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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
98500 112500 GBP
  • Lamborghini Jalpa

    £65,000 - £75,000 est. £65,000 - £75,000 est.
    Auction Date: 24 Feb 2018
    • Mileage: 85500 mi
    • Engine size: 3500
    Auction Date: 24 Feb 2018
    £65,000 - £75,000 est. £65,000 - £75,000 est.
    Auction Date: 24 Feb 2018
    Silverstone Auctions
    +44 (0) 1926 691 141 View contact number

    $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)
  • Lamborghini Jalpa


    £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
  • 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa

    $98,500(£0) $98,500(£0)

    Lamborghini is best known for building some of the wildest, most outrageously styled supercars in history; most of which were powered by fearsome, temperamental twelve-cylinder engines. Since the arrival of the show-stopping Miura, Lamborghini has continuously tried to outdo itself in terms of jaw-dropping style and shattering performance. While it was the V12 supercars that stole the headlines, Lamborghini has long offered buyers smaller, V8 powered models to supplement sales and compete with the likes of the Dino 246GT, Ferrari 308 and Porsche 911 Carrera. The first in the line of junior Lamborghinis was the Urraco (Piedmontese for “little bull”). The Urraco featured a 2.5 liter, and later a 3.0 liter V8 engine mounted transversely over the rear axle. The conservatively styled Urraco was the antithesis to the Miura and P400 Countach, and sales were moderate at best. But Lamborghini continued to evolve and develop the V8 series through the 1970s and into the 1980s. The 2+2 Urraco P300 was joined in 1976 by the two seat Silhouette, which shared the Urraco’s underpinnings and 3.0 liter V8 engine. With Lamborghini facing financial problems, just 55 Silhouettes were built over a three year period. In 1981, with the company getting back on track, a new “little bull” was shown at the Geneva auto show in hopes to boost sales across the board, and support further development of the Countach. Now called P350 Jalpa, it was a heavily developed version of the Silhouette, featuring revised styling, a wider more aggressive stance, and a modernized interior. The 90-degree, DOHC V8 engine was still transversely mid-mounted, but for the Jalpa it got a bump in displacement to 3.5 liters, now producing a rather useful 255 horsepower and 235 ft-lbs of torque. The Jalpa debuted in the US in 1983 at a list price of $58,000 – which rose to $65,000 by the end of production in 1988. Despite the mechanical and luxury refinements as well as the 160 mph performance, a mere 420 Jalpas were sold between 1982 and 1988, just over half that of Urraco production. Many Jalpas suffered neglect at the hands of bargain hunters and inexperienced owners, meaning that sound, attractive cars are very difficult to find today. Our featured 1988 Jalpa is a fine example from the final year of production for this junior Lamborghini supercar. Originally delivered via Motor Coach Lamborghini in Baltimore, Maryland, the first owner was a doctor who used it very lightly. She sold the car in the early 1990s with very low miles to an enthusiast from Michigan who enjoyed the car and had it serviced via Rallye Imports. In approximately 1999, it was sold to another enthusiast and collector who further enjoyed the car, keeping it regularly serviced at his own exotic car repair facility. Today, the Jalpa presents in good condition, an attractive and usable example in a great color combination of black over tan leather. The Jalpa has a fantastic stance – low and wide with aggressive fender flares to accommodate wide O.Z. alloy wheels made specifically for Lamborghini, which are wrapped in fat high-performance rubber. The wheels are excellent, as are the lights, lenses and body fittings. The black paint is mostly original and in good condition all around, with even gaps on the panels and good quality presentation. All Jalpas featured a targa-style roof and this one remains in very good condition. The typically vulnerable chin spoiler is in good order as well, in keeping with a car that has been driven and enjoyed carefully, while being expertly maintained along the way. The interior presents in excellent condition, with light tan leather highlighted by black piping, natural tan carpets and a black dash. The leather trim on the seats and door cards is very good and showing little in the way of wear. The dash top is similarly excellent, and the original instruments and switchgear all show in good order. The only modification is the addition of a Sony CD player for the days when you want some musical accompaniment for the sonorous 3.5 liter V8 over your right shoulder. Showing just over 25,000 miles from new, this Jalpa remains in very good order mechanically. The engine bay is original, cohesive and tidy, showing signs of regular care and maintenance while the undercarriage is likewise original and sound. While not a concours car, this example is tidy, highly attractive and thoroughly usable. The Jalpa is far more exclusive than a comparable Ferrari 308 or 328 and offers a great alternative to either car; delivering similar performance and handling with that uniquely aggressive Carrozzeria Bertone styling and entertaining V8 engine. It offers the chance to get behind the wheel of a pure, unadulterated Lamborghini sports car from their last days as a proudly independent firm, at a cost of entry that is a fraction of its contemporary twelve-cylinder siblings. One of just 420 produced, this Jalpa is a fine example, ready for the next keeper to enjoy its distinctly Piedmontese character.

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