How Lamborghini Played a Role in the Dodge Intrepid & Viper

By -

Lamborghini Portofino - Dodge inspiration

Chrysler’s ownership of the Italian supercar maker was brief, but it led to key vehicles for both brands.

The folks at Driving.ca recently published a piece discussing the short period of time when Chrysler owned Lamborghini. The legendary Italian supercar company is currently owned by the Volkswagen Auto Group, but many people forget that from 1987 through 1994, Lamborghini was part of the Chrysler Corporation. Some people would insist that this period of time was fairly forgettable for both companies, but the partnership led to a key vehicle in Lamborghini’s history and a Chrysler concept car with Lambo bones that would lead to the Dodge Intrepid and the other LH-based sedans.

Also, while the initial article doesn’t mention this, there was also one very special engine created with help from Lamborghini that would end up powering the legendary Dodge Viper.

Buying Lamborghini

Lamborghini got off to a great start in the 1960s, selling competitors to the best from Ferrari into the 1970s, but like many performance cars in the mid-1970s, sales plummeted during the company’s second decade. As a result, the brand would change hands several times and the company was even forced to declare bankruptcy in 1978, leading to the period of time where the Lamborghini was owned by Robert, Jean-Claude, and Patrick Mimran. These Swiss brothers made their money in the sugar industry before taking over the automaker, but the only time that they made money was in 1987, when Lamborghini was sold to the Chrysler Corporation.

Chrysler boss Lee Iacocca was a major supporter of the purchase and he pushed for a large investment in the supercar brand, while executive vice president Bob Lutz pushed for a Chrysler-influenced concept with Lamborghini bits.

Lamborghini Portofino - Dodge Inspiration

The Portofino

That unique sedan, built on a stretched Lamborghini Jalpa chassis and powered by a 3.5-liter Lamborghini V8, was called the Portofino. It had an unusual body design, with the front wheels pushed way forward, creating a huge cabin and technically making it a mid-engine car, due to the engine being within the wheelbase.

More unusual than the exterior shape was the fact that this large sedan had four doors that opened upwards, leading to huge openings along the side and easy access to the sporty interior.

Lamborghini Portofino

This car obviously never saw production, but the exterior design would lead to the shape of the Chrysler LH sedans, including the Dodge Intrepid, the Chrysler Concorde and the Eagle Vision. Ultimately, this project didn’t do anything for Lamborghini, but it played a key role in the sedan success of the Chrysler Group in the 1990s.

The Diablo

The Portofino didn’t help Lamborghini, but during Chrysler’s leadership, the mighty Diablo project was completed and brought to production. The Diablo was powered by a 5.7-liter V12 that delivered 485 horsepower and 428 lb-ft of torque, with the power being sent to the rear wheels by means of a 5-speed manual transmission.

1990 Lamborghini Diablo

That powerful engine, coupled with the sharp lines of the Diablo, made it one of the fastest cars in the world, hitting a top speed of 202 miles per hour while also being quite quick, dashing from a stop to 62 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds.

1990 Lamborghini Diablo

The Diablo helped propel Lamborghini back into the supercar mainstream, helping the brand to post big sales numbers at first, but as sales of the angular machine tapered off, Chrysler sold the company to Mycom Setdco and the V’Power Corporation in 1994.

1990 Lamborghini Diablo

The Viper V10

Lastly, the other key development during the period when Chrysler owned Lamborghini was a supercar engine that started off as two van engines. Chrysler’s engineers took two 360-cubic inch V8s to the Italian engineers, asking them to create a V10 engine. They cut both engines apart, using six cylinders from one engine and four from the other, welding them together and creating a V10 engine.

1989 Dodge Viper Concept

That engine would eventually be tweaked and remade in aluminum to power the first Viper, and every Dodge supercar since then has been powered by a variant of that original Lamborghini-developed V10.

Join the Dodge Forums now!

A lifetime automotive expert, diehard Dodge fan, and respected auto journalist for over 10 years, Patrick Rall is highly experienced in the automotive world. He has clocked in time as an auto mechanic, longtime drag racer and now auto journalist who contributes to nearly a dozen popular websites dedicated to fellow enthusiasts.

“Before I was old enough to walk, my dad was taking me to various types of racing events, from local drag racing to the Daytona 500,” says Rall. “He owned a repair shop and had a variety of performance cars when I was young, but by the time I was 16, he was ready to build me my first drag car: a 1983 Dodge Mirada that ran low 12s. I spent 10 years traveling around the country, racing with my dad by my side. While we live in different areas of the country, my dad still drag races at 80 years old in the car that he built when I was 16. Meanwhile, I race other vehicles, including my 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and my 1972 Dodge Demon 340.

“Although I went to college for accounting, my time in my dad’s shop growing up allowed me the knowledge to spend time working as a mechanic before getting my accounting degree, at which point I worked in the office of a dealership group,” adds Rall. “While I was working in the accounting world, I continued racing and taking pictures of cars at the track. Over time, I began showing off those pictures online and that led to my writing.

“Ten years ago, I left the accounting world to become a full-time automotive writer and I am living proof that if you love what you do, you will never ‘work’ a day in your life. I love covering the automotive industry and everything involved with the job. I was fortunate to turn my love of the automotive world into a hobby that led to an exciting career, with my past of working as a mechanic and as an accountant in the automotive world provides me with a unique perspective of the industry.

“My experience drag racing for more than 20 years coupled with a newfound interest in road racing over the past decade allows me to push performance cars to their limit, while my role as a horse stable manager gives me vast experience towing and hauling with all of the newest trucks on the market today.

“Being based on Detroit, I never miss the North American International Auto Show, the Woodward Dream Cruise and Roadkill Nights, along with spending plenty of time raising hell on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue with the best muscle car crowd in the world.”

Comments ()