• 3.5-liter V8 engine; 5-speed manual transmission, beneficiary of a professional restoration completed in 2016
  • Odometer displays 80,021 kilometers (about 49,723 miles).
  • Removable targa top, Carello fog lights, and Ruote O.Z. wheels
  • Equipped with Alpine radio with cassette and Alpine car phone; retains $5,000 optional rear wing
  • Accompanied by owner’s manual and binder of documentation
  • One of just 410 produced from 1982 to 1988

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1984 Lamborghini Jalpa 3.5 Targa
Years Produced:1982–88
Number Produced:410
Original List Price:$65,000
SCM Valuation: $82,500
Tune Up Cost:$750
Chassis Number Location:Plate inside windshield on top of dashboard
Engine Number Location:Top front of block, between cylinder banks
Club Info:Lamborghini Club America
Alternatives:1984 Ferrari 308 GTS QV, 1984 Porsche 911 Targa, 1983 Maserati Merak
Investment Grade:D

This car, Lot 465, sold for $99,000, including buyer’s premium, during RM Sotheby’s Online Only Palm Beach sale on March 28, 2020.

I was eager to write this profile, as I felt it had great historical interest. With the arrival of the global coronavirus health crisis, here would be an opportunity to observe how the auction market would behave in its earliest days. Many have already written about RM Sotheby’s quick pivot to an online format for their previously scheduled live auction in Palm Beach, FL.

They did so in a very considered and measured manner, adding the opportunity for bidders to review specialist condition reports via email in lieu of in-person inspection.

Of course, unknown to many, the availability of condition reports was always an option, but one of which shockingly few potential bidders took advantage. From all reports, they were quite forthright, as would make sense — there is little justification for an auction house interested in building and maintaining long-term relationships to over-describe a car that the bidder would have no opportunity to see “in the metal.”

This is an aspect in which an established “live” auction company — can one say “brick and mortar” if an auction is in a tent? — can put a foot farther forward than the leading online auction sites by giving a personal review of a car on offer, rather than relying on an online community to bring out the favors and faults of a car for sale.

A Lamborghini in the shadows

The Jalpa was Lamborghini’s competitive offering to the Ferrari 308 and successor to the 2+2 Urraco and 2-seat Silhouette, of which a mere 54 were made.

The Jalpa should have been a volume money-maker, but the car never caught the imagination of the market, suffering both from Lamborghini’s inability to create and sustain a U.S. market presence — and falling deeply in the shadow of the dramatic and flashy Countach.

It was with extroverted cars, such as the Countach, that Lamborghini would make its mark in the 1980s, and on into the 1990s with the Diablo. The Jalpa may not seem subtle to our eyes today, but park one next to a Countach, and you’ll see what I mean. There was also the perception issue — an exotic Italian should have 12 cylinders, shouldn’t it? Well, perhaps not.

As the former owner of a Dino 308 GT4, and the almost-owner of an Urraco, I can say without question that the mid-’70s V8s from both houses delivered a most satisfying driving experience. The Ferrari V8s were for a time the only models officially imported to the U.S, enhancing their status and visibility.

The co-starring role on “Magnum, P.I.” didn’t hurt the 308 GTS either. No such luck for the Lamborghini.

Our subject car was exactly the kind of vehicle I like to buy. One that has covered a reasonable mileage — in this case, 80,000 km — retained its owner’s manual and had been restored, or what I actually think was refreshed in the past four years. Not to mention the oh-so-1980s Alpine radio and matching car phone. I’m sure you could turn down Madonna singing “Like a Virgin” to place a call to the offices of Denver Carrington from the cockpit of this time machine.

There were some servicing issues connected to the early Jalpas, necessitating the removal of the engine to replace the spark plugs. This was corrected on cars as the production run continued.

Our subject car had the accessible plugs, making it much easier to live with. From the photographs in the online catalog, it looked to be in superb condition.

Lessons learned

And, despite the anxiety of the coronavirus pandemic — and the inability to inspect the car in person and the necessity to collect it from a location in Hobe Sound, FL, where no RM personnel were likely to be on hand — it sold for an above-average-market $99,000.

For me, this sale demonstrated three lessons:

First, that even in a pandemic, the market looks for and rewards the best example of an item available.

Second, that a well-prepared V8 Lamborghini can sell for more than its equivalent Ferrari or Porsche.

Third, that a traditional “live” auction company can successfully translate its strengths to the online environment.

All the above are good signs as far as I’m concerned, and I would call this sale spot-on.” ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)


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