In the United States, the first-generation Dodge Viper also debuted in 1991, but an even crazier supercar was in development, and it didn’t come from any of the established manufacturers in Detroit.
In California, Gerald “Jerry” Wiegert, chief designer and founder of Vector Aeromotive was working hard on a worthy successor to the W8, the fascinating supercar that hit the streets a year earlier.
Called WX-3, it was designed to be a much more refined variant of its predecessor in every way imaginable. It should have been available in coupe or hardtop roadster configurations with an upgraded version of the W8’s twin-turbo V8. Vector planned two different engine options that would produce either 600bhp in the entry-level model or a whopping 1,200bhp on the top-performing variant, a figure that would have made it by far the fastest production car. and the most powerful of all time. .
Both versions were revealed at the 1993 Geneva Motor Show and Wiegert was looking for partners to fund the project so that he could start production, but the story took a dramatic turn when a hostile takeover took hold. was initiated by the main shareholder, Megatech. The Indonesian company that aimed to become one of the world’s leading sports car makers finally got their hands on Vector and in 1994 they also took over Lamborghini from Chrysler.
The new management fired Wiegert from his role as CEO but allowed him to continue as chief designer. The founder refused to continue, sued the new board, and reclaimed the design copyrights for the WX-3, equipment, and the remaining unsold W8 production versions.
Megatech then moved Vector’s operations to Jacksonville, Florida, at the same facility used by Lamborghini North America. Since they couldn’t build the highly anticipated WX-3, they decided to develop a new car called the M12 around the successful Diablo.
Seeking to capitalize on the success of the prototypes unveiled in Geneva in 1993, Megatech hired a team of experienced designers led by Peter Stevens, the man who designed the McLaren F1 alongside Gordon Murray.
They created a carbon-reinforced fiberglass body that vaguely resembled the WX-3, but since it was to be merged with an elongated version of the Diablo chassis, the end result looked odd to say the least. It had a compact front end with a large curved windshield and retractable headlights taken from Lamborghini’s flagship. That part looked promising, but the rear that housed the massive powertrain was just too long, making the car look like a futuristic pickup with an aggressive tonneau cover and a large top-mounted spoiler.
The interior was also based on the Diablo, which meant that all of the aircraft-inspired features that made the W8 famous were now gone.
Behind the cabin stood the Bizzarrini-designed V12, in exactly the same configuration as the aforementioned Italian supercar. It moved 5.7 liters and could produce up to 492 hp, 133 horsepower less than what the W8’s Rodeck twin-turbo V8 could spit out. It was linked to the same ZF 5-speed manual transmission as that of the Diablo, but the gearbox was positioned behind the engine rather than in front.
The rest of the mechanical components such as the suspension, rack-and-pinion steering system or Brembo brakes all came from the Diablo.
Performance was almost identical, with a 0-60 mph (0-97 km / h) acceleration time of 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 189 mph (304 km / h), around 12 mph (20 km / h) slower than the iconic Lambo.
The M12 debuted at the Detroit Auto Show in 1996, but much to the dismay of the new owner, it didn’t get the same positive response as the WX-3. Things were going so badly that production had to be put on hold for a few months because no one wanted to buy it, even though it was almost $ 40,000 cheaper than a Diablo.
Vector eventually managed to get a few orders and production resumed. The company even decided to convert a pre-production prototype into a racing car and enter it in the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race, but a series of mechanical issues prevented it from participating.
In total, only 14 cars were sold with 3 more prototypes (including the race car) being built until 1999 when production ceased. Right now, the company was in serious financial difficulty, Megatech had sold Lamborghini to the Audi division of the VW Group a year earlier and was behind on powertrain payments, so it ultimately filed for bankruptcy. On a positive note, Jerry Wiegert managed to acquire all of Vector’s assets after winning another lawsuit.
Despite being an interesting car powered by a legendary engine, the American Diablo never came close to the success of her Italian brother. It even won an “award” from Autoweek magazine for the worst car ever tested in the publication’s history.
Despite this, the M12 is today a valuable collector’s item with mint condition low-mileage examples fetching between $ 200,000 and $ 300,000. You can watch one of them being driven and loaded into a trailer in the video below posted to YouTube by DtRockstar1.