian
A Daydreaming Designer Looks At How Rebadging Might Have Saved Some Automotive Failures – The Autopian
Our Daydreaming Designer Imagines The Nightmares That Could Have Happened If Dead GM Brands Survived – The Autopian
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My question is though, would we’ve ever have seen a Chrysler version of the Diablo? The Chrysler Devil or maybe the Dodge Lucifer?
Marube and Parlade are both bloody schmexy want-machines. Holy moly ????
I’m making over $13k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.
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So the Parlade, is a Mitsubishi GTO, rebadged as a Dodge Stealth, rebadged as a Lambo?
I would drive a MuRube for sure.
“Well, imagine no more Autopians!”
I’ll say it again:
The Mitsughini/Lambobishi actually looks like a super cool 80s sports car. Maybe this idea should be developed and get one of the Bishop’s sweet interior designs.
The Intrepid Lamborghini should be named the Portofino for obvious reasons
The best Bishop post yet. The Caravanigni is awesome.
How about a switcheroo? What if SAAB had bought GM? What if Jaguar had bought Ford?
I like the cut of your jib, but let’s take it further…
GMC, Oldsmobile, Lotus, Pontiac, Holden, and Saab (GOLPHerS) became the top contenders out of the badge-engineered 80s-90s for GM.
Fiero lives as a more GT version of the Esprit. Larger and heavier, but packed with an updated Quad4, supercharged to say 230 HP/TQ.
That S/C Quad4 is also used in the 2-door Bravada SCX (a more GT, RWD SUV) as opposed to the GMC Typhoon, which was upgraded to a Saab-turbo’d 3.5L Shortstar with the AWD.
Aurora-shares it’s 4.0L in the final gen Monte Carlo body and called the 4-4-2 Olds Coupe. Turbo’d 4.0L in the Race-spec Esprit and torque-tuned in the Turbo Trans Am.
Saab creates a new Sonnet, based on the Exige with a Viggen motor. Olds makes their own dud version of the 9-3 as an Omega.
NebraskaStig- I have lots of thoughts; these are all great ideas. You have my mind going now.
Prelude2Evil- glad that you like it, and there are indeed many, many more absurd possibilities to explore!
I fully endorse this premise.
I laughed all the way though this. Thanks, I needed that!
Lido even had Lamborghini in Formula One from 1989-93 primarily as an engine supplier.
Lamborghini engineered the LE3512, a 3.5 liter naturally aspirated 80° V-12 with horsepower ratings of 600-750 during its five year development.
It was one of only five V-12 engines used in the naturally aspirated era from 1989-2013.
They poached Scuderia Ferrari engineer Mauro Forghieri to construct the engine.
In 1991 they actually fielded a beautiful lapis blue Chrysler-Lamborghini 291 F1 factory team.
However, uncharacteristically for a Lido exercise the team was so unsure of its prospects the car was fielded under the moniker Team Modena with neither Chrysler nor Lamborghini displayed on the car livery.
Like many of Lido’s shoe string operations, it was generally an abject failure with the exception of a third place podium finish at the Japanese Grand Prix in 1990.
It did have a wonderful song.
You could hear it coming before you could see it.
F1 driver Derek Warwick said the 3512 was “all noise and no go.”
I remember Lido strutting around downtown Phoenix like a peacock in the early 90s when street races were held there.
He was a piece of work.
In 1993 Chrysler unceremoniously sold off Lamborghini to an Indonesian investment group headed by playboy Tommy Suharto.
Automobiliaobsessive- I believe it was sold off in 1994, which is why I set the virtual model year of these abominations at 1993. Lamborghini was sold off since I believe that was a time when Chrysler was (again) in dire financial straits- remember that some said claimed that LH stood for ‘Last Hope’.
Chrysler had also tried to follow GM’s lead by diversifying out of the auto segment, but, obviously on a much smaller budget – buying Gulfstream Aerospace and getting back into the defense sector by purchasing Electrospace Systems and Airborne Systems. Their aerospace/defense subsidiary was called Chrysler Technologies, which ended up getting broken up and sold off in 1996 – 2/3 of it went to Raytheon, Gulfstream was the other 1/3, and went to private equity.
GM had a similar trajectory – Hughes Aircraft, Electronic Data Systems, Aerovironment, and GMFanuc Robotics all seemed like better ideas than they were initially. Also, moving GMAC into the mortgage and consumer credit businesses ended up not working out all that well.
It was sold in 1994. I regret the error.
Keep this up, Bishop, and you might be Pope one day.
Canopysaurus- Bless you, my son.
That would be a cardinal error.
You know, the Saltillo might not be all that bad, if you got the right parts and people on the project. The Intrepid was a longitudinal front wheel drive car with a big transmission tunnel, so converting the chassis to rear wheel drive would have been easy. Mount the transaxle in the back for better weight distribution. And the 3.5L was a pretty powerful mill back in the day, making like 215hp. A DOHC version tweaked by Lamborghini would probably be a screamer. And Chrysler was certainly at the top of it’s game when it came to styling at this period.
