1968 - 1970 Lamborghini Islero
The Islero was the first Lamborghini with hidden pop-up headlights and the first designed by Mario Marazzi. Its appearance seemed somewhat dull even next to the Espada, not to mention the Miura. The 400 GT version was quickly followed by the improved 400 GTS that soldiered on until 1970 when the Islero was replaced by the Jarama.
Lamborghini was truly prolific in its first few years as an automaker. Ferruccio Lamborghini’s men put the 350 GT into production in 1964 and then, only two years later, the bigger, more powerful 400 GT arrived. At the same time, the stunning Gandini-penned Miura dropped and, for 1968, Lamborghini readied up two new cars: the Islero which replaced the 400 GT and an even bigger grand tourer, the Espada. Lamborghini’s wave didn’t last much longer, though, and, by the mid-’70s, the company was in financial hot water.
The Islero name comes from a Miura-breed bull that killed the famous matador Manuel Rodriquez in August of 1947.
1968 - 1970 Lamborghini Islero
1968 Lamborghini Islero Exterior
- Designed by Mario Marazzi
- Built by Carrozzeria Marazzi in Milan
- Sleek body shape with pop-up headlights
- 2+2 Coupe
- All-steel body
- 15-inches longer than the 400GT 2+2
- Identical wheelbase to the 400GT 2+2
- Shorter and thinner than the Espada
- The Islero GTS differed stylistically
The Lamborghini Islero was launched over five decades ago at the 1968 edition of the Geneva Auto Show. It had previously been shown to the media in February of that same year and, at Geneva, it shared the Lamborghini stand with another new model, the Gandini-styled Espada, and the Miura S. While the Espada was praised for its low-slung, aggressive and narrow front fascia coupled with the curved rear end, the Islero was quickly overlooked. It came with proper pop-up headlights and a design that, while inspired by the 400 GT, was modern and elegant in its simplicity.
The body was drawn up by Mario Marazzi, the head of Carrozzeria Marazzi, the coachbuilding company that actually handled the building of the Islero too.
This company was founded in 1967 right after the demise of Carrozzeria Touring by former Touring employees. Lamborghini’s first car, the 350 GT, was built at Carrozzeria Touring using the famed Superleggera method and, naturally, was Touring folded, the production of the cars was dispatched to Marazzi. In fact, while the first 400 GT models were built at Touring, the later 2+2 models were entirely completed at Marazzi.
The main problem with the Islero GT, though, wasn’t the styling, which was also praised by Ferruccio as one that best "exemplifies his vision for the marque, more than any other model," but the general build quality. Marazzi was a new company and their quality control sector was lackluster at best. Still, what remains is the fact that only 100 Islero GTs were built before the company focused on the GTS version that wasn’t much more successful with 125 built until 1970.
The Islero has a straight-cut body, a car designed for the businessman that wasn't interested in raising attention to his presence.
Lamborghini had the flashy Miura for those eager to be gazed upon by each and every passerby and, when all is said and done, flashy won over inconspicuousness and, nowadays, Lamborghini no longer is putting out GTs, sadly.
Up front, you’ll notice the main rectangular air inlet with its chrome frame. Inboard, there are two white indicators and two fog lights hidden behind the mesh grille. Below the main inlet, there are two more oval holes in the lower bumper, on either side of the radiator that extends below the edge of the bumper. The bumper itself is thin and wraps itself around the nose of the Islero, following a tunnel carved into the bodywork.
A minute difference between the Islero GT and the GTS are the side indicators before the front wheels which are teardrop-shaped on the GT and round on the GTS. Also, the GTS has flared wheel arches to host the bigger tires. The Islero actually has a wider track than the 400 GT. The hood of the car features a horizontal scoop that’s bigger on the GTS than on the GT and it directs air into the cabin, not the engine bay as you may expect.
The profile of the Islero is as clean as it can be. The front wheel arches are round while the ones at the rear have a squared look.
