Even if the Lamborghini V8s are stuck playing character actor roles to the V12 stars, the Jalpa stands as a better car than you might realize

Introduced in 1981 with production starting in 1982, the Jalpa was one of three Lamborghini production models imported to the United States at the time. Alongside the Countach and LM002, the Jalpa was the often-overlooked little brother in the supercar and supertruck lineup.
Based upon the Silhouette, which in turn was based upon the Urraco, the Jalpa continued the Lamborghini tradition of offering a V8-powered complement to its flagship V12 sports cars. The Urraco first came to market in 1972 with production continuing through 1976. The Silhouette was introduced in 1976, with only 52 of Lamborghini's first "convertible" (it was actually a targa) built before production ended in 1979. The Jalpa then carried on for another decade until 1988.
All built on the same platform, later Urracos and the Silhouette shared the same three-liter motor while the Jalpa received an improved 90-degree, 3.5-liter V8. Where the three-liter was overburdened and at times strained, the new, larger engine not only provided a healthy exhaust note, but it never gave the driver the feeling it was overworked. Mounted transversely in a mid-engine layout and making 255 hp at 7,000 rpm, it propelled the Jalpa to an estimated top speed of 155 mph, according to contemporary reports.
The 1986 P 350 on offer here is reported to be in excellent physical condition, a true supercar from one of Italy's premiere producers of exotic automobiles.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1986 Lamborghini Jalpa P 350
Years Produced:1982-88
Number Produced:410 (possibly 416)
Original List Price:$58,000 (in 1985)
SCM Valuation:$20,000-$35,000
Tune Up Cost:$960
Distributor Caps:$120
Chassis Number Location:visible through windshield
Engine Number Location:top front of the block, between cylinder banks
Club Info:Lamborghini Club America, P.O. Box 649, Orinda, CA 94563
Alternatives:1976-85 Ferrari 308, 1978-83 Porsche 911, 1979-86 Maserati Quattroporte
Investment Grade:D

This 1986 Jalpa P 350 sold for $31,565 at RM’s Boca Raton sale, held February 11-13, 2005.
Almost any casual car fan can remember the remarkable V12 Lamborghinis of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, as the first time you saw a Miura or a Countach is likely permanently etched in your mind. Not so the V8 Lambos (“They built V8s?”), as the visual appeal of the bigger cars tends to leave the less exciting Urraco, Silhouette and Jalpa behind.
But even if the Lamborghini V8s are stuck playing character actor roles to the V12 stars, the Jalpa stands as a better car than you might realize. Putting it into a dollar perspective, you can buy one today for far less than a bad Mopar muscle car.
Lamborghini has rarely, if ever, had a stable financial history, and the early 1980s were among the most tumultuous of times for the company. When the Mimram brothers purchased the firm in 1981, the Countach was already growing long in the tooth, and even though sales were strong, there was little money for additional development of the model, and doubtless less for bringing new ones to market.
It was in this environment that the Jalpa was born, as an update of Lambo’s V8 Silhouette. The Silhouette had been well accepted at introduction, and even though few were made, it was acknowledged to be a big step forward from the earlier Urraco.
With styling from Bertone, the Jalpa hit the circuit at the 1981 Geneva auto show, a full year before it went into production. The cost of bringing the Jalpa to market was without a doubt much less than developing a new model from scratch, and it far outsold its predecessor, with just over 400 produced before bowing out in 1988.
If the Silhouette was a more refined car that was easier to live with, the Jalpa was an even greater improvement. One of the benefits of a third-generation design is that the Jalpa had a well laid-out dash and console, and build quality was as good as had been seen on any Lamborghini at the time. With chain-driven camshafts, rather than the dreaded rubber, fabric or bubble gum-based timing belts found on some other Italian exotics, the 3.5-liter V8 developed a reputation for both long life and fewer visits to dealer service bays.
As proof, I’ll offer the recollections of former Jalpa owner Bob Haroutunian, a businessman acquaintance of mine based in Washington, D.C.: “I bought my ’86 Jalpa used in 1986 with 1,000 km on the clock and drove it as my daily driver for twelve years, adding 65,000 km. Over this time it was a very predictable, very drivable car. I treated it as you would a regular car, and despite the horror stories you occasionally hear, none of them applied to my experience.”
The Jalpa pictured here wears the “dipped” look that was popular in the early ’80s, a monochromatic scheme that is now as fashionable as unconstructed men’s jackets and stubble beards. Not stopping at just the bumpers, ground effects and spoilers, this car even has body colored windshield wiper arms, making them impossible to see unless you are able to spot the shadow they cast against the coachwork.
The vendor stated that this 1986 Lamborghini Jalpa P350 had received a special $15,000 paint job for the 1985 show circuit, implying that the car started life as a show car; however, no other documentation to this end was present. It had a well-fitted, tight look to it, despite a small amount of wear present on the seats. The engine compartment was well detailed and quite clean.
The car’s low miles (just 5,390 km) and excellent overall condition make this a Jalpa with a future, even if the paintwork and styling make it appear inexorably stuck in the past. Despite being near the top of the SCM Price Guide range of $20,000 to $35,000, this Jalpa was a good buy at $31k.
While owning one of these cars today is more likely to result in your friends calling you “Crockett” or “Tubbs” than any market appreciation, perhaps someday this may change. Just as the gaudy Easter egg colors, fender skirts, and curb feelers found on American cars of the 1950s are desirable today as a reminder of a past era, the passage of a few decades may be exactly what is needed to make the tackiness of the 1980s visually appealing.
Until then, best to simply enjoy your V8 Lambo, just as you would that Van Halen “1984” LP, or a Betamax copy of “Flashdance.”
(Descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)

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