Chrysler Once Tried To Turn Lamborghini Into A Premium Trim Level

Many a car enthusiast will recall the embarrassment that was the Chrysler TC by Maserati – the gussied-up K car derivative that was developed jointly by Chrysler and Maserati in an attempt to create what was, for all intents and purposes, a more “special,” sportier version of the Le Baron.

Yet far fewer, we’re sure, know that the legendary Automobili Lamborghini almost suffered a similarly humiliating fate, after the marque was bought by a Lee Iacocca-led Chrysler in 1987, roughly a decade before it would be acquired by the Volkswagen Group. Iacocca essentially wanted Lamborghini to be made into a ritzy in-house brand; it wasn’t so much the Italian company’s cars or engineering prowess that Chrysler wanted. Rather, it was the allure of the Lamborghini name and the rights to the iconic badge.

Thank goodness those plans never came to fruition.

Retired automotive executive Bob Lutz recounted the story of Chrysler’s near-besmirching of the Lamborghini name in a recent tell-all piece appearing in Road & Track, and it’s frightening how close the company came to irrelevance. Chrysler purchased the Italian marque for the mere pittance of $25 million U.S. – roughly $56 million in today’s dollars – with Iacocca reportedly telling a team of executives: “I didn’t buy it because I want a company that produces 300 cars a year. There’s tremendous value in the brand. I want you guys to figure out what to do with it.”

Lutz et al. understood this to mean making Lamborghini into an upmarket trim level on Chrysler’s much more mass-market products, which Lutz and his fellow automotive enthusiasts at Chrysler did not want to see happen. So, following Lutz’s advice, Chrysler’s then-vice president of design penned a car so ruthlessly gaudy that it would never get the green light: a bright red Chrysler Imperial “Lamborghini Edition,” complete with Lamborghini wheels, light-tan leather upholstery, and a multitude of Lamborghini crests, including some embroidered into the seat headrests.

Predictably, management didn’t bite, and Lamborghini was able to keep most of its dignity and prestige into the modern era. Chrysler’s involvement with the Italian marque would turn out to be somewhat short-lived, lasting only until 1994, when Lamborghini was sold to Mycom Setdco and V’Power Corporation – its previous owners before the Volkswagen Group acquisition in 1998. There, the company is in safe hands, and despite some hiccups, it has thrived under Audi control.

Now who wants to see a Lamborghini Edition of the VW Passat?

via Road & Track

Dodge Ares photograph by IFCAROwn work, Public Domain, Link