A horizontally-mounted vent can be seen aft of the front wheels. Below the doors, there’s a chromed bar on the rocker panels meant to give the car a more elegant look. Besides these details, there’s not much more to talk about. The windows have chrome frames and, on the Islero GTS, there’s a fixed section in the door window.
While the Islero prototype used for early road testing had multi-spoked Borranis, the production model featured the same magnesium Campagnolo-built rims like the Miura and the Series 1 Espada.
The back of the Islero, apart from the fact that its slanted towards the inside, is quite strange in the sense that the taillights are positioned below the two-piece rear bumper.
Effectively, there’s one taillight below each of the wrap around bumpers which go just below the car’s main crease that runs the length of the profile. The taillights sit within the recessed center panel that features the numberplate in the middle. The trunk extends to the edge of the rear bumpers. The rear fenders have some sharp creases on top of them, a continuation of the theme seen up front.
1968 Lamborghini Islero Dimensions
1968 Lamborghini Islero Interior
- Drastically different interior
- Ventilation outlets on the passenger’s side
- New center console
- Poor build quality Inside
- The amount of wood separates the GT and GTS
- Could carry four people
- Not as comfortable as the Espada
The 350 GT and the 400 GT were both well-established grand tourers that offered above-average power and driveability while the Carrozzeria Touring craftsmanship was well-known for its quality, at least considering the standards of the ’60s.
The Islero, meanwhile, debuted a revamped interior with a new dash, but build quality was sub-par on many early GT examples.
The classic wood-rimmed steering wheel was still there although the gauges were reorganized with the tachometer on the left and the odometer - that went all the way to 168 mph - on the right. There were five other smaller dials, two on the sides of the big and important ones and one in the upper side of the gauge cluster, in the middle. This last one informs you about your oil pressure.
The car came with air conditioning as standard equipment and the vents were crudely placed on the passenger’s side like a household radiator that was glued to the dash in place of the glove box. Later on, the GTS fixed this aesthetic misdemeanor by placing the same vents on top of the dash with the glove box below it. Also, a chromed S (like on the Miura) was placed on the leather-wrapped glove box. In fact, the entirety of the dash and center console were wrapped in leather, as well as the bucket seats up front and the rear bench.
The steering and the windows were power assisted on the Islero and, on the GTS, the rear window was heated too.
Also, the GTS had different seats with higher backrests and the rear seats were divided by a fold-down armrest. On the dash, toggle switches replaced the earlier pull units and, overall, the build quality was vastly improved. Ferruccio himself used to drive around in an Islero, that particular car being sold at auction in 2013 for $247,500.
1968 Lamborghini Islero Drivetrain
- Bizzarrini-designed, 4.0-liter, V-12
- GT had 320 horsepower
- GTS had 350 horsepower
- Six twin-choke sidedraught Weber 40 carburetors
- GTS top speed of 168 mph
- GT top speed of 155 mph
- The GTS was 500 lbs heavier than the GT
The Islero is similar in its drivetrain to the 400 GT. It sports the same aluminum 4.0-liter V-12. The engine has a compression ratio of 10.5:1 and is fed by six twin-choke Weber 40 DCOE carburetors. Officially, it develops 325 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 276.6 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm.
This allows for a top speed of around 155-160 mph and a 0 to 60 mph time of about seven seconds.
The chassis is archaic with square and rectangular steel tubes for the floor and tubular one for the rest of the structure. The suspension is modern for those days being all-independent with double wishbones, coil springs, Armstrong shock absorbers, and anti-roll bars. Steering is ZF with worm and roller and brakes are from Girling with twin Girling vacuum servos.
The 320 horsepower reach the back wheels through Lamborghini's own all-synchromesh five-speed transmission.
The same transmission is on the Islero GTS although that car is faster with a top speed of about 160 mph thanks to 30 more horsepower and the rear suspension was modified in line with the Espada suspension to improve stability under hard braking or accelerating. Also, the Islero GTS features the same camshafts as the Miura S meaning that the compression ratio was 10.8:1.
