Lamborghini Cheetah

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Lamborghini Cheetah

Post by Cutaway on Tue 06 May 2008, 3:57 pm

The first Lamborghini off-road, that wasn't a tractor, was the Cheetah, it was built on contract for the American firm Mobility Technology International, which were contacted by the U.S. military to design and built an all-terrain vehicle.
M.T.I. would sell the car while it would be built in Sant'Agata, Lamborghini didn't have the time to completely design the Cheetah itself, so basic instructions were taken from M.T.I., who unfortunately just copied a very well known vehicle, the FMC XR 311.
This resulted in threads of legal action by FMC against M.T.I. and Lamborghini when the final prototype was presented to the people on the 1977 Geneva Auto Show.

The Cheetah was designed and built in San Josť, California, after completing the prototype, MTI sent it to Sant'Agata were the Lamborghini engineers and technicians carried out a few modifications and brought it up to the production standards.
However, this was only the first of a series of mistakes made with the Cheetah, Lamborghini decided to use a big 5.9-Litre Chrysler engine, coupled to a 3-speed automatic gearbox, driving the four wheels. The engine was mounted in the rear which caused the weight balance to be completely wrong, resulting in very poor road-manners. The Cheetah was designed to carry four armed people and a driver, a Fiberglass body was used, but the Cheetah was far too heavy for the underpowered engine, so overall performance was very poor. This engine was waterproofed and the radiator was protected by an infrared detection system.

The decision to use an American made engine was probably made to gain the U.S.-Army contract, but it was very soon obvious the U.S. wouldn't invest in anything built outside the United States, and the Cheetah was rejected almost at once, it was however tested in dessert runs, and was subsequently crashed during one of those test.
The Cheetah was completely destroyed, but the wreck was never returned to Italy, it's whereabouts today are unknown.

The construction of the Cheetah took a lot of money, which should have been used to design and built the BMW E-26 prototype, which would become the successful M-1 (see entry), but the money ran out and the production of the BMW couldn't be started on the agreed date, resulting in the loss of the contract.

The Cheetah was offered at $25.000 at that time, and an brochure was even made in Arab to attract the attention of the wealthy sheikhs, but neither the Army or any Arms manufacturer was interested, and after the crash of the prototype, Lamborghini didn't built a second Cheetah, but was left in even worse financial problems than before, things were looking very bad for Lamborghini in 1977, but they would be back, even with a successful four-wheel drive all-terrain Lamborghini.

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