Chrysler Made A Lamborghini K-Car So Over-The-Top Even Lee Iacocca Figured Out It Was A Bad Idea

1990 Chrysler Imperial - Image: Chrysler
1990 Chrysler Imperial - Image: Chrysler

During my time of digging down the rabbit hole about the V8 powered Daytona, I discovered that Chrysler’s ownership of Lamborghini was a very strange time. This was confirmed when I discovered a story Bob Lutz detailed to Road & Track about Chrysler’s plans for the Italian brand. Apparently, the powers that be wanted the Raging Bull to become a trim level for top of the line Chryslers.

Lutz detailed everything back in 2019. According to him, Lee Iacocca — who led the purchase of the Italian automaker — was excited about the prospects of buying Lamborghini, but not for the reasons you may think. “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 said Iacocca told the executive team.

Lutz said he knew what this meant and even now it’s shocking: Chrysler wanted Lamborghini to become a trim level. They wanted what Ford had done with Ghia: take a storied name and apply it to different models as a higher end trim level with nicer trimmings. “He wanted to milk the Italian luxury brand’s image for additional profit on Chryslers,” Lutz said. He wasn’t on board with it at all. So much so that Lutz says he intentionally instructed Tom Gale, vice president of design at the time, to come up with something “so over-the-top that even he could see the folly of his request.” Gale more than delivered.


Using a K-Car platform Chrysler Imperial as a starting point, the design team got to work. They ended up creating something I wish had seen the light of day just so we could collectively say “What the hell were they thinking?” Lutz described what was done to the Imperial.

He stripped off the vinyl roof, lowered the chassis, painted the car a bright Italian red (including the hideous “Greek temple” grille), and shod the Chrysler with Lamborghini wheels and tires. The interior lost its life-inside-a-trombone-case purple velour in favor of buttery-soft light-tan leather. Lamborghini badges were everywhere, even embroidered on the headrests. The front fenders and decklid loudly proclaimed this vehicle to be the Chrysler Imperial Lamborghini Edition.

It was over the top like he wanted, but even Lutz admitted it was the“best-looking K-car I had ever seen.” It must have shocked executives however as nothing ever came of it.

Lutz also detailed how others in the company had plans for Lamborghini that were more than just trying to milk it for brand cachet like Iacocca wanted. There were plans for an F1 racing team so the brand could take on Ferrari, but it was deemed too expensive. And the F1 engine program started internally couldn’t get the engine quite right, as problems with its reliability ultimately ended the program.

Lamborghini did help develop the original Viper’s 8.0-liter V10 engine. Ultimately though amid another financial downturn, Chrysler had to sell Lamborghini in 1994. It’s probably for the best though. One could only imagine the interesting yet horrible cars that would have come about had the Raging Bull been relegated to being nothing more than something to adorn headrests and hubcaps.

For the latest news, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.