In the Mid-Sixties Automobili Lamborghini was already building the third evolution of their front engine GT model, first the 350GT, which could later be ordered with a larger V12 engine as the 400GT while for more comfort the 400GT 2+2 was introduced with two small seats in the rear. By 1967 the Lamborghini 400 GT 2+2 was considered a rather successful car, it offered enough power in a luxurious package, and being built by Touring in Milan the workmanship was on a high level.
But the Carrozzeria Touring was falling into severe financial problems which subsequently led to them filing for bankruptcy in 1967 … in fact the last 400GT 2+2 bodies were already made by Marazzi and no longer by Touring, which made the decision of Ferruccio Lamborghini to have the successor to the 400GT 2+2 being built at Carrozzeria Marazzi rather obvious.
Note that Carrozzeria Marazzi was in fact founded by a former Touring employee, so the knowledge was there to complete the Lamborghini model into the future, the Lamborghini Islero 400GT was unveiled at the 1968 Geneva Auto Show, next to the brand new Espada, the original 350/400GT design was completely changed, the round style was gone and hidden headlamps with square-cut body contours made their introduction.
Mario Marazzi not only had to build the new Lamborghini Islero, the new model was also styled by him working together with Frederico Formenti, under the guidance of Ferruccio himself the Islero became known as the original vision Ferruccio had for his Gran Turismo. A wider track compared to the 400GT 2+2 allowed for wider tires, usually the well known Pirelli Cinturato 205VR15 tires would be mounted at the factory in Sant’Agata, note that the frame and rear suspension on the Islero were in fact taken from the 350/400GT model.
The Islero was a clean and inoffensive car to look at but lacked the personality of the 400 GT 2+2, and it paled next to the sensational Miura and the bigger Espada. At the front, a large air intake would be found below a thin, chrome bumper while a split bumper was used at the rear, by using large windows all around the outward visibility inside the Islero was impressive … which was fortunate as the Islero was powered by the famous V12 engine pumping out 320 hp, later increased to 340 hp, resulting in a top speed of 270 Km/h (165 Mph) … very impressive back in 1968.
Compared to the 400 GT 2+2 the Islero was replacing the air-conditioning was standard together with more head- and legroom, the dashboard design was heavily modified too, using a multitude of dials set on a wooden background surrounded by a lot of leather behind a wood-trimmed steering wheel. The seats inside the Islero were upholstered in leather and both the steering and windows were power assisted … this was a luxury coupé, just the way Ferruccio liked them … in fact, he drove an Islero himself back then, car number #6201 from 1968 was his personal car, that specific Islero was sold at the Pebble Beach 2013 Gooding&Company auction for $247,500 after she as restored by Gary Bobileff.
The Islero marked the start of a great tradition at Automobili Lamborghini SpA … she was named after a famous fighting bull. ‘Islero’ the bull, killed the famous matador Manuel Rodriquez in August of 1947, just about every Raging Bull to leave the gates at Sant’Agata from 1968 on would be named with bullfighting in mind.
The Islero, like its successor the Jarama, is a rather less well-known Lamborghini, and only 125 were built, which is a pity, because the Islero had a towering top speed and driving it was very easy, but it only lasted one year, an improved ‘S’ model took over in 1969, but was also dropped after only one year, to be succeeded by the Jarama, keep in mind the Lamborghini Islero was a car among the batch of the first 1,000 Bulls ever built, made in Sant’Agata back when Ferruccio was still running the company.
For the 1975 24h de Le Mans the Islero #6009 was entered in the GTX or Production GT category by a French car dealer, Paul Rilly, this car was painted Rossa Corsa and received starting number 34. A roll cage was installed together with a 100 Liter fuel tank, racing seat belts, quick release straps on the engine cover, a special exhaust, different suspension and special brakes … during the final qualifying laps the Islero sadly crashed into the guardrails, the best lap time she managed was 5:28,00 which wasn’t enough to qualify … so she was withdrawn from the race and never started in the end.