The Lamborghini Cheetah was Lamborghini's first attempt at an all-terrain vehicle. It was built under contract from Mobility Technology International (MTI), which in turn was hired by the US military to design and build a new all-terrain vehicle. The basis for the design came from MTI and was largely a copy of FMC's XR311 prototype developed for the military in 1970.
The Cheetah prototype was a legend in its own right as it was Lamborghini's first foray into securing a US military contract for an all-terrain vehicle. The cheetah was not designed in Italy. Instead, the Cheetah was contracted out to US defense contractor Mobility Technology International in San Jose, Calif., In 1977. After the one and only prototype was manufactured, it was sent to the American Show. Geneva 1977 automobile after being shipped to Italy. Shortly after, the Cheetah prototype returned to the United States to shoot an advertisement in Nevada.
Working from blueprints sent by MTI from the United States, Lamborghini set out to build a prototype for military testing - however, unbeknownst to the Italians, MTI had "borrowed" the majority of the design from an earlier candidate. : the FMC XR311. When the fiberglass bodywork arrived in Italy, a watertight 5.9-liter Chrysler V8 was installed, connected to a 3-speed automatic transmission and mounted in the rear. Not only did its stance give the Cheetah erratic handling due to unwanted weight distribution, the engine gave the 2-ton vehicle a meager 180 hp. Nonetheless, the Cheetah made its debut at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show to preview a planned civilian version, in turn triggering legal action against FMC's MTI and Lamborghini.
Project Cheetah had absorbed much of the funds intended for the development and manufacture of the M1, and after witnessing one grotesque management decision after another, BMW pulled the contract out of Lamborghini's grip. Subsequently, the one Cheetah crashed and destroyed in military trials, and the society that spawned it seemed to be heading for a similar fate. In August 1978, Lamborghini plunged into receivership, virtually ending the production chances of the Cheetah. Coincidentally, the military contract was won by Humvee.
MTI, after hearing about Lamborghini's financial woes, sold this Cheetah prototype to Teledyne Continental Motors, which was originally headquartered in Muskegon, Michigan.
Then after the 1977 Geneva Motor Show the company (MTI) was sold to a Michigan company, Teledyne made 4 other prototypes, all different, but of the same design ... an ambulance, a troop transporter, a rocket launcher, etc. trying to win the US military contract. which, as we now know, was donated to another supplier ... then the business collapsed and ALL 5 were thought to have been destroyed.