The first off-road car that was related to Lamborghini without being a tractor, was the 1977 Cheetah, starting out as an attempt to get a contract from the US military to buy it in large numbers, the Cheetah was designed by Rodney Pharis, president of US based defense contractor Mobility Technology International, or MTI, who built the first rolling prototype of an all-terrain vehicle that would end up with a Raging Bull logo up front.
Ultimately MTI would be in charge of selling the Cheetah in the United States while it would be built in the factory at Sant’Agata, Lamborghini didn’t want to spend time on the design of an off-road vehicle so they had MTI do the development work on it, the resulting design did show a lot of similarities to another military intended model, the XR311 from FMC. This resulted in threats of legal action by FMC against MTI and Lamborghini when the final prototype was presented to the people on the Lamborghini stand during the 1977 Geneva Auto Show.
The Lamborghini Cheetah showed a few flaws right from the start, a massive V8 360 Chrysler engine was installed behind the rear seats, coupled to a 3-speed automatic gearbox and continually driving all four wheels. With the engine being mounted so far back on the chassis the weight balance went completely wrong, resulting in rather poor road-manners, especially in curbs. The Cheetah was initially designed to carry four armed people and a driver, sources state the initial prototype had a fiberglass body, however the dark painted car has a full steel body … which other sources also state as being mounted on the initial prototype, still with less than 190hp the Cheetah was still too heavy and overall performance was not up to the required specs.
Photo Source: Jonny Lieberman