By Al Khoury
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Exotic cars have adorned the walls of aspiring gearheads for generations. And if you were tearing out pages from your father’s car magazines to decorate your room, chances are that a Lamborghini was the centerpiece. These cars featured sculpted lines and angles that were anything but understated. The Miura is considered one of the most beautiful vehicles ever made, while the Countach more closely resembles a fighter jet than it does other cars.
Founder Ferruccio Lamborghini made his fortune as a businessman following World War II and prior to putting name on some of the most iconic cars in the world, his factory was churning out tractors. The first mass-produced Lamborghini road car, the 350 GT, went on sale in 1964. This V12-powered sports car set the tone for those that came after it. Lamborghini put a V-12 motor in every one of its flagship supercars, all the way to the present-day Aventador.
The Lamborghini Diablo holds the distinction of being the last Lambo to come equipped solely with a manual transmission. It also had the second-longest production run of any Lamborghini aside from the Countach and was produced between 1990 and 2001. Though the model saw many changes during its run, all Diablos ran on a mid-mounted V-12 mated to a 5-speed manual transmission.
Lamborghini states that “almost 3,000 units were sold across the world,” making this a rare vehicle. Oloi’s next featured vehicle comes to us from Steve Shee’s garage. His 2001 Lamborghini Diablo VT 6.0 represents the final evolution of the model. Production was limited to 337 units between 2000 and 2001.
The Diablo 6.0 was powered by, you guessed it, a 6.0-liter V-12 engine that sent 550 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels, though up to 28 percent of that power could be routed to the front wheels. It could hit 60 miles per hour from a standstill in less than four seconds and break 200 mph. The final Diablo’s curb weight was 3,583 pounds and the MSRP was about $275,000.
Standard features set the VT 6.0 apart from previous Diablos. The front air ducts, nose, and fenders were changed and the car featured more body-colored trim pieces and carbon fiber. The 18-inch aluminum OZ wheels were unique to this model.
A carbon fiber center console was new, along with a new steering wheel and improved interior materials. The air conditioning and stereo system were upgraded to make the car more livable, and were among the finer touches courtesy of new Lamborghini owner Audi.
Steve’s Diablo was finished in factory Chiaro Blue paint with a black Alcantara interior. This particular Diablo has a rich provenance that led to some changes, however, as Steve told Oloi:
“Way back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, before there were even Lamborghini dealerships in the U.S., Al Burtoni was the guy you went to for a Lambo. He was essentially a grey market importer. This Diablo was his personal car.”
Al went on to focus on tuning and servicing, adding his own touches to cars. Steve’s Diablo came with the “Burtoni Package.” Steve’s write-up at the duPont Registry details some of the aftermarket changes: sport exhaust system, carbon fiber clutch, blue suede seats, and more. The differential was also removed, making this a full rear-wheel drive beast.
The car’s impressive history doesn’t end there. Steve counts legendary Lamborghini chief test driver Valentino Balboni among his friends. Steve and Valentino went to visit Al’s widow in 2017 and through that meeting Steve purchased his Diablo VT 6.0.
The Diablo had just under 19,000 miles on the clock when Steve took possession, and it currently reads about 23,000.
“When I bought it, the car had some decals from Al’s business,” Steve said. “There was a huge raging bull decal on the hood! I left those on for a while and used the car for marketing. It was in Car Week and was featured at Lamborghini parties. I had the decals removed about a year ago. I still drive it for leisure and take it to some events. It is surprisingly comfortable.”
Steve bought his first Lamborghini, a Gallardo, about 10 years ago. Valentino was in town promoting his new autobiography. Steve bought the book and had it and the car autographed. A few years later Steve ran into Valentino at an auction.
“I went up to him and said, ‘Mr. Balboni, you probably don’t remember me but it’s great to see you again.’” Steve recounted. “To my surprise he remembered me from the book signing in California.”
Steve was invited to a dinner with a “who’s who of Lamborghini.” He made friends with Lamborghini Club America president Andrew Romanowski there, among many collectors and prominent figures in the Lambo world.
The Gallardo was the last Lamborghini model test driven by Valentino and there was a special edition named after him to commemorate his four decades with the company. Steve is the proud owner of one of these rare LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni Gallardos.
It was Valentino’s influence that got Steve into the older cars.
“When it came to the Diablo, Valentino said the 6.0 is the one to have,” Steve said. “He was best friends with Al, but they always argued about one thing. Valentino, being the factory driver, thought these cars were perfect as is but Al always modified them. His signature mods include this crazy bazooka-like exhaust with four outlets and a custom interior. Valentino absolutely hated it!”
Steve refrained from adding any of his own touches, feeling there’s nothing more to do.
“The Diablo was meant to be driven,” Steve said. “The air conditioning works great and it has the front lift option so it can go over curbs and use parking lots. It is a bit temperamental so it needs to be properly warmed up and it does need some tender love and care in terms of reliability. The car is more raw than the newer Lambos and that is what I like.”
In addition to the Diablo 6.0 and 2010 Balboni Gallardo, Steve’s collection includes cars from his other favorite marks, Porsche and Mini. He has a 1985 air-cooled Porsche 911 purchased from Oloi founder Thomas Lee, 2006 Cayman, 2007 Macan, and 2012 Carrera GTS (also bought from Thomas). His Mini selection includes a 2003 John Cooper Works, 2006 JCW GP, and 2008 JCW.
“I love cars so much that I started a car business,” Steve said. “I got a dealer license for my old cars, which helps with taxes. My friends came to me to buy and sell cars and that’s how we grew. I named the company RRS after my two boys. I am fairly close to the Lamborghini and Porsche clubs so I hold a couple of events every year.”