This post was originally published on CarLustBlog.com on December 3, 2014. Dead hyperlinks and a couple of irrelevant sentences have been removed.
When did I first learned about the Lamborghini Jalpa? Was it when I saw a pic of it was while perusing through IMDCb.com’s Miami Vice page a couple of years ago? Could have been Rocky IV. I truly believe it was in an indoor auto expo. I have photographic evidence and everything on that one.
Despite all the jokes and ribbing that went on in a Jalopnik.com review, it did give out facts, and one of the most important ones was that this car is rare. About 410/416/420 units rare, depending on who you ask.
Of course, if you want to talk rare, let’s talk briefly of the Lamborghini Silhouette (pictured above), the Jalpa’s predecessor that was never officially sold in the U.S. How rare is it, you ask? About 54-55 units, depending on who you ask. Both of ‘em owe their lives to the Lamborghini Urraco. All of these cars were designed by Bertone.
What it’s all about.
The Jalpa was Lamborghini’s Ferrari 308-fighter, going into battle with a traverse-mounted, DOHC 3.5L V-8 (taken from the Urraco and Silhouette’s 3.0L, with no noticeable power hike) and a 5-speed tranny. Regardless which 308 the Jalpa faced (GT4, GTB, GTS), the Jalpa’s mill was bigger and more powerful (250-255HP, 225ft/lb. of torque). I do believe the 328 GTB/GTS would make a Jalpa sweat, though. 0-60 is within the 6-second range and around 15 seconds in the quarter mile when new. Test results may vary.
All Jalpas are targas. They’ve been marketed as Jalpa P350, Jalpa TP350S, Jalpa 350, Jalpa 3.5 or Jalpa 3500, depending on where you lived and what magazine you read, obviously referring to their engine displacement. I’m pretty sure there are other derivatives that I’ve missed. The name does come from bullfighting breed of bulls, not Jalpa, Mexico. A prototype was shown in the 1981 Geneva Show, which aside from the interior details and exterior colors, bodywork pieces, as well as the initial engine displacement, they’re actually very similar. A convertible, the Jalpa Spyder, was in the works but didn’t go beyond the prototype(s) phase. Early examples had Urraco/Silhouette taillights and black accentuations (the asymmetrical engine cover, roof section and air intakes), later ones had round taillights and color-matched what was once black for 1984. USDM cars had a thicker rear bumper. The front bumper were a rubber piece that apparently appeared on Swiss cars, too, so it wouldn’t surprise me that other nations got it as well. U.S.-spec cars also had chunky turn signal lenses tacked on, among other under-skin details.
If you haven’t guessed, the Jalpa ranks below its bigger and older brother, the Countach in the Lamborghini line-up and the exotic car hierarchy. It’s meant to be more affordable and practical, you know, the stuff that one thinks of when buying an exotic. Well, it was all those things… by Lamborghini standards. That means that you still get those weird Italian supercar ergonomics and in the case of the Jalpa, glare from the windshield and rear glass. You might want to get the orange lens for your Oakley Factory Pilot/Eyeshades sunglasses. Showing its Lambo roots, it’s a bit of a handful when driving, but still rewards the driver. Just don’t push it too hard.
Look at the pic above. The Countach is stealing the spotlight, isn’t it? I’m certain that this would still happen even if the colors were reversed. The Countach is one of the reasons why the Jalpa isn’t that well-known: it was upstaged. It’s bad enough that the Jalpa had to compete for attention with a whole bunch of exotica, but that it had to deal with its own flesh and blood metal and oil, that’s cold. The Countach not only was instantly recognizable for a slew of reasons, it was also a more profitable model. The Jalpa was produced from 1982 to 1988. According to one source, the maligned financial situation in Lamborghini stunted its production numbers. Maybe they meant to say it stunted production development. Even when new, these cars were less than perfect and despite the ’84 facelift, the competition became fiercer while the Jalpa didn’t. Even with the Chrysler buy-out from then-owners Mimran brothers, the Jalpa would be put out to pasture a couple of years later, with no successor –like the code-named P140 Bravo or whatever SZ Design came up with. They did play with the Jalpa engine in their all-wheel-drive Dodge Daytona ‘Decepzione’ prototype.
Look at it another way: if you want a 1980s Lambo without the outrageousness of a Countach, the Jalpa would be an –ahem- ideal choice. Of course, the Jalpa –being Lamborghini- will be more outrageous by comparison to anything short of a Countach! Well, maybe a Testarossa. Or a DeTomaso Pantera GT5. Aside from the inevitable confusion with other exotic wedges (again, a DeTomaso Pantera) or flat-out “What is it?” questions, all you have to do is find the best one your budget can handle. Remember, it’s still a 1980s Italian exotic, one whose production numbers don’t even reach half a thousand. There will be flaws. There will be expenses. It’s not for the faint of heart and wallet.
Even information is harder to come by. This is where dedicated Internet forums come in. It’s there that one will find things like owner observations, car modifications, tips and tricks, to what they think of the Jalopnik review. Jalpa.ch, while not a club forum-based website, is a good site to start with, if only for their library of road tests.
I’ll admit that my heart belongs to the Countach. I got not one but two posters of the thing in my room. If a Jalpa was to be in my future, it’ll have to be the most 80’s-tastic Jalpa available: ground effects and Countach wing (who knows, maybe the aerodynamics of the wing will work on the Jalpa!), I wouldn’t care if they’re factory installed or not as long as it’s done well. I read somewhere that the Jalpa could’ve used more rear tire, so I’d add period aftermarket wheels (BBS comes to mind) to it to fill the need and wheel openings. I’d prefer that it’ll even include the original Alpine sound system, though if that engine sounds as good in real life as it does on web videos and road test descriptions, I doubt I’ll need to rely on Jan Hammer or Harold Faltermeyer cassettes to keep my aural senses entertained. I won’t even refuse a white leather interior, despite my practical preferences to darker colors. And I know I’ll fit.