Lamborghini is participating in this year’s Techno Classica at Essen and showing two of the cars which made it such a well-loved marque – the 1964 350 GT and 1981 Jalpa.
Most of us, at least those of us in our middle-years, remember the Muira as the first Lamborghini to grab our attention – perhaps because of its fateful demise in the 1969 film, The Italian Job, but the Muira emerged quite late in the company’s evolution with founder Ferruccio Lamborghini selling his stake and retiring from the industry some 3 years later.
Lamborghini 350 GT
The 350 GT was the first of Lamborghini’s mass produced cars and featured strongly in last year’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, but it also remains one of the most ‘elegant’ designs to come from Sant’Agata Bolognese. It was developed from prototypes of the 350 GTV designed by Franco Scaglione, then fitted with a 276bhp 3.5-litre 12-cylinder engine developed by engineer Giotto Bizzarrini.
It was Ferruccio’s answer to the Ferrari 250GT, a car which he initially modified (as an owner) before deciding to build his own car company. Performance of the 350 GT may be modest by today’s standards, but was still good for 155 mph flat out – comfortably ahead of the V12 Ferrari 250 GT of its time.
Its body featured aluminium components, four-wheel independent suspension and disc brakes on all four wheels while some models were equipped with a self-locking differential. By the end of 1966, Lamborghini had sold 120 350 GTs, each of them produced at Carrozzeria Touring, who restyled the car from the original 350 GTV prototype.
The final versions featured a 4-litre engine with the same power but with greater torque. Carrozzeria Touring also produced two Spyders, aptly named 350 GTS, which of course was the first convertible in Lamborghini’s history.
The Jalpa was last evolutionary step of Lamborghini’s 8-cylinder engine models, which began with the 1970 Urraco. The Jalpa itself is a direct evolution of the failed Silhouette, which was conceived during the company’s receivership (after entering bankruptcy in 1978) and was then produced under the marque’s stewardship by the Mimran brothers, who took over the company in May 1981.
With styling inspired by the 1974 Countach, the Jalpa was fitted with a 255bhp 3.5-litre V8 engine and could reach a top speed of 146 mph (so much for progress..), but compared to the Countach is was more usable on a day-to-day basis and a lot cheaper to run.
Between 1981 and 1988, Lamborghini sold a total of 420 units, which might not sound a lot but arguably saved the company and led to its acquisition by Chrysler in April 1987.
Once production ended, the V8 engine was never used again in a Lamborghini, but the Jalpa’s spiritual successor was the Gallardo (which sold a record 14,000 cars when production ended in 2013) and the latest compact Lamborghini, the Huracán LP610-4.
The car on display is the last Jalpa to leave the production line, and bears Ferruccio Lamborghini’s signature on the glove box, even though the company’s founder never produced the car himself.
The Techno Classica Essen runs from 26th March 2014 to 30th March 2014, with the cars from the Lamborghini Museum taking pride of place in pavilion 7.