Photo credits: Lamborghini

Today Lamborghini is a small piece of the hulking Volkswagen empire, with a GT racing program, a successful line of supercars as well as, soon, an SUV cash cow. But there was a time when the company was a bit more fly-by-night, and in few cars was that as clear as in the 1995 Diablo Jota, a car I forgot about until today.

I started today as I do all days: looking through all of Lamborghiniā€™s media site for obscure photographs of its 1990s oddball years.

From the late ā€˜80s up until the late ā€˜90s, ownership of Lamborghini changed hands a number of times, with the company alternately owned by Chrysler, something named Megatech, and probably a local credit union in Santā€™Agata Bolognese if I had to guess.

In any case, the story of the Jota is that Chrysler gave Lambo a racing division when it took over in ā€˜87 with the aim of running in Formula 1. That dream was short-lived and by the mid-ā€™90s, Lamborghini wanted to get in on GT1 racing, but it knew it didnā€™t have nearly enough money to start a successful program. Knowing it couldnā€™t go up against the likes of Ferrari and McLaren with their expensive factory support, Lamborghini decided instead to simply build a car that could be used in racing and sell those to privateers.


Thus came the Jota, kind of like a homologation special for a race car that didnā€™t exist.

The car got a new ECU, new cams, a new intake, an astoundingly loud exhaust (all of which was good for nearly 600 horsepower out of its naturally-aspirated V12), fixed suspension, adjustable swaybars, plexiglass windows instead of glass, new ducting, vents and a gigantic wing.


Of course it got a huge wing. What else.

In any case, the Jota was very much a race car for the road, and Lamborghini sold 16 Jota kits, meant to be installed by a dealer, and also 12 complete cars assembled by Lamborghiniā€™s own distinct race division down the street from the main factory, a leftover from that F1 run, as LamboCars recalls.

As it was, the Jota plan didnā€™t exactly go perfectly, as Lamborghini owners preferred to run their race-ready cars on the street, probably in a low gear, at two miles an hour, outside a hotel in Monaco. Racing was less important for the Lambo clientele.


I canā€™t blame them. Listen to how good the Jota sounds.

Listen more.


Thatā€™s probably enough, but listen even more.

Lamborghini presumably got fed up about its buyers and eventually tried its hand at its own race program in 1998. That was a flop, too, as the company only built a single car, the 132 GT1, and never hit the track.


But none of that is what I love most about the Jota. Itā€™s not about what the Jota has. Itā€™s what it doesnā€™t: the Jota came without a rear view mirror.

Remember that rear visibility in a Lamborghini Diablo was already pretty garbage, and that was before you factor in that the Jota got a giant rear wing and also a raised engine cover for its new intake and also two roof-mounted snorkels to funnel extra air to the motor.


Did Lamborghini try to make some slot where you could kind of see a little bit of what was behind you so you could back up into a parking space? No. Did Lamborghini rig up some kind of camera to see out the rear? No. Lamborghini was a little company that was doing what it could and was making no apologies for it. Hereā€™s our car that has air intake where the rear window should go. Thatā€™s fine.


Other car companies have made cars without rear view mirrors, particularly the Maserati MC12, another race car for the road that did without its rear window. But thereā€™s something different, more carefree about the Diablo Jota, like the company just did not care in the least. If you have a problem with it, just buy something else.