When the Gallardo and later the Huracan came out, some accused Lamborghini of going soft. In a sense, we get why. This was a company that over the years made cars like the fire-prone Miura, the hilariously impractical Countach, and the tricky-to-drive Murcielago. The Gallardo and its replacement, thanks in large part to liberal borrowing from the Audi parts bin, were a whole lot more sensible and approachable.
Proving their detractors wrong, however, both cars went on to form the basis of some thoroughly bonkers special editions including the Sesto Elemento and the Huracan STO. More to the point, easygoing Lamborghini models go back way further than the Gallardo. Long before that, there was the Jalpa.
In the late 1970s, all was not well at Lamborghini. It had gone bankrupt in 1978, although at the turn of the next decade, hope came in the form of entrepreneurs Jean-Claude and Patrick Mimran. The brothers purchased the struggling company and hatched a drastic plan to turn things around. Part of this would involve expanding the line-up to include the LM002 4x4, and the Jalpa.
The Jalpa wasn’t really a new car, though. It was an evolution of the largely unsuccessful Silhouette, itself born of the Uraco, which Lamborghini started building way back in 1972. By the time the Jalpa had its public debut at the 1981 Geneva Motor Show, the Silhouette had been dead a couple of years.
The newer car looked very different, though, with fresh, oh-so 80s bodywork designed by Bertone. The mid-mounted, all-alloy V8 meanwhile grew in displacement from 3.0 to 3.5-litres, giving an output of around 250bhp. A respectable figure which put the Jalpa on terms with its main rival, the Ferrari 308, while giving the more expensive Countach plenty of breathing room.
Unlike its bigger brother, the Jalpa had doors which were just…doors, with no flamboyant scissor arrangement hampering practicality. All-round visibility was better, and it was easier to drive. Well, about as easy as it got for supercars back then.
By 1988, Lamborghini had a new owner in the form of Chrysler. One of its first acts was to discontinue the Jalpa, its sales then waning. The entry-level Lambo had achieved reasonable success by that point, with 410 units sold. The Countach soldiered on for another year, before its replacement, the Diablo, ushered in a new era for the company.
Lamborghini wouldn’t make another affordable entry-point to its range until the Gallardo in 2003. V8s, meanwhile, didn’t come back to Sant’Agata Bolognese until the introduction of the Urus in 2018.
The Jalpa was a means to an end, a car Lamborghini needed to make to stay afloat. It’s not considered one of the greats like the Miura, Countach and Diablo, but that does mean you can pick them up for a whole lot less. The Jalpa you see here is going under the hammer via RM Sotheby’s early next month, and judging by a very similar one auctioned by the company not so long ago, it could go for under $100,000. You’ll need at least two and a half times that for a Countach.
The 1985 example shows just under 40,000 miles on the clock, and has some neat upgrades comprising a set of Koni dampers, a sports exhaust, and a genuine rear spoiler. It had a whole heap of work done to it in 2007, including a respray, the installation of a new leather interior, and an upper engine rebuild.
For the same money, you could instead get an earlier Gallardo and enjoy a much more straightforward ownership experience, at the expense of intrigue, What would it be for you?