For a few brief, wild years, Lamborghini was owned by none other than Chrysler. Strange days: Lamborghini got an F1 program, Chrysler got the Dodge Viper, and we sadly never got the Chrysler Portofino, a four-door Lambo with an engine in the back. Well, not exactly.
Welcome back to Auto Archives, the show in which we dive into my personal collection of Car Styling magazine back issues. These issues are packed with never-uploaded-online pictures, sketches, and interviews. I wish I had time to go through every page.
The first thing to know about this car is that it was not a Lamborghini, not entirely. It was a Chrysler design study adapted into a full concept car with Lamborghini parts. Behind the front and back seats sits a sideways Lamborghini V8, then used in the Jalpa. Before that it was in the Silhouette and the wonderful Urraco before that. A five-speed manual stretched up to the front, trimmed in yellow, beside the yellow-and-polka-dot steering wheel.
Lamborghini never put this car into production, perhaps because, well, Lamborghini didn’t seem to like it very much. We wrote about it back in 2014:
Car Design News reports that the folks within Lamborghini were unimpressed with the design and called it the “Big Potato.” That’s mean. But it didn’t matter what they thought, because Chrysler loved the design and so did the auto industry as a whole. The Portofino garnered several awards and was greenlit for production as a Chrysler.
Indeed, the Portofino did become the basis for all of the Cab Forward cars that Chrysler made all through the 1990s and into the 2000s. You may remember them from the Dodge Intrepid or, bless your heart, the Eagle Vision. It tickles me that the Portofino had a transverse-engine and rear-wheel drive, while the Cab Forward production cars were not only front-wheel-drive, but with longitudinal engines.
I myself adore these LH-platform cars as they’re called, and I just wish that this not-a-Lamborghini stood atop them, like a backwards jewel in their crown.