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Looking Back at the V8-Powered Lamborghini Jalpa
We often associate Lamborghini with V12-engined supercars, but that’s not all there is to the Raging Bull of Sant’Agata Bolognese. Prior to the V10-powered Gallardo and Huracan, the Italian automaker developed a free-breathing V8 that saw limited applications in entry-level models.

Looking Back at the V8-Powered Lamborghini Jalpa

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Developed by motorsports engineer and businessman Gian Paolo Dallara, the 90-degree V8 saw the light of day in the Urraco. Only 791 examples were manufactured through 1979, and just like the V12 in the Miura, this lump is mounted transversally behind the driver rather than longitudinally. Intended to compete against the likes of the Dino 308 GT4 and Maserati Merak, the Bertone-bodied sports coupe was adapted into the targa-topped Silhouette that Lamborghini offered from 1976 until 1979.

Presented at the 1981 Geneva Motor Show with a thumpin' great rear spoiler, the Jalpa celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The very last V8-powered Lamborghini until the Urus launched with Volkswagen Group underpinnings and a Porsche-developed engine, the wedge-shaped sports car takes its name from the Jalpa Kandachia breed of fighting bulls.

Overlooked by collectors because of its entry-level positioning in the lineup, the Jalpa was offered solely as a targa with a 3.5-liter powerplant. Capable of cranking out 255 ponies and 225 pound-feet (305 Nm) of torque in European spec, the baby Lambo utilizes four twin-barrel Weber 42 DCNF downdraft carburetors - one for each pair of cylinders - even though fuel injection was growing in popularity. Lamborghini, for example, rolled out a Countach prototype with Bosch K-Jetronic injection in 1982.

Somewhat disappointing when compared to the V12 of the 350 GT from 1964, the V8 is hindered by weak mounting brackets and subpar valve seals that lead to blue smoke. Early models for the U.S. market add insult to injury with sealed airboxes that make changing the spark plugs an engine-out job. Thankfully, later models rectified this issue with an access panel.

Fitted with 16-inch wheels compared to 15s for the Silhouette, the Jalpa is much easier to drive than the Countach. But, be that as it may, the heavy gas pedal and steering can make it a handful in the urban jungle..

Lamborghini claimed the Jalpa could hit 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) in six seconds flat, and the fifth gear of the manual tranny enabled a top speed of 234 kilometers per hour (145 miles per hour). Just like the Ferrari 308, the Jalpa is rocking a dog-leg stick shift with a gated shifter.

The sporty coupe went on sale at a particularly critical time for the Raging Bull. The company was placed in the receivership of brothers Jean-Claude and Patrick Mimran in 1980, who masterminded the LM002 “Rambo Lambo” sport utility truck. Lamborghini was acquired by Chrysler in 1987, one year before the rarefied Jalpa was axed with just 410 examples to its name.

Because the Italian manufacturer was pretty much strapped for cash during that era, the Mimrans couldn’t make a case for anything other than a very small update in 1984. The Jalpa received body-color bumpers that year, along with round taillights inspired by the Prancing Horse of Maranello.

Although we don’t consider 410 units a commercial success by Gallardo and Huracan standards, the Jalpa is the most successful of the three models that feature Dallara’s all-aluminum alloy V8. Lamborghini started developing a V10-engined successor before Chrysler entered the scene, but the American overlord ultimately decided against project P140.

The stillborn base model was partially resurrected at the 1995 Geneva Motor Show by the Giugiaro-designed Cala concept car, which used the fuel-injected V10 powerplant and six-speed manual transmission of the P140. Not even a handful of prototypes had been built, according to company records. One of them was proven at 295 kilometers per hour (183 miles per hour) on the Nardo Ring in Italy, whereas another prototype is currently on display at Lamborghini’s museum in Sant’Agata Bolognese.

Originally more affordable than a Ferrari Mondial 8, the Jalpa still is relatively affordable because it’s always lived in the shadow of the Countach. Last year, for example, RM Sotheby’s sold a well-sorted 1984 model with only 80,021 kilometers (49,723 miles) on the clock for $99,000.

 
 
 
 
 

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