An Hour With the Devil
It happened quite unexpectedly: AlphaLuxe Automotive Managing Editor ThomasM tossed me the keys in the Los Angeles twilight.
“I guess it’s now or never!”
I’ll be the first to admit – the Lamborghini Diablo was a little before my time. I always admired its striking, exotic styling from the sidelines, scarcely aware of its storied history or performance prowess. So, when I was offered the rare opportunity to run with this iconic bull, despite my glaring unworthiness, I jumped at the opportunity.
Misty Water-Coloured Memories…
Settling into the cabin of the Diablo, a distant memory emerged: my family’s annual trips to an east-coast amusement park institution – Cedar Point. Behind this park’s storied gates lies the Magnum XL-200, which, at the time of its construction, was the tallest, fastest, and steepest rollercoaster on earth.
VIDEO: Magnum XL-200 Roller Coaster P.O.V. Ride
Apart from the arresting fear that overcame my puny, pre-pubescent frame every time I climbed aboard, my most distinct memory was the styling of the Magnum’s trains – their sharp, angular creases and polygons abounding. As a kid, aboard that obscenely fast coaster, one thought overwhelmed me – “this must be how it feels to drive a Lambo!”
Of the Way We Were…
And, let me tell you – it wasn’t far from the truth. With fit and finish more befitting a Power Wheels® car, and the ergonomics of a chaise lounge, the cabin of the Diablo feels akin to being strapped into the Space Shuttle, awaiting launch (but not that fancy new shuttle – we’re talking a 90’s model).
I’ve coined the term “Italian Gangsta Lean” to describe the driving position, a result of the car’s entirely non-adjustable seatback forcing the driver to adopt a hilariously reclined position. Keeping with the contortionist theme, the clutch pedal aligns almost perfectly with the driver’s right foot. The more savvy readers among you will note that said pedal is – typically – operated with the left appendage.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, once underway, all of these grievances vanished into a plume of glorious 12-cylinder exhaust. Operating the gated, dog-leg manual and awkwardly-placed clutch pedal turned out to be a breeze, and the car chugged from a slightly-rich low range of the tach into a smooth, glorious baritone as revs climbed past 4k.
Predictable, linear power delivery and gobs of torque plastered a grin across my face, only widened by the delightful, yet subdued note from the exhaust – not raucous or embarrassing like late-model V12 Lambos, just loud enough to indicate “I’ve got a V12, and you don’t” to all the starry-eyed passers-by.
I delighted in the quirks of the bull as we embarked on a long freeway jaunt: my warped view of the horizon through the wavy windshield, the heat emanating from every cabin vent, despite the climate control being set at its coolest setting, and 60-degree ambient temperature.
The Diablo was just so delightfully imperfect – unapologetic for its departures from ergonomic and practical standards. My body canted-back 30 degrees and rotated to match the pedal placement, I quickly began to see why this car has captivated car enthusiasts for generations. While I didn’t get to hit the twisties or the track, I don’t think I missed the point of the car. Its developers never intended to craft the fastest car from 0-60, or the car with highest lateral-G, or the easiest car to drive. They set out to craft an experience – to define what it means to drive an exotic car.
End of the Tail
Just an hour with the Devil was enough to take me on a whirlwind ride of emotion – a rollercoaster, if you will. Within that short hour, I relived one of my coolest childhood memories, and got thrust firmly into the present with one of the most gripping experiences in all of automotive lore. From behind the wheel, I felt like a badass of the highest degree – and that’s likely what made the experience so addictive.
It might not be the fastest anymore, and I might not be an expert on its history, but I’ve suddenly developed an overwhelming urge to hang a new poster on my bedroom wall. The Lamborghini Diablo made me feel like a kid again, and its outrageous styling and resonant V12 will be haunting my dreams for months to come.
Counterpoint by ThomasM
I’ve been starry eyed about Lamborghini since my childhood and an owner and friend of the brand since the 1980’s.
Lamborghini has always been about audacity, daring to challenge the establishment (Sig. Comm. E. Ferrari at his own game) and nuking convention – doors that go UP like scissors?!? Mid engined ROAD CARS?!?
Superlatives like Quickest and Fastest and Lowest and Boldest just come with the territory, but, more than any other marque house, the superlatives come fast and easy but are really secondary to the experience.
Ferraris are the center of attention at any petrolhead gathering until the Lambos arrive…a truism since the Miura and Countach and still true today.
Kevin, in his first experience with classic Lamborghinis, got it immediately, even though the Diablo was before his time and he probably never previously consciously thought about the Diablo or Countach or Miura…like a silver age screen icon, you may not know who they are when they pass you in the Beverly Hills Hotel lobby, but you definitely feel and are affected by their PRESENCE.
What Kevin coined the ‘Italian Gansta Lean’ was called the ‘Italian Ape’ driving position in the old days. Unfamiliar and possibly awkward at first, I have driven Big Red for thousand mile journeys, enjoying the drama through every foot and mile…
The Diablo is a childhood dream made real and in this case, you can realize your dream and not be disappointed. In fact, the myth grows with familiarity and over time…timeless, and one for the ages.
Author’s Biography: KevinB
KevinB is a 29-year-old auto enthusiast – a Mechanical Design Engineer by day, and serial side-hustler by night. By age 4, he could spout the make and model of any passing vehicle, and by 12 he was an expert in the inner-workings of the internal combustion engine. His love for all things motoring expanded into the two-wheeled world at age 17. He currently owns a 2014 Porsche 911 GT3, and a 2018 Ducati Panigale V4, and has somehow managed to retain his driver’s license.
When he’s not daydreaming about cars or motorcycles, you’ll find him at the gym or yoga studio, on a backpacking trip, or walking shirtless on the beach to maximize Vitamin D, whilst listening to the latest book or podcast on nutrition and healthy living. He currently resides in Santa Monica, CA with his girlfriend of 8 years, and the world’s cutest Dachshund-Yorkie mix: Vincent.