The year was 1986.
The TV show Miami Vice was on a high. It was the age of neon lights, fast cars, hot women and pastel-colored clothing. Ferrari had sponsored two Testarossas to replace a kitted 365/4 Daytona. Speedboat maker Wellcraft presented a Scarab 38 KV to lead actor Don Johnson (more on this. Read on.)
There was a memorable episode in which the protagonist raced against the bad guy in a Lamborghini Countach.
But it was during this time that Lamborghini had been struggling with bankruptcy, in actual fact. The manufacturer was now owned by Volkswagen but they couldn’t find a way around to bring the marque back into the black. They even fired Ferrucio Lamborghini – the founder of the brand himself.
Lambo was then sold to the Mimran brothers and they sought to diversify their products into other forms of transportation as well. Oh, for example, producing massive engines for offshore powerboat racing. Ironically, it was Ferrucio who first dropped a 4-litre V-12 into his Riva Aquarama speedboat.
Anyway, Lamborghini built two powerboat engines. The first, for competition was 7974cc and produced 720 bhp. Race boats would use two of them for a total of 1440 bhp. The second was a “leisure” version. It was 9336cc and produced 620 bhp.
Remember Don Johnson? He designed the Scarab Excel 43-footer for Wellcraft, who in turn went on to build 100 “Don Johnson Signature Series (DJSS),” powered by twin 650-bhp Lamborghini V-12’s.
Next, the Mimran brothers produce the LM002 SUV. It may have the aerodynamics of a shoebox, but hey, it was propelled by the Countach’s V-12.
Finally, they decided to venture into the motorcycle market. Since Lamborghini had no motorcycle designing and building experience, the plan was outsourced to a “boutique motorcycle maker” by the name of Boxer Design.
The Design 90 was unveiled in 1986. The 1000cc engine was sourced from Kawasaki and massaged to produce 130 bhp (that was a LOT during that time), an aluminium frame, lightweight aluminium allow rims; top-spec brakes, suspension, exhaust and electrics.
A limited production of 25 units were planned, but it too expensive at $13,500 and it was sure too ugly, Lamborghini logos be damned. Only six were built in the end.
A Lamborghini Design 90 was up for auction in England recently, and was expected to sell between $117,700 to $124,600. Bidding began at $58,500. It was met with tepid response and couldn’t meet its reserve price. It finally wheeled off the stage unceremoniously.
Maybe they should’ve just stuck a V-12 in there.