Those most familiar with Lamborghini under its stable VW Group ownership might be unaware the supercar maker was a bit of a wayward child for the quarter-century prior to the Germans’ acquisition in 1998. After founder Ferruccio Lamborghini divested himself of his company in 1974, the firm went bankrupt, was placed into receivership, and eventually was sold to Chrysler—yes, Chrysler—in 1987. Under American guidance, Lambo launched the Countach-succeeding Diablo, but there wasn’t much synergy realized between the companies before Lambo was shuffled to its next ownership group. But what if there was?
That was the question artist Abimelec Arellano asked himself when he read an interview with Bob Lutz published last year by Road & Track in which it was revealed Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca wanted to cloak the unimpressive Imperial in Lamborghini’s mystique with a special-edition model. So Arellano turned this “what if” into rendered reality and created an Imperial Lamborghini Edition, as well as as sportier Daytona model.
If you’re solely focused on marketing, it’s maybe not a terrible idea. Perhaps some of Lambo’s magic could rub off on Chrysler’s lineup, imbuing the Pentastar’s cars with the cachet and desirability they almost entirely lacked at the time, and maybe they’d even become decent-handling machines. But the Imperial was a terrible place to affix a raging bull, based as it was on a variant of the K-Car platform. It was about as far from an exotic Lamborghini as you could get in both spirit and execution, and any enthusiast would be aghast at Iacocca’s request—as Lutz told R&T, he certainly was. According to Lutz, he and designer Tom Gale whipped up something that met the letter of the request but was so atrocious it was instantly spiked. Mission accomplished: Lamborghini wasn’t turned into a cynical marketing tool, and we were all spared a Chrysler Imperial Lamborghini Edition.
Until now. There are some things that you just want to see, even if they’re terrible. You can’t look away. And Arellano is such a talented artist that the resulting creations are … cool? And even if you think they’re abominations, there’s no doubt these Chryslorghinis are fun to ponder, just like his Pontiac Aztek Trans Am renders. Arellano even whipped up a vintage ad for it and the Daytona.
Just as Lutz described, this Imperial’s vinyl roof is gone, and the whole shebang is painted a lurid shade of rosso. The hood sports a raised Lamborghini hood ornament right where the Imperial’s “crystal eagle” pentastar would be. There are even Lamborghini-inspired “phone dial” wheels, in gold of course, and Lambo badging everywhere. We don’t know exactly what the “real” proposal looked like, but this Lamborghini Edition Imperial nails Lutz’s description. All it’s missing in our estimation are a dozen or so NACA ducts.
Also, seeing the closest approximation to what Lutz and Gale showed Iacocca reaffirms what we already knew: You have to keep enthusiasts involved in the design and production process, even for non-enthusiast vehicles. They have the sixth sense about what might sell, and what’s going to ultimately flop and perhaps even damage the image of the automaker in the process. You think the tortured process that led to the Pontiac Aztek—a “damn the market research, just make the boss happy” attitude and a painful lack of self-reflection—couldn’t happen again?
As a bonus, inspired by the interview, Arellano rendered something Lutz didn’t describe and possibly couldn’t have imagined in his wildest dreams: A Lamborghini-fied Dodge Daytona coupe. It’s got a definite Lamborghini Jalpa vibe to it, with its inset hatch glass, large wing, and Countach-style overfenders with their distinctive flattened top edges. Of course, it’s rebadged as a Chrysler in this alternate universe. The Daytona perhaps was never as cool as its designers intended, but unlike the Imperial, this would have really raised its profile (at the expense of Lamborghini’s, of course).
Lutz himself doesn’t have a perfect track record, but he always took the enthusiast line. Take his story with the requisite grain of salt, but we should probably be thankful these Lamborghini Editions never happened, as they likely would have damaged Lambo’s exotic reputation, perhaps fatally. Then again, Maserati recovered (mostly) from the TC by Maserati debacle, so who knows?
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