Back in 1970, Lamborghini unveiled their first-ever V8 powered car, as a cheaper alternative to the magnificent V12 Lamborghini Miura at that time, it took them two more years to get the first ‘baby Lamborghini’ ready for production, the Urraco P250 was sold from 1972 on as a competitor for the Dino 246 and the Porsche 911. When the Lamborghini Countach was finally ready in 1974, the Urraco received an upgrade to become the P300 model, now with a 3-Liter V8 engine, while due to tax regulations the Urraco P200 was available on the Italian market, a smaller displacement 2-Liter V8 with just 182 bhp.
While the Urraco P250 had some decent success with 520 units being sold between 1972 and 1976, both the P200 (66 units) and the P300 (190 units) just weren’t the high volume sales success Ferruccio Lamborghini was hoping for, and that was partly due to the fact they never had the P300 officially certified for sale in the United States, a large market for Lamborghini, instead only the Urraco P250 Typo III could be legally sold in the US at that time, and with all the legislation the latter came with only 180 bhp, which wasn’t really enough to make this Lamborghini interesting when you had the Countach LP400 alongside with 375 hp.
By 1976 Automobili Lamborghini SpA wasn’t in the best financial state, the Urraco development took a lot of investment and sales weren’t really compensating this, so Ferruccio needed something new, but creating a successor to the V8 wasn’t an option, so he asked Bertone to come up with something new to create some new momentum for the entry-level Bull … at the 1976 Geneva Motor Show we got to see the Silhouette, arguably the most beautiful and aggressive looking V8 two-seater made in Sant’Agata, at least that’s what I think, I love the design of the Silhouette.
The Silhouette would become the first production Lamborghini featuring a removable roof section creating a convertible model, the panel could be stored behind the two seats, which required the small rear seats from the original Urraco to be removed, Lamborghini also added a deep front spoiler, wide wheel arch extensions (note this was before the Countach S would come around in 1978 with the wider wheel arches), and we got the first use of the stunning five-hole, telephone dial wheels made specifically for the Lamborghini Silhouette, 15 inch tall and a massive 11 inch wide at the rear.
But once again Lamborghini was unable to legally import the beautiful Silhouette into the United States, from 1977 until 1982 not a single Lamborghini was officially imported into the United States apart from some grey-market cars, by the way, in the end, the Silhouette was only built for two years, production totaling at no more than 52 units from which just 27 to 31 are believed to have survived today.
It seemed the V8 adventure for Lamborghini would end in 1979 when the last of the Urraco left the assembly line, but there was still one chapter to be written … with the 1981 Lamborghini Jalpa P350, the last attempt at creating an alternative to the very expensive, and exotic Countach, taking the Silhouette idea one step further, still a two-seater with a removable panel, but modernized styling and a little more power from a larger 3.5-Liter V8 (255 hp), this really was a Baby Lamborghini and it should have been really popular.
In true Lamborghini fashion, the actual 1981 Geneva Motor Show Jalpa prototype was something special, using a Silhouette base that didn’t get sold and was returned to the factory, they built a metallic bronze finished Jalpa on it, the interior was a very special looking striped version, but not like the vertical stripe on the Silhouette seats, the Jalpa prototype received stripes on the seat and back in a 45 degree angled design, also this prototype showed a ‘ducktail’ rear wing that didn’t make it onto the production version.
By the time the first customers received their Lamborghini Jalpa in 2918 the model evolved a little from the prototype, both front and rear bumpers were satin black, the air scoops behind the side windows were also finished in black, as was the roof panel. The taillights look like they came directly from the Urraco/Silhouette parts bin, while the wheels were flat face 16 inch units first seen on the Bertone Athon prototype, a convertible concept based on the Silhouette.
The Lamborghini Jalpa came with a V8 bored to 3,485 cc, the quadruple Weber DCNF 42 carburetors, and a compression ratio of 9.2:1 would deliver a total output of 255 hp at 7,000 rpm with a maximum torque of 231 ft-lbs @ 3,500 rpm, acceleration from 0 to 60 mph would take just 6 seconds while a top speed of 145 mph was possible, not bad for a $58,000 MSRP ( in 1984 the Lamborghini Countach had an MSRP of $104,000).
The modernized styling for the Lamborghini Jalpa was created by Marc Deschamps, a Frenchman working for Bertone since 1980 as style director, but he was influenced by none other than Giulio Alfieri, General Manager and Technical Director at Lamborghini, after two years of production the Jalpa got a facelift first seen at the 1984 Geneva Motor Show, the engine cover, the side air intakes, and the roof panel all got color-coded to the rest of the body… while the two circular taillight units made their appearance too.
For this facelift, Lamborghini also upgraded the interior of the Jalpa, but the massive success once again didn’t really happen, and in 1988 production of the Lamborghini Jalpa was halted, after just 420 units were sold (some sources state a total production of 410), and truth be told, the Jalpa always remained in the shadow of her illustrious sibling, the magnificent Countach, and that had been reflected in her value ever since, even today the Jalpa, while rising in value, is probably one of the cheapest convertible Lamborghini you can buy.
But the Lamborghini Jalpa does have some serious value in the history of Lamborghini, apart from the Silhouette, the Jalpa was the only production model Lamborghini made as a convertible, albeit a Targa style model, and the entire Urraco up to the Jalpa were the only NA V8 powered Lamborghinis ever made (the Urus is a twin-turbo V8), the next step would become the successful Lamborghini Gallardo with a V10 engine, even the P140 concept and earlier the Cala were both V10 powered, but it would take 30 years, from 1988 to 2018, for Lamborghini to bring out a new V8 model.
Today the Lamborghini Jalpa P350 is celebrating her 40th anniversary, and it might be the best time to add one to your collection in the garage, prices will only rise, especially for a unit in good condition, also note that a highly sought-after option on the Jalpa are the Silhouette telephone dial wheels, you could even add the Countach rear wing to your Jalpa making it really a Baby Lamborghini in the Eighties, but just as with the Gallardo and Huracan later on, the upward-opening doors were reserved for the V12 flagship, even in the Eighties, the doors on the Jalpa open sideways, like on a regular car.
Enjoy some detailed shots of the Lamborghini Jalpa chassis DLA12028 in our gallery below: