It’s worth noting that Lamborghini’s successor to the 400 GT was named after a bull that was famous for killing a matador. That says quite a bit about the attitude of the Italian sports car builder, both in the 1960s and today.

Fortunately, the 1968-69 Lamborghini Islero didn’t share its namesake’s homicidal impulses. In fact, the powerful, updated 2+2 coupe was quite a civilized ride. Essentially a design and engineering upgrade to the aging 400 GT, the Islero lived in the shadow of the Miura and Espada. Quality control issues on early models didn’t help; the redesigned V12 2+2 offered many creature comforts and impressive performance. The body woes were eventually fixed, but it nevertheless ended up a low-production model.

That’s a shame, because the Islero was a 150-plus mph car and easily among the top performers of the day. The relatively conventional bodywork meant that it also provided real-world usefulness at the dawn of the mid-engined supercar era. Ferruccio Lamborghini himself drove one as his company car. The Islero received updates in 1969 that gave it the “Islero S” moniker, but by the dawn of the 1970s it had regrettably run its race.

Exterior

1968 - 1970 Lamborghini Islero High Resolution Exterior
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The Islero’s sheet metal improved upon the awkward-looking 400 GT. Designed by Milanese coachbuilder Mario Marazzi, it featured a long nose and a smooth face with hidden headlights. A slender bumper bisected the front fascia. A substantial air intake and fog lights rode below. The sides and flanks were equally clean-lined, with an upright greenhouse providing excellent visibility and space for four adults inside.

The cabin was pushed far back, with the back of the driver’s seat nearly over the rear wheels.

The cabin was pushed far back, with the back of the driver’s seat nearly over the rear wheels. The split rear bumper mirrored the shape of the front and formed eyebrows over the taillights. Subtle details like teardrop-shaped side marker lights and a door handle mounted below the belt line were elegant touches, and 15-inch Campagnolo wheels completed the look.

The quality upgrades for 1969 came with a small styling update as well. The fenders were flared slightly, and functional vents were added to the front fenders behind the wheels.

Interior

1968 - 1970 Lamborghini Islero High Resolution Interior
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The interior was handsomely trimmed, especially compared to the 400 GT and contemporary competitors. Elegant leather seating surfaces and a wood steering wheel exuded the proper amount of European luxury, while a dash sporting a full range of instruments provided a businesslike look. Wood and chrome trim were used to further dress up the interior. Rear-seat passengers were coddled in snug seats with aggressive bolstering.

Lamborghini took time with the 1969 update to address some of the interior’s shortcomings as well. The Islero received redesigned seats, a folding rear-seat armrest, and a rear window defroster.

Drivetrain

1968 - 1970 Lamborghini Islero High Resolution Exterior
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As with the 400 GT, a sonorous 4.0 liter V12 provided power. This four-cam engine sported six Weber carbs and could spin up to 6,500 rpm. It was rated at 325 horsepower, and a five-speed manual transmission was standard. The suspension was fully independent, with unequal-length A-arms and coil springs at all four corners and Girling disc brakes clamped all four wheels. Contemporary reviews reported excellent handling and grip.

For 1969, the engine added a hotter cam (borrowed from the Miura) that increased compression and nudged horsepower to 350. Top speed was similarly improved, topping 160 mph. To keep the Islero on the road, Lamborghini updated the rear suspension and added larger disc brakes.

Prices

The Islero’s low production has kept restored examples relatively scarce and prices comparatively high. Only 225 cars were built: 125 Islero and 100 Islero S models. Most have survived and are accounted for. In 1969 this was a six and a half million-lire car (about $20,000). There are enough Isleros extant that they change hands from time to time, with mixed results: auction results range from $70,000 all the way up to $401,500 in 2015.

Competition

Ferrari 365 GT 2+2

1967 - 1971 Ferrari 365 GT 2+2
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Ferrari’s V-12-powered 2+2 was the Islero’s natural competitor. The plush Ferrari had a sleek fastback body and standard Cromodora alloy wheels, but in spite of its 320 horsepower 4.4-liter V12, the Islero was faster.

Read our full review on the Ferrari 365 GT 2+2 here.

Iso Lele

1968 - 1970 Lamborghini Islero
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The unusual Marcello Gandini-styled Iso Lele was a combination of eyecatching Italian styling, 300-horsepower Chevrolet V8 engine and a 2+2 grand-tourer layout. Built in small numbers from 1969-74, the Lele might represent what the Islero could have been with more extravagant sheet metal.

Conclusion

1968 - 1970 Lamborghini Islero High Resolution Exterior
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The Islero shows off all of the things Lamborghini was known for at the time: big power, exceptional performance and luxury. It may have lacked the dramatic sheet metal that soon came to characterize the marque, but this car helped to ensure that Lamborghini had the substance in place before the style.

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    • * Lamborghini’s quality control has never been the best
    • * Wallflower styling
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