It took Lamborghini five years of development to come up with a worthy successor to the Countach and, when it was launched in the first month of 1990, the Diablo rocketed the Italian company back to the top of the supercar charts.
Top speed was a buttock-clenching 202mph, with 0-60mph achieved in 4.5 seconds thanks to a modified, mid-mounted 5.7-litre V-12 engine.
Countach designer Marcello Gandini was again in charge of the shape, but new owners Chrysler were not convinced and asked its own design team to smooth out Gandini’s sharp edges and corners, much to the designer’s chagrin.
Indeed, Gandini was so determined that his design would make it into production, he teamed up with engineer Claudio Zampolli and musician Giorgio Moroder to produce the Cizeta-Moroder V16T using the original design.
The Diablo (devil in Spanish), however, was still an outrageous looking car, if a little toned down compared to the spectacular Countach.
The wedge-shaped front end was not unlike a Lotus Esprit, but from the cockpit backwards things got a little crazy, with a rear seeming to extend forever and widening to 204cm, the same as its predecessor.
From the side, the car swooped down to its sharp nose, and Lamborghini dubbed the Diablo “the supercar of the future”.
Named after a vicious fighting bull owned by the Duke of Veragua in the 19th century, famous for fighting an epic battle with ‘El Chicorro’ in Madrid in 1869, Jeremy Clarkson decreed that the Diablo was designed solely to be “the biggest head-turner in the world”.
The Diablo underwent an almost constant evolution during its 11 years in production, with four wheel drive, power steering, anti-lock brakes, and a less stiff clutch aiding driveability.
Inside, you’d find the finest Italian leather, greater flexibility in driving position compared with the Countach, and an Alpine stereo, with improvements made to the dash in 1998.
In all, there were 11 different versions of the Diablo available, including a convertible, the 603bhp SE30 Jota race-car, and the 583bhp GT.
Testing the last the line Diablo 6.0 against a Ferrari 550 Maranello, Motor Trend has this to say: “In any acceleration contest, the Ferrari driver would see nothing but Diablo tail lights until they disappeared from sight.
“The Diablo is the quickest-accelerating stock production car Motor Trend has ever tested. Its record-setting 3.4-second 0-60 run was 0.8 second quicker than I managed in the traction-limited Ferrari.
“If you were picking one to drive every day – moderately, or even assertively – the 550 Maranello is the hands-down winner. If, however, you’re looking for maximum accelerative performance and crave the ego-boost of the Devil’s outrageous look, the Lambo is your supercar.”
Here, entrepreneur Rob Dahm shows what it’s really like to drive a Diablo: