• 1981 - 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa

The last Lamborghini to use a V-8 engine

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The Lamborghini Jalpa was a sports car produced between 1981 and 1988. A development of the Silhouette, which was discontinued alongside the Urraco in 1979, the Jalpa was Lamborghini’s entry-level sports car in the 1980s. It was slotted below the iconic Countach, being not only significantly more affordable than the supercar, but also easier to drive in heavy traffic and at slow speeds. Unlike the Countach, the Jalpa was powered by a V-8 engine. Its retirement in 1988 meant the end of the entry-level, affordable Lamborghini until the introduction of the Gallardo, in 2003.

The Jalpa was developed in Lamborghini’s most difficult period financial-wise. Affected by the 1973 financial downturn and the oil crisis, Ferruccio sold the company in 1974, only 11 years since its birth. Purchased by Georges-Henri Rossetti and Rene Leimer, Lamborghini went bankrupt in 1978 and was placed in the receivership of brothers Jean-Claude and Patrick Mimran in 1980. The Mimrans, who purchased the company out of receivership by 1984, were responsible for creating the Jalpa and the LM002 truck, two vehicles that were supposed to expand the brand’s offerings beyond V-12-powered supercars.

The Jalpa was discontinued shorty after the Chrysler Corporation bought Lamborghini from the Mimran brothers in 1987. The Jalpa was the last Lamborghini to feature a V-8 engine. Since 1988, all "Raging Bulls" had either V-12 or V-10 powerplants.

Continue reading to learn more about the Lamborghini Jalpa.


1981 - 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa High Resolution Exterior
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The Jalpa's exterior was penned by Carrozzeria Bertone and heavily based on the Silhouette’s. This wasn’t surprising, as Lambo had very little time and money to invest in brand-new cars, so Bertone basically had to work with what was already available. This wasn’t a bad thing though, as both the 1970s Silhouette and Uracco had attractive styling and the wedge-shaped designs were still pretty popular in the early 1980s.

1981 - 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa High Resolution Exterior
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1981 - 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa High Resolution Exterior
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1981 - 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa High Resolution Exterior
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1981 - 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa High Resolution Exterior
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Although many criticized its somewhat mild looks, the Jalpa eventually become Lambo's best-selling V-8 model.

Although the original prototype had body-colored bumpers and engine hood, the production model came with black elements, a feature borrowed from the Silhouette. Many other features were retained, including the overall shape and size, the pop-up headlamps, the targa roof, sloping engine hood, and the rectangular taillights. A notable change was that the Jalpa received a less aggressive front bumper and smoother wheel arches. As a result, the new sports car had a less exotic, but more elegant appearance. Although many criticized its somewhat mild looks, the Jalpa eventually become Lambo’s best-selling V-8 model.

The company rolled out an update in 1984, when the black plastic parts were replaced by body-colored components, which gave the Jalpa a more stylish appearance. The Silhouette’s rectangular taillights, which were actually borrowed from the Urraco, were replaced by round units under clear plastic elements. Some examples received fixed rear wings, a feature showcased on the prototype but not offered at launch. The aerodynamic elements was nearly as large as the one seen on the Countach and seemed a bit out of place given the performance.

All told, the Jalpa wasn’t the most spectacular Lambo design-wise, but it was far more attractive than most of its competitors, especially when compared to the Ferrari Mondial.


1981 - 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa High Resolution Interior
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While the exterior was heavily based on the Silhouette’s, the interior was thoroughly revised. The brand-new dashboard featured a unique, box-shaped instrumentation panel that stretched toward the passenger side. Four big clocks were placed right behind the steering, while three additional gauges were mounted atop the controls and radio in the center stack. The center console was narrower, while the steering wheel had a more modern, three-spoke design. The sports car also received fully adjustable, leather-wrapped seats, more stylish door panels, and extra color and trim options.

1981 - 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa High Resolution Interior
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1981 - 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa High Resolution Interior
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But despite the added features, the new design, and the improved visibility compared to the Countach, the Jalpa had its very own problems. Customers complained about the uncomfortable driving position, the poor lighting provided by the pop-up headlamps at night, and the poor visibility of the side mirrors. Also, the box-shaped instrument cluster wasn’t exactly an improvement over the Silhouette in terms of styling.


