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Zagato Raptor: the other future of Lamborghini


Under the hammer: Zagato Raptor, a creation based on Lamborghini since 1996.

Why make an offer? Those who drive with the Raptor have a unique appearance. Not just because the car exists only once. The maximum attention is guaranteed by the doors of the car: they do not exist.

Instead, the central section of the car rises from the roof to the center of the front fenders like the cockpit of a jet. When the weather is nice, there's even more, because the typical Zagato double-arch Zagato double-bubble roof can be removed, making the car a Targa.

The solution makes even the scissors doors that open towards the top of the Lamborghini Diablo, after all the automotive posterboy of the years, an appealing look. The aggressive design sports car was at the time the flagship of the sports car manufacturer Lamborghini. But in 1996, Diablo's time of six years was slowly coming to an end.

At that time the company was in bad shape. Two years earlier, Chrysler, owner of the Italian manufacturer Lamborghini, had been sold to Indonesian and Malaysian business men for persistent losses. With lower production costs, higher volumes and a replacement for the aging of Diablo, the new owners wanted to bring Lamborghini in black.

The gap between the old Diablo and a new model should fill a small series: the Zagato Raptor. Carrozzeria Zagato of Milan was commissioned to design a car that should allow the Lamborghini sports car manufacturer to also jump technically into a new era.

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No doors, no problems

Although locked under the cover, that is Diablo's technology, more specifically from the four-wheel drive VT: in the Raptor's tubular frame it drives its twelve cylinders with 5.7 liters of displacement on all four wheels through a manual gearbox six-speed. However, the remaining parts of Diablo have thrown the Zagato developers out of the car and have relied on high technology.

Instead of customizing elaborate small-scale design models, as was customary in vehicle development until then, the Raptor was one of the first cars to be completely built on a computer. Above all, saving the envelope with digital design and production processes instead of clay models has saved time. In the end, not only was the car ready after a few months: its shell was made of cutting-edge carbon fiber and looked extremely futuristic.

Not only the significantly softer lines than Diablo, but also the large light bar in the back ensured this. Inside, instead of the almost diagonal instrument gallery of the Diablo, there is only a display behind the steering wheel and some buttons in the center console. Only the equal nozzles of the fan and the open gear cover reveal the relationship with the Lamborghini "devil".

Because of the carbon-based diet, magnesium wheels and the abandonment of doors, the car weighs about 1.3 tons and is 300kg lighter than the organ donor. The sprint from zero to 100 km / h, creates in about four seconds, the maximum speed is over 320 km / h. Despite these performances, the developers gave up on traction control and ABS – they obviously considered auxiliary systems simply as unnecessary ballast.

Despite the lack of assistants, the testers certified the car with excellent handling, but at the 1996 Geneva Motor Show, the design caused a sensation. The best conditions for the small series, Zagato thought – at Lamborghini, on the other hand, it is exactly the opposite: the car manufacturer was against production in small series. According to Alain Wicki, who was at the time responsible for the project behind the Raptor, this was Diablo's planned successor.

The name was Canto and was also developed jointly by Lamborghini and Zagato. Since the shape of the Raptor anticipated most of the lines of the new Canto, Lamborghini apparently feared a cannibalization effect: the success of the new flagship was not to be jeopardized by a small series of Raptors, the project was buried. It was only this copy of the Raptor that project manager Wicki secured and owned until 2000.

The irony of history: even the Canto never came into production. The Asian crisis that broke out in 1997 also affected the owners of Lamborghini and in 1998 they sold the company to Audi. This gave the death penalty to Canto, which should have been released on the market in 1999 for around US $ 400,000. Because its design did not attract the former head of the Audi Ferdinand Piƫch board of directors.

The corporate patriarch lacked the more rounded lines, recalling the Ferrari 360, the aggressiveness, the Countach and Diablo transmission. Even a revised Canto, which had already been announced for the Geneva Motor Show in 1999, did not convince him – and so the project was canceled.

Instead, the Diablo remained in the program until 2001, then replaced it with the Murcielago, whose design strongly resembled its predecessor, but also the Countach. Therefore, the Raptor remained a unique piece, the Canto disappeared in the drawer and the return of Lamborghini to more rounded lines never took place.

Extra! The auction house RM Sotheby's will be auctioning cars in Abu Dhabi on November 30, with a price of around 1.2 million US dollars.