Lamborghini Jalpa Essential History
Despite the myopia of popular car culture, the Countach wasn’t the only Lamborghini produced in the 1980s. Even with the public’s overwhelming fixation on Lambo’s superstar V-12 wedge, a small number of V-8-powered mid-engine sports cars were sold alongside the bigger, badder, and significantly more expensive Countach. They don’t get nearly as much attention then, either, but compared to the rarer and even lesser-known Urraco and Silhouette, the Lamborghini Jalpa, produced between 1981 and 1988, was the most popular entry-level Lamborghini until the Gallardo’s arrival in the early 2000s.
Stylistically, the Bertone-designed Jalpa is very much an evolution of the earlier Silhouette, incorporating the Silhouette’s transverse mid-engine design and its ultra-angular profile. Additionally, Lamborghini offered the Jalpa exclusively as a targa-roofed model, unlike the Countach, which never officially had its roof chopped from the factory.
Power comes from a carbureted 3.5-liter DOHC V-8, capable of 255 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque—an output not too bad for the era, and roughly comparable to the contemporary Ferrari 308. Shift the five-speed manual transmission quickly, and it’ll run a zero-to-60-mph sprint in around six seconds, on its way to a top speed of 155 mph.
Even compared to Ferrari at the time, Lamborghini was still a very, very small player in the global auto market, and the Jalpa’s total production run of just 410 units reinforces this. As the 1980s progressed, sales of the Jalpa tapered off significantly, causing Lamborghini to cut production after 1988. This would be the final entry-level Lambo until the Gallardo, and the final V-8-powered Lamborghini until the current Urus SUV.
Lamborghini Jalpa Highlights
In this era of supercar saturation and keyboard-pounding experts, it’s reasonably difficult to stump the crowd at Cars and Coffee with something from a brand as well known as Lamborghini, but we reckon rolling up in a Jalpa should have more than a few supercar kids scratching their heads. You simply don’t see the Jalpa cruising around as much as you do some of the even rarer supercars of the era.
There are a few reasons for this, chief among them being a distinct lack of buzz for the Jalpa among collectors. As a result, cars in need of major repairs run the risk of being parked and neglected, so there are likely far fewer than the original 400-ish cars remaining in operating condition.
To make matters worse, both the performance and the driving experience don’t really mesh well with the Jalpa’s troublesome upkeep, so only the truly devout need apply. Our advice? If you are considering a Jalpa due to the relatively low buy-in compared to the Countach and all you’re looking for is a vintage Lamborghini experience, move on. Save your pennies for a low-spec Diablo or stretch for a Countach—the Jalpa just isn’t worth the trouble.
However, if you’re genuinely interested in the Jalpa—which, who can blame you, there aren’t many V-8 Lambos out there—it might be the perfect Countach alternative. Just don’t come crying when it spends more time in the shop than on the road.
Lamborghini Jalpa Buying Tips
As you’ve likely gleaned from our advice above, you need to approach Jalpa ownership with a clear head. Your first issue will be parts availability, though Lamborghini’s relatively new Polo Storico classics division should be able to help you out, provided you have the deepest of pockets. If you don’t have enough cash lying around to buy three or four Jalpas outright, you might have to brave forums and enthusiast clubs to find secondhand components, and then you’re at the mercy of the market.
If this hasn’t scared you off yet, we advise to be patient and find a clean, well-maintained example that comes with a thick sheaf of repair bills and shop receipts. Resist the trap of the cheap Jalpa—it will only cost you more in the long run. We say this about nearly every vintage car, but we highly, highly suggest taking any potential Jalpa to a brand specialist—preferably one with extensive classic Lamborghini expertise—for a pre-purchase inspection and shakedown so you know what you’re dealing with.
Lamborghini Jalpa Recent Auctions
Jalpas aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, but there are usually more than a few chances each year to pick up a clean example at auction.
Lamborghini Jalpa Quick Facts
- First year of production: 1981
- Last year of production: 1988
- Original price: $58,000 (1987)
- One of the few mid-engine V-8 Lamborghinis
- The most popular entry-level Lamborghini until the Gallardo
- Looks great, but upkeep might break you and your wallet
Lamborghini Jalpa FAQ
You have questions about the Lamborghini Jalpa. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked Lamborghini Jalpa queries:
How much is a Lamborghini Jalpa?
Depending on condition and maintenance history, expect to pay between $60,000 and $100,000 for your Jalpa. There are outliers, of course.
What Lamborghini was in Rocky IV?
A black Jalpa was one of the starring cars of the blockbuster Rocky IV.
What is the cheapest Lamborghini?
The Jalpa is up there—ahem, or down there—as one of the most affordable Lamborghinis, but we expect the Gallardo to take its place eventually.