Now, would this have really lived up to the expectations of a Lamborgini? Most likely not. But I do think such a thing would have made for a good Maserati sedan or something.
Marc Fuhrman- I know, right? It’s obviously a joke but when I finished it I realized that the whole shape (with the pop up lights) almost made sense. A testament to the great design of the LH series.
Remember that just before this time Lancia had the Thema 8-3.2, which was a ‘large’ sedan (same floorpan as the Alfa 164 and Saab 9000) with a Ferrari V8 spinning the front wheels, so the idea of a hot FWD Italian sedan is not new…even if it would have been a Dodge.
They would have to have a Village & Villa version of the van with fake limestone panelling.
TBH there are a lot of cars that have been built that are uglier and perform worse. I know it would have killed the brand because snobs buy things because us lower lifeforms cant and to them it means they are better than us. Frankly i dont get how egotistical brands like Lambo and Ferrari think they are so great when they are constantly in or near bankruptcy and need the middle income people to bail them out time after time.
Actually Tesla has started a car company and improved it more in 10 years than Ferrari and Lamborghini have done during the brands entire life.
tacotruckdave- I certainly wouldn’t say that the Italian exotics haven’t improved over the years; I would say, however, that most of this improvement has come from ownership by larger manufacturers of working man’s cars. So in a way, those companies did in fact bail them out, but gained from these exotic car makers as well (for example, Lamborghini helped to develop the Dodge Viper’s engine).
Speaking of the V10, would love to see your take on an LM003 based on a stretched Wrangler with the V10!
It is interesting we seem to see fewer Viper V10 disaster stories compared to Audi and Even Lambo v10’s
“for example, Lamborghini helped to develop the Dodge Viper’s engine”
Here’s my cue to jump in again.
No, Lamborghini had no hand in Viper engine development, besides some experimental aluminum blocks being cast in Italy. All the engineering and manufacturing for the V10 was done by Chrysler themselves.
v10- if that’s your name then I don’t have a reason to doubt you. I remember seeing Bob Lutz talk about the ‘Lamborghini engine’ but he might have indeed been just referring to the block.
I know that Lamborghini was hired to develop the BMW M1 back in the seventies but supposedly BMW took it back in house after lack of development progress (again, just one story that I read).
It’s a common misconception; even Wikipedia is wrong. Because honestly, it makes for a compelling story:
“Lol dumbass Yanks can’t make a modern performance engine and have to buy a supercar company and ask them to convert one of their truck engines”.
It just isn’t true. The Viper engine came before the truck engine, they share almost no parts, and Lamborghini’s involvement was extremely limited.
Ok but that Lamborghinivan is NICE.
Yup. I love that. And the Parlade would be on a holy grails post right here if it had ever existed.
This is basically the Packard 120 thing – Chrysler would have had no trouble at all selling a down-market Lamborghini on plebian underpinnings as long as it still had the same badge on the hood, but the damage to the brand and it’s upper end models would have been significant.
Rolls-Royce and Bentley contemplated rebadged versions of BMC’s ADO17 in the ’60s, which would certainly have been incredible volume sellers, but widely backed off of the idea
Ranwhenparked- I think DeTomaso did a bit of the same thing with the Biturbo. I actually LIKE the Biturbo and its siblings BUT the idea of a Maserati for the price of a BMW did damage to the brand as a high level exotic that took years to unravel.
The Innocenti DeTomaso tie up was pretty cool. They were actually sold in Canada and I had a friend who bought one. It rusted away faster that milk spoiled in the sun, but for a few glorious days it was a blast to drive. Kind of in a dumb car fast way.
Delightfully enough, Rolls-Royce and Bentley contemplated more than just upmarket Landcrabs:
Like the Austin Allegro-based Vanden Plas 1500?
On the subject of Lamborghinis, I recently discovered that Espada means “sword”. Coincidentally, after reading your article, I want to stab myself in the face with one.
All joking aside, the minivan with the pop up head lights would be awesome
Trenton- You’re lucky! I had a Dodge Shadow on the boards ready for the Lambo treatment too but realized that enough was enough.
There was an attempt at a Lamborghini Grand Cherokee wasn’t there? I’m sure I’ve seen pictures.
Citrus- I’m not sure, but I know that a long, long time ago Bill Harrah put a Ferrari V12 in a Wagoneer and called it the Jerrari:
You’re not imagining that. Well, if you are then we both are. There were spy shots of red GC’s with Lambo logos and a V12 crammed under the hood. They existed – but I must not be strong enough in Google-Fu to find the evidence now.
Good lord I hope someone here can find them pics, cos I’m hooked.
A Lamborghini based 3000GT?
That hurts my brain. Even with my eyes closed.
Really? I kinda like it!