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Lamborghini Jalpa: Buying guide and review (1981-1988)

Lamborghini Jalpa: Buying guide and review (1981-1988) Classic and Performance Car
Lamborghini Jalpa Lamborghini Jalpa Lamborghini Jalpa
Think of a supercar that typifies the 1980s. Did you think of the Lamborghini Countach? It’s pretty likely to be one of the very first to spring to mind, but it wasn’t the only wild supercar that Lamborghini produced at the time. 
 
It may have been slightly overshadowed by its big brother, but the Jalpa does a pretty fine job of summing up the era too. It doesn’t get any more 1980s than Phil Collins driving a white Jalpa in Miami Vice. Or does it? Rocky Balboa cruising in a black example during one of the fourth film's epic montage scenes comes pretty close. 
 
Developed during what was actually a very tough period for Lamborghini, with the factory close to closing down. Becoming insolvent in early 1980, new investors were brought in with fresh ideas – and a new idea to revisit the Ferrari 308 killer. 
 
The Jalpa was based on the ultra-rare Silhouette – itself an evolution of the Urraco – but this was a substantial re-engineering exercise undertaken by Lamborghini. Known as project P118, Bertone offered an updated eighties-tastic body kit with widely-flared wheel arches, a deep front splitter, a redesigned engine cover and a set of 16-inch alloy wheels.
 
Inside, the Jalpa’s restyled dashboard was a little more controversial, with a very square-cut cockpit design. The instruments were all mounted in some slightly inelegant black boxes, and although matching the very angular look of the bodywork, it was not universally loved. There’s certainly a period charm to it today, but build quality leaves a lot be desired. 
 
Despite the add-ons, the Jalpa’s relatively compact dimensions and well-judged proportions mean that it isn’t quite as attention-seeking as the larger Countach – this more subtle styling theme has continued among ‘baby’ Lamborghinis ever since. 
 
The transverse mid-mounted V8 is a development of the unit first fitted to the Urraco, though capacity increased from the original 2.5 litres to 3.5 courtesy of an increased stroke. Producing 255bhp, the Jalpa was outperformed by similarly powerful but lighter rivals like the Ferrari 308, though it was still claimed to reach a top speed of around 150mph. To this day, the Jalpa is the last V8-powered car Lamborghini has produced. 
 
On the road, many drivers will find the Jalpa a much easier car to live with than the larger Countach. All round visibility is much better, the engine is a little more tractable at low speeds, and – though still something of a workout – the major controls are lighter. Disc brakes are fitted all round and the MacPherson strut setup helps to provide a flat, stable stance through the corners.
 
The leather trimmed interior is a lovely place to sit, and was fairly well-equipped for the time: air conditioning, a cassette player and an electrically-adjustable driver’s door mirror were all standard. While it was perhaps not finished to a great standard, the Jalpa compared favourably to the Ferrari 308 in terms of ergonomics. All Jalpas featured a targa roof, the operation of which is straightforward, and is surprisingly leak free under normal use!
 
And what does Jalpa actually mean? Like most Lamborghinis, the name comes from bullfighting folklore, being taken from a fierce Mexican bull breed.
 

Which Jalpa to buy?

 
This baby Lambo was not a commercial success, with around 410 Jalpas were sold in the car’s eight-year life. Just 35 of those were right-hand drive models. There was one cosmetic upgrade to the Jalpa during production: in 1984 the revised rear replaced the square tail lights with round units, while all exterior parts finished in plastic (the engine cover, the bumpers and air vents) became body-coloured instead of black.
 
Modifications to the Jalpa on the aftermarket are rare, though some owners have added a Countach-style rear wing while others have fitted the telephone dial-style alloys from the Silhouette.
 
The Jalpa was never considered to be as desirable as the original Uracco, but find a well sorted example today, and there’s certainly a 1980s charm that gives the targa-top a character of its own. To say that the Jalpa wasn't a dynamic masterpiece is pehaps a little misleading, but when it was new could wind down a country lane with pace, fluidity and flexibility to make it an effective machine. .
 

Performance and specs

 
Engine  3485cc V8
Power 255bhp @ 7000rpm
Torque 235lb ft @ 3250rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual
0-60mph 6.2secs 
Top speed 150mph
Insurance group   -
Fuel consumption  14.4mpg
Price when new  £26,001
 

Dimensions and weight


Wheelbase              2451mm
Length 4331mm
Width 1880mm
Height 1143mm
Weight 1509kg
 

Common problems

 
• As with any hand-built car, there can be issues with build quality. Be sure to check that all the interior trim fits as it should, and that each switch and dial on the dashboard works properly. The car was notoriously badly built, and spares are often difficult to locate.
 
• Rust isn’t the nightmare it can be with some cars of this age, though it’s worth taking a good look around the wheel arch extensions. Water can collect inside the arch, which can cause corrosion. Restoration is an expensive prospect, as body panels usually need to be fabricated
 
• Be sure to check for a comprehensive history. The Jalpa needs regular attention to ensure smooth, reliable running. As they are among the cheapest used Lamborghini models, some owners may have skimped on important maintenance. 
 
• Without modification, the brakes will suffer from fade. Cooling is the key, which is why many owners have attempted to fit ducts that direct air to the front calipers. 
 
• Check the condition of the engine mounts. These were considered a little flimsy in the Urraco, but the Jalpa’s extra torque increases the chances of fatigue further. The mounts will eventually fail. 
 
• Any blue smoke from the exhaust on sharp throttle applications is a sign that the valve seals are worn, and the guides and seats will need replacement. A small amount of oil burning is normal however.
 
• Despite the reputation, engines are generally quite reliable and feature a timing chain unlike the earlier Uracco unit. 
 