1981 - 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa High Resolution Drivetrain
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The Jalpa got its juice from an improved version of the 3.0-liter V-8 from the Silhouette and Urraco. The unit was enlarged to a 75mm stroke resulting in a 3.5-liter displacement and generated 255 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a five-speed manual, the V-8 enabled the Jalpa to hit 62 mph in 7.3 seconds toward a top speed of 145 mph. Although it was a half-second quicker than the Silhouette, top speed was reduced by around 15 mph. Unlike other Lamborghinis, the Jalpa did not receive any significant drivetrain updates throughout it life cycle.


1981 - 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa High Resolution Exterior
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At launch, the Lamborghini Jalpa retailed from around $54,000. Although it was far from affordable to the average Joe, the Jalpa fetched less than the Ferrari Mondial 8, which had a $64,000 sticker in 1981. It’s worth noting that the Mondial was significantly slower and less powerful.

The sports car was built in 410 units between 1981 and 1988, making it the best-selling V-8-powered Lamborghini in history.

Today, the Jalpa remains one of the most affordable "Raging Bulls," but while unrestored models can be had for as low as $30,000, mint-condition examples can fetch in excess of $100,000.


Ferrari Mondial

1980 - 1982 Ferrari Mondial 8 Exterior
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1980 - 1982 Ferrari Mondial 8 Exterior
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Although it had a less aggressive appearance and a 2+2 seating configuration, the Mondial was often compared to the Jalpa, mostly because it was Ferrari entry-level offering at the time. Launched in 1980, the Mondial was also powered by a V-8. In the original Mondial 8, the 3.0-liter engine generated 214 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque, enabling the grand tourer to hit 60 mph in 9.4 seconds. In 1982, the engine received a new four-valve head and output was updated to a more respectable 240 horses. The 0-to-60 mph sprint improved as well. The Mondial received one more update in 1985, when engine displacement increased to 3.2 liters and output rose to 270 horsepower. Dubbed 3.2, the final iteration of the Mondial was the only one that beat the Jalpa on terms of acceleration and speed. Priced from $64,000 in the early 1980s, the Mondial can cost between $15,000 and $35,000 in 2016.

Find out more about the Ferrari Mondial here.

Maserati Merak

1981 - 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa High Resolution Exterior
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With the Bora discontinued in 1978, Maserati no longer had a two-seat, V-8-powered, mid-engined coupe in the 1980s. The only alternative to the Jalpa was the Merak. Although it was very similar to the Bora, the Merak’s 2+2 seating layout and V-6 engine made it quite different next to the Lambo. Launched in 1972, the Maserati was quite old for the Jalpa. Already nine years old in 1981, the Merak was discontinued in 1983 after 1,830 units sold. It was quite popular for a sports car of Maserati fame. Several configurations were offered with either 2.0- or 3.0-liter V-6 engines. The most powerful was the Merak SS, which had a 3.0-liter unit rated at 217 horsepower. This version needed about 6.5 seconds to reach 60 mph, which made it quicker than the Lambo. The impressive figure was the result of a significantly lower curb weight compared to its competitors.

Porsche 911 Targa

2017 Porsche 911 Targa 4
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2017 Porsche 911 Targa 4
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The 911 Targa had nothing in common with the Jalpa in terms of drivetrain and seating configuration, but it was one of the very few targa-top models available around that time. When the Lambo arrived, Porsche had already launched an important facelift in the mid 1970s. Until 1983, the most powerful Targa had 201 horsepower. When Porsche introduced the 3.2 Carrera in 1984, output increased to 231 horses. Although not significantly more powerful than its rivals, the Targa was quicker thanks to its lower curb weight. More importantly, it was also more affordable at $33,450 before options. Nowadays, the 911 Targa classic is the most valuable vehicle from this comparison.

Learn more about the Porsche 911 Targa classic here.


1981 - 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa High Resolution Exterior
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Although its styling was rather bland compared to masterpieces such as the Miura and the Countach and its V-8 engine was exactly impressive, the Jalpa has a well-deserved place in Lamborghini’s hall of fame. Despite being heavily based on the Silhouette design-wise, we need to consider the fact that it was developed exactly when Lamborghini was struggling to rebound from bankruptcy. Given that it sold in more than 400 units, the Jalpa lived up to Lambo’s expectations and played a key role into keeping the company afloat. The fact that it also was the last Lamborghini to use a V-8 gives the Jalpa a special place among classic "Raging Bulls."

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    • Styling too similar to the Silhouette
    • Ugly dashboard
Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
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