Lamborghini Jalpa P350

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Automobili Lamborghini was declared bankrupt in late 1978 and spent the next couple of years in receivership struggling to make ends meet. To supplement the handful of Countach still trickling out of the factory the new court-appointed boss, Alessandro Artese, kept things ticking over with a contract to convert Fiat 127s into off-road vehicles.

Thankfully, new buyers for the company emerged in July 1980 five months after it had entered liquidation. Armed with an unlimited credit note from their bank, young Swiss industrialists Patrick and Jean-Claude Mimram were first given permission to manage Automobili Lamborghini as a test of their ability. After several successful months the Italian courts approved a sale to the Mimram Group for $3m.

The Mimrams retained all the key members of Lamborghini’s staff and set about reviving the companies fortunes. In complete contrast to the Rossetti – Leimer era, Lamborghini blossomed under their custodianship.

To compliment the Countach, the Mimrams commissioned two new models: a targa-topped two-seat V8 based on the Tipo 118 Silhouette and a wild luxury all-terrain vehicle based on the Cheetah.

The V8-engined Tipo 118/B Jalpa was unveiled at the Geneva Salon in March 1981. Deliveries began in early 1982, three-and-a-half years after the last Urracos and Silhouettes had rolled off the production line.

Giulio Alfieri was responsible for managing the Jalpa programme. He had already developed the production Countach S and replaced the original architect of Lamborghini’s V8 programme, Paolo Stanzani.

Alfieri instigated a straightforward update of the Silhouette which had been a fine looking automobile with excellent driving dynamics. However, for reasons unrelated to its capabilities the short-lived model had been a commercial disaster with only 52 examples built.

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The Silhouette’s steel monocoque chassis was reinforced to bring it up to the latest safety standards. Suspension was largely unaltered; MacPherson struts with lower A-arms at the front and Chapman struts, reversed lower A-arms and trailing arms at the back. Coil springs and telescopic shocks were fitted to each corner and anti-roll bars at either end.

The Jalpa used a twin circuit hydraulic brake system with ventilated Girling discs fitted to each corner. Disc diameter was reduced from 278mm on the Silhouette to 254mm.

At the Turin Salon in April 1980 Bertone had unveiled a one-off show car called the Athon. Based on Silhouette underpinnings, the otherwise unremarkable Athon’s most significant design feature was its Campagnolo disc wheels. They were adopted for the Jalpa to replace the Silhouette’s ‘teledial’ rims and were widely replicated by other manufacturers throughout the 1980s.

Campagnolo supplied the 16 x 7.5-inch rims for the Jalpa. They were cast in electron alloy and originally shod with Pirelli P7 tyres.

Compared to the Silhouette track was 16mm wider at the front and 22mm wider at the back.

A further development of the Paolo Stanzani-designed 90° V8 was installed. Once again mounted transversely in the chassis, the Jalpa motor was stroked from 64.5mm to 75mm for an additional 490cc. Bore went unchanged at 86mm and overall displacement was now 3485cc.

An all-alloy motor with dual overhead camshafts for each bank of cylinders, the Jalpa’s extra capacity enabled Lamborghini to reduce the compression ratio from 10.1 to 9.2:1. Four new twin choke Weber 42 DCNF carburettors were installed.

Peak output was 255bhp at 7000rpm compared to 260bhp at 7500rpm for the Silhouette. However, torque rose from 195lb ft to 231lb ft at an unchanged 3500rpm and gave the Jalpa better flexibility.

Transmission was once again via Lamborghini’s own five-speed manual gearbox (with new ratios), a single dry-plate clutch and in-house differential.

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Like all the V8 Lamborghinis, Bertone were commissioned to design the bodywork and interior. Although not quite as handsome as the Silhouette the Jalpa was nevertheless a well executed update; it merged soft wedge origins from the 1970s with the boxy lines becoming popular in the early 1980s.

The front bumper and everything below it was subtly reworked. Fog lights were fitted either side of a full-width grille and a split front spoiler installed. Wheelarch extensions were more smoothly integrated to the body and given a less angular profile than before. The redesigned engine cover (painted dark grey) was given smaller side intakes. A full width rear bumper with integral fog and reverse lights was installed. Both front and back bumpers were anodised black. Tail lights came from the Urraco / Silhouette.

The most substantial cosmetic changes were made inside. An entirely new ‘box’ dash was fitted along with modern plastic switchgear. A rev counter, tachometer and oil pressure gauge were located in the main binnacle directly behind the steering wheel. Most other supplementary instruments were housed in a separate binnacle above the switchgear and stereo. Like its predecessors ventilation controls were house on a central console that joined the dash to the transmission tunnel. Plush new leather seats were fitted along with updated leather door trim. A new three-spoke leather steering wheel was also installed.

Weight rose from 1240kg to 1510kg primarily due to the beefed up chassis and better interior equipment. Top speed was 150mph and 0-62mph took 6.4 seconds.

The first Jalpa was unveiled in March 1981 at the Geneva Salon. This first example was a prototype built on a Silhouette chassis (40058). The Silhouette had remained unsold at Achilli Motors in Milan and still had the original three-litre engine in at Geneva. It was displayed in a lurid metallic bronze with gold wheels, bumpers, roof and engine cover. The interior was even more extravagantly finished; two-tone cream and brown with striped seat centres and door panels. This car was renumbered 12001 and later repainted silver.

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Deliveries of customer Jalpas started in early 1982. Unlike the Urraco and Silhouette, the Jalpa was available in the USA. Lamborghini offered the car in 250bhp trim, just 5bhp less than standard.

At the Geneva Salon in March 1984 a Jalpa with body coloured roof and engine cover was introduced. New tail lights were also fitted at the same time; they featured circular red and amber lenses on a reflective red background.

Customers could enhance their cars with an optional Countach-style rear wing, a sports exhaust and piping for the interior.

Two prototype Jalpa roadsters were developed between 1986 and 1987 but the project was abandoned soon after Chrysler purchased Automobili Lamborghini from the Mimram Group in April 1987. The roadster’s aesthetics were questionable and the Jalpa was coming towards the end of its life anyway.

In the final year of production some Jalpas left the factory with slimline Urraco / Silhouette front bumpers and 15-inch ‘teledial’ wheels that were left over at the factory.

Production was discontinued in July 1988 by which time 410 Jalpas had been completed, 35 of which were right-hand drive.

Text copyright: Supercar Nostalgia
Photo copyright: Lamborghini -
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