The bright red rear end of a Diablo VT Roadster looked like an easy prey from the cockpit of an angry, vicious hot rodded Dodge Viper RT/10. As soon as the road opened up I only gassed the V10 beast, aiming at the Bull’s tail thinking for a moment I could take advantage of the massive torque avaliable from 1000 rpm. As a matter of national pride, I was happy to note that I misjudged the circumstances as the Lambo driver dropped one gear, floored the pedal and let the bulls of the 5,7 liter V12.
The two cars were so large they barely left any room for other cars on the tiny B roads in the hills above Verona. It was a showdown of the least expected pair of siblings that you could imagine: two extremes of the extreme facing each other for the first time.
Freedom comes in many expressions: for the petrolhead is having a twisty road and plenty of horses under the saddle to deal with. Like in Art, supercars come in many styles and none could be the opposite of these pair. The warhorse and the bull, reunited after hitting the top 10 of poster cars of the 1990ies. For us grown up in that decade, it was time to grab the opportunity to turn our dreams made out of paper into concrete metal. There’s nothing more thrilling than having 22 cylinders and 1000 horses divided into two astonishing automobiles at our disposal for a day.
The sight of these two cars equals to an epic duel between refinement and simplicity… Can an engine developed from a truck stand up to a purposely designed V12? The pushrod 8.0 liter V10 was part of the larger family of Magnum engines of the historic LA series by Dodge were largely used for marine and haulage purposes: it’s the working class hero that made it to the top: re-developed by the engineers of Lamborghini (which at the time was owned by Chrysler) and re-casted in aluminum it provided the perfect powerplant for the next generation sportscar. While it was born to undermine the Corvette stability, the Viper was appealing to a restricted selection of enthusiasts, who just loved the rawness and the absence of any comfort or luxury. Carrol Shelby, who had worked in the 1980ies with Chrysler, developing the performance version of the L body Charger and the rare GLHS, was called in to puts his expertise on what he wanted to be the next Cobra. Like its venomous cousin, the Viper is ALL engine: the car came as a standard option for the customer. No other car have a concentration of different car cultures and philosophies.
The hot rodded RT/10 I test drove was all purpose: pedals all the way to the left to accomodate the transmission, plastic interior and suprisingly comfortable seats and ride. All the weight is up front and is very nose heavy through corners and it’s easy to swing around its tail. All the weight is up front, giving you the sensation that you’re driving an engine with a car attached to it. Its lack of interior finishes and care will make most car enthusiast turn away, but I reckon that in there lies its most honest statement: nothing else matters, except THAT engine. The sitting position is somewhat arranged to the left of the transmission, which occupies a large portion of the cockpit. The pedals are all to the far left and with a light throttle linkage, it is an invite to make mistakes. It is such a different world from the Lambo: it’s like comparing heaven and hell. Chances are that this time Hell is more attractive than Heaven and sometimes heavy metal girls hare hotter than classy ones.
If you won’t pay attention she will bite you as quickly as the snake after which is called. This girl is very nose heavy and has a light tail which is easy to swing around. Many enthusiasts will consider these cars not to be related in any sense and would probably ask why comparing these two cars, coming from opposite building philosophies and so radically different between each other.
Driving the Diablo feels more like having an elegant dinner with a femme fatale: refined, astute, yet it doesn’t take shit from anyone.
You’ll be surprised about the refined manners of this rare Lambo: open top, spacious interior, comfortable seats, a quiet engine and a very predictable attitude. The ’98 VT is the bull in a fine suit: it is refined and it comes a long way since the first series of the Diablo. The interior is wonderfully airy, full of light, there’s lots of legroom and all sorts of comfort. The damping is stiffer than the Viper but the car never gives you the impression of rattling around bumps or falling apart. Driving one is like driving a carbon fiber rocket, with a lovely smooth power delivery, style and refinement. Compared to the Viper, the attention to detail is an obvious treat. Driving the Bull with the top down in the hills around Verona is a very intense grand touring experience: power delivery becomes really violent from 4000 rpm and the sound becomes an harmonious melody of cylinders burning gasoline as fast as they can. For a Lamborghini, this is a surprisingly very quiet car. It resembles no traits with modern day Aventadors, which, are mainly bought to be fitted with modified exhaust to shoot flames in the streets of London or Monte Carlo: the Diablo is a proper gentleman’s supercar, made for those who won everything in life and want to show it to the world. It comes from the noble lineage of the V12 dynasty of Sant’Agata Bolognese, and you need an invitation to experience it.
The 510 horsepower VT roadster (only about 300 produced) is just an astonishing car to be in and as any Diablo will never ever play the part of a 20 + year old supercar: such Lambo still retains an extraordinary freshness in its design, very sharp yet well balanced lines and proportions, all matched by the iconic “holes in” wheels. Wonderful. The Diablo reminds of my childhood like few other cars, like the Viper and the 911 3.3 Turbo. It is a car that is capable of bringing me back to early years and look into the future like no other car has ever done. It’s a work of art, a singing piece of fine grinded metal and composite materials, coming together in harmony.
It is a very confidence inspiring car and is the complete opposite of the first series Diablo, which is a ruthless animal. While early Diablos allow you to drive them, the more modern VT Roadster invites you for a joyride. The Pedals are a perfect fit, the manual gearbox a little heavy but magnificent with its classic metallic “click-click” of the lever, and relaxing enough to do longer travels. I will do anything to drive one for thousands of miles.
While we were having our fun trip, the Viper at the back of the Diablo was like a constant menacing presence, ready for battle. Its pushrod 10 cylinder 8 liter engine will make anything else on the road look like a pussycat ride, minus the Diablo.
Our pair was the unusual couple of sibling ever to be driven on the roads of Verona. In the land made famous by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, we came face to face with another rival family battle. If for many the Diablo is the sweet lover of Romeo, the Viper it’s her jealous, mean sister.
So much poetry for two bad girls!