Model history

 
March 1981: Jalpa revealed at the Geneva Motor Show. Intended to replace Silhouette, and sit beneath the Countach in the Lamborghini range
March 1984: Styling revised with changes to the tail lights and body trim
July 1988: Jalpa production ends, with 410 units sold
 

Owners clubs, forums and websites

 
• www.lamborghiniclub.co.uk – Big UK owners club
• www.lamborghiniregistry.com – a wide-ranging Lamborghini forum, which includes a section dedicated to the Jalpa
• www.jalpa.ch – a site run by a Jalpa owner, which contains info on maintenance, documentation and sales
• www.colinclarkeengineering.co.uk – classic Italian supercar specialist based in Hertfordshire
 

Summary and prices

 
The Jalpa has remained relatively overlooked until recently, but thanks to both its rarity and the ever skyrocketing values of the larger Countach it’s desirability – and therefore values – have increased rapidly. Finding one (especially a right-hand drive example) will require patience, but expect to find the cleanest cars with only a couple of thousand genuine miles on the clock advertised for well over £120,000. Slightly more well-worn examples are likely to hover around the £70,000 mark, while you might just be able to find a rough runner from around £30,000.
 
Words: Alex Ingram
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Last updated: 19th Jul 2017
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Lamborghini Jalpa
67500 112500 GBP
  • Lamborghini Jalpa

    POA POA

    £115000 The Jalpa we have for sale is only of only 35 RHD cars produced, and possibly the lowest mileage known to exist, Purchased in 1988 by the last owner from Guy Salmon, Thames Ditton with only 16178 Kms recorded, it has now covered only 44458 Kms (27786 miles) from new, the mileage and service being confirmed by the service records and owners notes. The car is complete with driver’s wallet, containing the handbook and service book, copy previous V5. The owner moved to Guernsey in 1995, the car following in 1999, by 2007 the mileage had increased to 43553 Kms, with very little use over the 10 years, resulting in the mileage today. The Jalpa was a development of the earlier Silhouette intended to fill a role as a more "affordable" Lamborghini, being much less expensive than the flagship Countach and being also designed by Bertone. Compared to the Countach, the Jalpa was much easier to drive, having better visibility and being more tractable in heavy traffic and at slow speeds. The Jalpa was fitted with a 3.5 L (210 cu in) double overhead camshaft version of the V8 engine used in the Silhouette on which it was based. The version used in the Jalpa produced 255 hp (190 kW; 259 PS)

    • Year: 1985
    • Mileage: 44458 mi
    For sale
    POA POA
    Le Riche Automobile Restorers
  • 1987 LAMBORGHINI JALPA

    $112,500(£0) $112,500(£0)

    --Pearl White with Red leather with White piping and Red carpeting, 26,000 kilometers/16,000 miles, 3.5 liter V8 with a 5-Speed Manual Transmission. The name Jalpa came from a famous breed of fighting bulls similar to other named Lamborghinis. The Jalpa was designed by Bertone, and was the entry level ticket to Lamborghini as it was sold along-side the flagship V12 Countach in the late 1980s. Powering the Jalpa was a 3.5 liter, double overhead camshaft version of the V8 engine used in the predecessor Silhouette model on which it was based. The V8 produced 255 bhp 225 lb·ft of torque. Compared to the Countach, the Jalpa was much easier to drive, having better visibility and being more manageable in traffic and at slow speeds. Only 410 Jalpas were produced as Lamborghini had been through some financial troubles in the 1980s. Chrysler’s purchase of Lamborghini in 1987 ended the Jalpa’s production in 1988. This 1987 Lamborghini Jalpa has been a well-cared for car. Of the Jalpas that have survived, very few are as well sorted as this example. The interior features air conditioning and an open gate shifter for the five-speed manual gearbox with a reverse lockout. This Jalpa runs and driv

    • Year: 1987
    • Mileage: 16000 mi
    For sale
    $112,500(£0) $112,500(£0)
  • 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa

    $98,500(£0) $98,500(£0)

    The V-8 Lamborghini Jalpa replaced the Urraco and the Silhouette in 1981, and sold alongside the V-12 Countach as Lamborghini’s smaller offering throughout the 1980s. In true Lamborghini fashion, the Jalpa was also named after a breed of fighting bull and featured aggressive, eye-catching wedge-shaped bodywork, in this case by Bertone. Powering this ‘junior’ Lamborghini was a 3.5-liter V-8 fed by Weber carburetors that produced 255 horsepower, giving the Jalpa a top speed of somewhere in the range of 150 miles per hour and a zero to sixty time of well under seven seconds. Compared to the Audi-backed company of today, Lamborghini was still a small-scale manufacturer in the 1980s, and only around 400 examples of the Jalpa were produced from 1981 until the takeover by Chrysler at the end of the decade. Of the cars that have survived, very few are as well preserved or as well sorted as this sleek 1988 Jalpa. As a 1988 car, it is one of the very last produced and is finished in black with black leather seats and tan door panels and carpets. The interior also features air conditioning, a CD player and an open gate shifter for the five-speed gearbox. The odometer shows 25,378 actual miles and overall this is a beautiful, original and honest car. Recent work has included ignition wires, exhaust manifold and newer front tires, but otherwise it has been a reliable, seldom used sports car. Its most recent owner was a professional foreign car mechanic who kept a small collection that he pampered with both enthusiasm and intimate knowledge of what the cars needed. The package includes the original warranty bookets and a parts manual. From its alloy wheels to its removable targa roof, this is an attractive, enjoyable and remarkably original example of one of Lamborghini’s rarer models.

    For sale
    $98,500(£0) $98,500(£0)