During the Jalpa production, Automobili Lamborghini SpA became aware that a full convertible model would actually sell better than the Targa-style Jalpa they now offered, so Bertone was to design and build a prototype based on the Jalpa chassis ... which became the Athon, this special prototype didn't even have a roof designed for it, but the car was much admired by the public whenever it was shown on various Auto Shows.
Due to the positive response Automobili Lamborghini started working on a Jalpa with a completely retractable roof in 1987, called the Jalpa Spyder, a prototype was created using a silver metallic over blue leather Jalpa that was still owned by factory at that time, a rear treatment similar to the one found on the Bertone Athon was used on this special Jalpa, but the finished car didn't look nearly as impressive as the Athon did.
When looking at the Jalpa Spyder from the side, you would immediately notice the problem; the rear was out of proportion compared to the rest of the car. The engine cover and tonneau cover were just too large for the Jalpa while the original passenger cell was too much forward in this design, on the regular Jalpa with the section behind the seats still in place this wasn't visible ... but on the Spyder it quickly became evident.
You might not expect this, but the Jalpa Spyder did have a fully functional, retractable roof designed for it, as you can see on these images, probably a good idea would have been to include a hard-top version too, but unfortunately it never came this far, and back in the Eighties most convertible cars still had a canvas roof unlike today.
The Jalpa Spyder project was set aside, Lamborghini management at that time didn't think they should actually offer the Jalpa Spyder in this configuration, it didn't look exotic enough to be a Lamborghini, although I personally think it would still sell, after all it was an open top Lamborghini, the only official 'new' convertible Lamborghini at that time.
For a long time we were under the impression only one Jalpa Spyder Prototype was built, but in fact there were two made by Lamborghini, one that was almost ready to go into production, it could actually be driven while a second Jalpa Spyder was merely an unpainted chassis ready to undergo further development. Rumor has it both were left abandoned at the factory until Tonino Lamborghini bought them both ... the functional Jalpa Spyder was hidden from view for years, although an image was supplied to me by Raymond Stofer who was able to get a glimpse of this one of a kind Lamborghini, at the time this rare V8 Bull was in a very poor state, a flat tire at the rear, a dent in the door and the front spoiler was probably removed when parts were needed to be mounted on another Jalpa.
In 1986 Eric Thomassey was able to photograph both Jalpa Spyder chassis at the factory, from those photo we could derive that one of the chassis used was from an early Jalpa production with the mirror on the front fender while the second chassis came from a 1986 body as the steering rack was different and the holes were modified to hold the wiring that was changed from the early Jalpa models.
In 2001, when the Murciélago was introduced during an event at the factory I had to possibility to visit the museum in Dosso where Tonino Lamborghini put together a stunning collection of Raging Bull ... and among them a bright blue Lamborghini Jalpa Spyder was drawing attention.
This car had been restored as good as possible, since nothing much remained from the original specifications, let alone an interior, and various special body panels were completely missing, the people restoring this car for Tonino Lamborghini didn't have much to start with besides a chassis and something that looked like an open Jalpa.
Up front they went for a bumper that looks very similar to a Ferrari 348 unit ... I would have preferred using an original Jalpa front bumper with the spoiler, but I guess they couldn't source one for this project as spare parts for the Jalpa have run out at the factory I was told. At the back things didn't get much better, the exhaust are taken from a Jalpa with US specs ... this exhaust normally used catalysts and the make things even worse the taillights aren't even Lamborghini units but again look very much like Ferrari units.
What made it very obvious the chassis Tonino managed to obtain didn't have too much of an interior left can be seen from the unfinished look of the dashboard, it looks nothing like a Jalpa dashboard ... I guess spare parts are very difficult to obtain, and if located way too expensive. Add the extensive use of plain DIY silver mesh for all the air intakes and extractors, and you know this rare Lamborghini had to be restored on a tiny budget.
Still this blue Lamborghini Jalpa Spyder is a very interesting piece of Lamborghini history, one that shouldn't be forgotten and deserves a place in the museum, problem is that many people are asking questions about the state of this car ... wouldn't it be a better idea to just get an old Jalpa for parts and create a Jalpa Spyder using this blue car but making it look like a normal Jalpa ... with the roof section removed.
Several concepts and ideas have surfaced for a Jalpa successor, this is yet another one.
(added on October 24. 2000)
Even Zagato made a design for a possible Jalpa successor back in the Nineties
(added on June 1. 2000)
Only one Jalpa prototype was built, finished in a brown shade over a two tone interior only seen in the prototype.
(added on November 17. 2005)
The Jalpa should have become the most successful Bull in the Eighties, things turned out differently ... still the successor would become the Gallardo.
(added on January 5. 2013)
Check out this one of a kind Lamborghini Jalpa located in Australia, powered by a supercharged 346ci V8 LS1 engine it puts down about 600hp
(added on July 1. 2013)
November 18. 2005
Text © Mark Smeyers
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