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Lamborghini Jalpa
Lamborghini Jalpa | Lamborghini

Lamborghini is typically associated with colossal V12 and V10 powerplants. The company has been making the former since the beginning in 1964, and the latter since its acquisition by Audi in the late ’90s. Before the 10-cylinder Gallardo and Huracán hit the scene in the 2000s, their forbears of the ’70s and ’80s made do with a series of bespoke V8s. One of those obscure entry-level Lambos was the Jalpa.

The V8 predessors of the Lamborghini Jalpa

Lamborghini Urraco
Lamborghini Urraco | Lamborghini

Lamborghini’s initial move “downmarket” was the wedge-shaped Urraco of 1972. It combined avant-garde sheet metal design from Bertone with a new SOHC V8 engine developed in-house. Over the model run, displacements ranged from 2.0-liters for the tax-ridden Italian market to 3.0-liters in the most powerful P300 specification.

Lamborghini’s V8 really came into its own, however, with more displacement. Not to mention, the change to twin-cams in later Urracos and the 3.0-liter Silhouette that came afterward. For the Jalpa, engine size was increased to 3.5-liters, which produced 255 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque, per MotorTrend. With a 0-60 MPH time of around 5.8 to 6 seconds, it was legitimately fast for the time and made glorious sounds to boot.

Classic eight-cylinder symphony courtesy of Lamborghini

Unlike flat-plane V8s from rival Ferrari, a Lamborghini Jalpa’s aluminum alloy motor uses a conventional 90-degree cross-plane crankshaft. That’s why it retains that signature rumble loved by fans of American muscle cars. However, it was also fairly small at 3.5-liters of displacement. For that reason, it has a more upbeat tempo and rev-happy nature, combined with the classic V8 soundtrack.

Coupled with a gated five-speed manual shifter, there’s much to enjoy in the Jalpa’s driving experience. Like any Italian exotic, however, maintenance is not cheap or easily obtained at just any garage. It’s worth seeking out an experienced professional to make sure a Jalpa is maintained according to factory standards, or better. Due to the Weber multi-carburetor setup, in particular, it pays to have a tenured expert on hand to make sure the complex fueling system is synchronized correctly.

Rocky drove a Lamborghini Jalpa

Rocky IV Sign
The marquee of the Fox Westwood Village Theatre heralds the 1985 West Los Angeles, California premiere of “Rocky IV.” | George Rose via Getty Images

Before the Countach There Was the Similarly Wedge-Shaped but More Practical Lamborghini Urraco

Despite its role as Sylvester Stallone’s ride of choice in the blockbuster film Rocky IV, the Lamborghini Jalpa was far from a sales success. Between 1981 and 1988, the automaker only made 420 of them. For some, it just didn’t have the wow factor or cachet of a V12-powered Countach, even though they looked similar on the outside.

Final thoughts

Regardless of comparisons to its larger siblings, the Jalpa is a unique piece of Lamborghini history with a thrilling eight-cylinder soundtrack. Its obscurity makes it a relative bargain compared to the Countach, and it’s also easier to drive, per Silodrome. For anyone that enjoys classic V8 sounds paired with exotic looks, the Jalpa is worthy of consideration. It’s a classic Lambo that begs to be driven and enjoyed, as long as you commit to the maintenance.