1968 Lamborghini Islero Specifications (GT)
|Engine||DOHC, naturally-aspirated, 60-degree, 24-valve, 4.0-liter V-12 engine with an aluminum block|
|Fuel feed||Electric Bendix fuel pump, 6 twin-barrel Weber 40 DCOE 20 carburetors|
|Output||320 horsepower at 7,000 rpm|
|Torque||276.6 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm|
|Top speed||155-160 mph|
|0 to 60 mph||7 seconds|
|Gearbox||Lamborghini 5-speed manual, all-snychromesh|
|Suspension||All-independent with double wishbones front and rear, coil springs, Armstrong shock absorbers, and anti-roll bars|
|Steering||ZF worm and roller|
|Brakes||Girling disc brakes all around with twin Girling vacuum servos|
1968 Lamborghini Islero Pricing
The Isleros, plagued by the bad reputation gained by the poorly-made early examples, aren’t auction heavy-hitters despite their rarity. All in all, just 225 Isleros were ever made and, obviously, not all have survived the 20th century. The original MSRP for one hovered around $18,000 to $20,000 which, accounting for inflation, is between $123,153-$136,837.
Nowadays, an Islero sells for about $300,000 to $400,000. That’s a lot of money, undoubtedly, but it’s still less than a Miura or even a 350 GT. For instance, in 2015, a 350 GT sold for $935,000 while an Islero S fetched just $401,000, less than half. I guess not many people know about the Islero or, if they do, they factor in its tainted history and decide against bidding big on such models, in spite of their scarcity.
1968 Lamborghini Islero Competition
The 365 GT 2+2 is a classic grand tourer by the House of Maranello. It sports the venerable 4.4-liter Colombo V-12 with all of its 318 horsepower thanks to an 8.8:1 compression ratio. The increased displacement (compared to the 250 GT models) meant that peak horsepower was achieved lower in the rev range, at just 6,600 rpm. Max torque was 308 pound-feet at 5,000 rpm while the top speed was 152 mph, lower than that of the Islero but the 365 was also 500 pounds heavier at 3,236 pounds.
The 365 GT 2+2 was designed by Pininfarina and first appeared in front of the grand public at the 1967 Paris Auto Show. It was one of the biggest grand tourers made by Ferrari up to that point and proved popular with Ferrari’s customers and 800 were built until 1971. A 365 GT 2+2 is a rather affordable ’60s Ferrari with models trading hands for somewhere between $250,000 and $320,000.
Read our full review on the Ferrari 365 GT 2+2.
The Iso Rivolta Lele is a 2+2 grand tourer built by Iso between 1969 and 1974. Designed by Marcello Gandini for Bertone, the Lele sold 285 units in its five-year lifespan. It was first powered by a 5.4-liter V-8 Chevrolet engine that was later replaced by a 5.7-liter V-8 Ford unit.
The Chevrolet-sourced engine put out 300 horsepower while the beefier Ford one added an extra 50 horsepower in 1972. The change was made because GM required Iso to pay for the engines in advance which they denied. This also saw a switch from the Chevrolet automatic transmission to a Ford one to match the Cleveland V-8. The ZF 5-speed manual remained the same as before.
The Lele, which died at once with the manufacturer, was named in honor of Piero Rivolta’s wife, Lele Rivolta. Piero was the son of Iso Rivolta’s founder, Renzo Rivolta.
The Lamborghini Islero is yet another forgotten front-engined Lamborghini before the factory irreversibly turned its attention to mid-engined supercars in the late ’70s. Clearly, the Islero deserves more love than it gets and that’s because it’s a nice-looking grand tourer capable of great speeds (for the late ’60s) and one that’s also very rare.
Sadly, not even the Islero S, a mostly sorted car, doesn’t’ receive enough praise because everybody is too busy drooling over a Miura’s eyelashes or over some early Espada. However, you never know when the market shifts and people start really appreciating the Isleros.
Read our full review on the 1968-1978 Lamborghini Espada
Read our full review on the 1966-1969 Lamborghini Miura.
Read our full review on the 1970 - 1976 Lamborghini Jarama.
Read our full review on the 1966 - 1968 Lamborghini 400GT.