Nick Gavenchak ©2021, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
Number 283 of just 401 examples built for that first year of production, this Diablo is an exceptionally well-preserved and highly original example. Delivered new to an owner in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA, via Ultimate Motor Works of Longwood, FL, it was finished in red over a black leather interior and outfitted with red interior piping and the optional rear wing; MSRP was $245,310. The car was retained by its first owner for nearly 14 years before it was purchased by its second owner in 2005. The Diablo’s second owner kept the car for the following five years before selling it to a third owner in Auburn, AL, who kept the car until 2017. In 2014, Lamborghini of Orlando treated the car to a major service at a cost of nearly $20,000; parts fitted included a new clutch, valve cover gaskets, alternator, a/c belts, radiator hoses and thermostat. In the past three years, this Diablo has covered approximately 305 miles, with its metric odometer indicating fewer than 5,250 kilometers (about 3,265 miles) in total. Annual maintenance has been provided by specialists at Black Horse Motorwerks in Bucyrus, KS. The consignor reports that a fluid change and clutch adjustment have been performed by longtime Lamborghini technician Charles Carden at Casey Carden Motorsports of Braselton, GA, in April 2021.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1991 Lamborghini Diablo
Years Produced:1991–2001
Number Produced:2,884
SCM Valuation:$129,500
Tune Up Cost:$4,000
Chassis Number Location:Rear right section of engine bay below airbox
Engine Number Location:Between both cylinder heads towards rear of block
Club Info:Lamborghini Club America
Alternatives:1990–93 De Tomaso Pantera 90 Si, 1991–94 Ferrari 512 TR, 2002–06 Lamborghini Murcielago
Investment Grade:D

This car, Lot 201, sold for $274,400, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island auction on May 22, 2021.

As noted in the description, this is an early model with no power steering. If Lamborghini had intended for future owners to keep the miles off their cars, this was a surefire solution. It may not have seemed like a big deal in 1991, but in today’s supercar market, where all but a few “track” editions of most modern supercars have overboosted steering, I doubt many prospective buyers of this car have the stamina to pilot such an analog machine.

Indeed, I wonder if the average Lamborghini owner today could even connect with such a primitive Diablo.

Better Diablos

If you want the least-user-friendly Diablo possible, this is it. Besides the lack of power steering, the mileage on these cars must be kept low, as complicated, expensive repairs will be needed every time the third digit on the trip odometer rolls over.

On this early example, there are plenty of unobtanium interior and electrical parts that are at risk with use. Because of Lamborghini’s precarious finances at the time, some items that were not critical to the driveline (such as the Morris Marina turn-signal stock) are not exactly high-quality parts. One of the shops mentioned in the catalog description is near my own establishment, and they stay busy repairing items on older Lamborghinis that do not break on more reliable cars.

If someone wants a usable Diablo, they should buy a later car with higher miles and fewer first-year-of-production issues.

A fun fling

I’ll give the new owner of this 5,241-km raging bull about three to five years before infatuation passes and the car becomes a burden. I’m sure there are many SCMers who would love to own one of these, but the need for constant service and the extreme care that goes with use can take their toll on anyone’s dreams.

That the original owner held onto this example for 14 years is impressive, but the next owners logged five, seven and four years, respectively. While the new owner might have been searching for the right car for the past decade, it’s more likely that this car may end up in a collection of supercars with limited use. When the maintenance costs become a nuisance — especially if needed repairs have been deferred for a few years — or the model appreciates significantly, it will likely end up on the auction block again.

Reasons to buy

The average Diablo is roughly $150k for a decent, usable example. Values seem to be stable for coupes from 1991 to ’99, with more 1991 examples available than any other year. According to the SCM Platinum database, most of these ’91 Diablos have a hard time selling for over $140k.

So who would want this seemingly overpriced Lambo?

My first prospective owner for this car may have multiple Lamborghinis, or even several other Diablos, and wants this exceptional 1991 example to fill a gap in the collection. This would make our subject car desirable for what it is, and not necessarily how well it functions. It must look the part, first and foremost.

As another SCMer I know puts it, “One spends more time looking at it than driving it anyway.” We all know that the typical exotic-car buyer is willing to overpay for a car that looks perfect.

Off the wall

The next potential owner might be a person who lusted after the 1991 Diablo while growing up. Perhaps this was the poster car on the wall of their dorm room. With the recent threat of inflation, and maybe a lucky Dogecoin purchase, now might be the time for this individual to make their fantasy into a short but wild ride. The current economic climate seems to be right for this kind of indulgence.

If you are a serious collector of modern exotic cars, a Diablo is a compulsory feature of a proper stable. These collections exist for many reasons, but here in the Sunshine State, they present a tax-safe and inflation-resistant alternative to paper currency. In this scenario, look for our subject car at an Amelia sale in 2024 or ’25 with 5,243 km on the odometer, flat-spotted tires and a fresh ceramic coating.

The $200k threshold

Based on recent sales in the past two years, our subject car is an outlier. Because most Diablos are cosmetically preserved cars with low mileage, paying an extra $75k to get the least-usable and least-valuable model of a given car is not a great idea. But here’s the real kicker: For similar money, a more deisrable SE30, VT roadster or even a very late 1998–99 5.7-liter Audi-ghini can be had. (On the other hand, 6.0-liter Diablos are a whole separate market — don’t get any ideas.)

The big picture is sobering. The Diablo is so maintenance-intensive that all examples end up costing over $200k when you factor in the repair costs over five years. These cars often need clutches, valve jobs, electrical repairs and plenty of other interventions.

That said, if the new owner treats this example right and no major repairs are looming, they may still get lucky and come out right where they started. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)

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