Feeling bullish? Then the Lamborghini Jalpa is for you
Is the this old-skool brute the king of modern-classic Bentleys?
Words Rob Scorah Photography Neil Fraser
You so rarely see these. If you took the badges off, what would you think it was? You'd probably deduce it's from the mid-1970s to 1980s. No doubt, you'd think Italian – there’s just a little too much in the form beyond its function for a German. And yes, you would most likely think Bertone, the design house with a distinctive style – it's this visual drama that would lead you to concluding it's a Lamborghini.
The Jalpa isn't conventionally beautiful. Leave the catwalk to its contemporary, the Ferrari 308 GTB. But it is packed with shock and awe, just like its big brother, the Countach. Drink in its styling, enjoy the faceted step faces, angle upon angle, and distinct changes of plane with sharply delineated separations of light and acute shadow. You can almost feel the differences physically – in your gut – when you look upon a Jalpa. Or indeed Countach when compared with a 308, 512BB or Testarossa.
Although you wouldn’t have thought so by looking at it, the Jalpa's ancestor the Urraco induced the same mindset. Coming to market in 1973, it was a two-plus-two with a sharp, low nose and a dramatic, sweeping and seemingly widening back end (dig those louvres). It looked like it would be chic and delicate. There was the ‘designed’ interior with its arced array of instruments.
The cabin vibe had a sparse, low-slung cool. But though you may have had visions of driving it languidly in your paisley shirt listening to Les Swingle Singers on the eight track, once the V8 lit up, your whole attitude changed.
You felt a punchy mid-range – especially in the later 3.0-litre, heard the motorsport bark and realised that the chassis was really very nimble. And while everyone else was away applauding the launch of the Countach in Geneva, you realised that you could have a helluva time doing laps between Nice and Grenoble in the entry-level model.
Fewer than 800 Urracos were built before Bertone got the brief to turn it into the open-topped Silhouette, over the same chassis and 3.0-litre V8. With their stripy cloth interiors and teledial wheels, only a precious 56 of these proto-Jalpas were built between ’76 and ’79. By the time the Jalpa arrived in 1981 (with an engine bored out to 3.5 litres), the scene was once again ready for confident, high-performing and rather brash new cars.
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