Few believed that Lamborghini could ever top the Countach, the embodiment of eighties excess. Its successor, the Diablo was at the same time softer edged yet harder hitting, and during its twelve year life span exemplified the state of the supercar art. Always outrageous, always looking for more power, Lamborghini knew that as Ferraris became ever more civilised, they were carving a more secure niche for themselves. A used Diablo will require deep pockets, steady resolve and an owner who can live with its foibles. The definitive supercar? When that V12 bellows in anger, it's about as definitive as you'll ever need.
When Lamborghini needed a successor to the Countach, the shortlist of designers was just that. Only one man was approached and the fact that he'd already penned the Miura and Countach ensured that Marcello Gandini's stock was sky high at Sant'Agata. The Diablo was a masterstroke. Launched to an admiring press in Monte Carlo in January 1990, the story behind the Diablo was already convoluted. Gandini's initial sketches were more of an evolutionary Countach style, but paymasters Chrysler had rejected them on the grounds of safety and aerodynamic inefficiency. The softer-edged Diablo was a compromise which worked beautifully.
It wasn't until the tail end of 1991 that 'official' UK cars started arriving, all 5.7-litres and 92bhp of them. These were effectively replaced in early 1994 by the all-wheel drive Diablo VT version. Some of the engine internals were also beefed up, the huge fascia binnacle was replaced by a sleeker design, brake ducts appeared in the front spoiler and a lighter clutch and power steering were introduced to make the Diablo that little bit less physical. The two-wheel drive car was withdrawn from sale as all the UK customers now opted for the VT. Perhaps 'all' gives a misleading impression. Portman Concessionaires, the official importers, ran into serious financial difficulties and bit the bullet, leaving an investment in a new Lamborghini looking as wise as shares in Polly Peck. Nevertheless four brave souls took the plunge in 1994.
1995 was a happier year, as Porsche GB took over the reins and did a better job at marketing the Diablo. The 525bhp SE30, built to mark Lamborghini's 30th anniversary 1963-1993, arrived fashionably late in true Lambo style in February 1995. One of these was the notorious Jamiroquai car that was written off in a Chelsea back street. Where the other nine are is anybody's guess. Two versions of an even wilder version of the SE30 called the Jota made it to these shores. These cars boasted no less than 600bhp.
The somewhat ungainly Diablo Roadster went on sale in the UK during the summer of 1996 alongside the lightweight Diablo SV. At the start of 1998, the SV's power was upped to 530bhp. ABS was added for the first time along with electronic brakeforce distribution and a driver's airbag. A major cosmetic change came at the end of 1998 when the Diablo's pop-up headlamps were ditched in favour of faired in lights. Most fans approved. At this point the 575bhp Diablo GT was launched, a thinly disguised racing car for the road which, at £195,000 a pop, was the most expensive Lamborghini to date. The final throw of the Diablo dice came with the Diablo 6.0, a 550bhp behemoth produced under the auspices of new owners Audi. The step up in quality is palpable, making the 6.0 the Diablo of choice for the connoisseur, although the Jota remains the pinnacle of rarity. A brown or gold Diablo 6.0 Special Edition was launched shortly before the Diablo was replaced by the all-new Murcielago model.