As a wee lad growing up, I had my walls decorated with the usual allotment of posters. But I made it a point to seek out those magical creations from stuttgart to fill my wall space. The 911, 928, 944, 956, 962, and 917 rotated on my walls as I was growing up. It didn't help that my dad was a porsche tech when I was young. It was like having an addict working for pfizer or bayer. But when I got older, I happened upon one of these in a dimly lit corner of a European specialist repair shop. I have forever felt like I wasted some wall space because of it.....
The bloodline of the bull
To be frank, the silhouette isn't a truly "unique" lamborghini. It is a restyled and upgraded Urraco P300. Yes, the one that James May got for 10 grand on Top Gear. The Urraco is a mid engined V8 powered 4-seater. Although you should probably consider chopping off your legs if you want to sit in the back. Legroom aside, the Urraco was a decent little car. Granted, it is also semi-forgotten by time but it's rubbish so let's move on......Actually, I'll let James describe his experience in a Urraco first.
So, lots of room to improve. Where do you start? Ditch the rear seats! And the roof!.....Kind of! Once a 2+2 coupe, the Urraco becomes a 2-seat targa top to become the silhouette. A lot of redesign work on the rear as well as new flared arches gave the Urraco chassis the equivalent of a tailored suit from an esteemed clothier. And what else to go with that suit? How about a hundred pounds of weight shedding to match the body? When new, the car had a brisk, 6.5s 0-60 time and a top speed of 160 mph. Note that the Urraco was quoted at having a 5.6s 0-60 time and the same top speed with the same engine buuuuut....well.....that was probably a lie. So, it's not exactly a record smasher, but then again, how much faster do you need to go when your car looks this good?
What I love the most about the car is the proper combination of drugs, sex, rock and roll with that timeless design usually reserved for pininfarina. Bertone was on it, 100%. How great was this design? The next mid engined "budget" lambo would be based on it. I think that's probably the greatest praise of all for this design - the new body plopped on the old car was so impressive that they took the body off and built a new car under the old design. How'd that turn out? Well I'll let you decide for yourself. Here's a late 80's lamborghini Jalpa, for your consideration.
Why was it forgotten
Pop quiz - Think of the best looking, mid engined V8 cars. I'm going to guess your list has at least one of the following: Pantera, Mangusta, 458, 308, 328, 288, F40, and 355. There's problem #1 right there. Ferrari managed to unleash a string of attractive cars in the same time frame as the silhouette and the Jalpa. Not that the Jalpa is ugly by any means, but it lost something in the transition. Meanwhile, the 308/328 one-two punch was a big hit for ferrari. Both are seriously good looking vehicles that I would gladly have in my garage. All the TV-show appearances and even some starring roles (Magnum P.I. for example) solidified ferrari as the mid-V8 maker to beat.
And then we come to a mainstay of cars in this segment - rarity. Just 54 were made and a handful of prototype/concept vehicles. Even though the Jalpa continued the design, only around 400 of those were sold. So seeing one of these is like seeing a unicorn. I recommend buying a lottery ticket afterwards. Or at least playing a scratch-off.
Why should I remember it?
Words are unnecessary. They just are. The numbers are crap, the ergonomics are awful, it will fall apart in a stiff breeze......and yet.......it is one of the most stunning designs I've ever laid eyes on. While we're on the topic, I have a confession I need to make right now - I don't think the miura is as pretty as we are told it is. Definitely a good looking car, for sure. But the eyelashes and hood vents make for an ugly front end in my book. The slight overbite and just a touch too-short rear end also ruin the side profile. Oh and the louvered rear window just looks tacky. From an angular view, the car has a presence that few cars can come close to. But look at it the wrong way and it's just a mess.
And then.....this rolls out of the factory. I think if I had to pick a lamborghini to hold as the most "timeless" design. This would be it. I know they are all about the radical and upsetting the country club ferrari owners....but I think the silhouette does this without being downright vulgar and dated. Honestly it looks a lot newer than the 1976 build date would have you believe. Replace the phone dial wheels with some big multi-spoke alloys and put some newer lights in and you could convince people it was a newer concept car.
That timlessness of the design is what makes this car truly standout. Sure many other 60s and 70s lamborghinis had a more "subdued" style than the miura or countach but they also look a lot like their contemporaries. Iso Grifo, Alfa Romeo, Monteverdi, De Tomaso, Maserati, and of course, Ferrari all seemed to be looking at each other's tests sometimes. But the silhouette remains something.......intangibly distinct. And I think I know why. We never saw the shape become twisted or morphed into an oddity. It was also never used to "define" an era like the 308/328 and the countach seem to do. Sure the Jalpa was basically the same body again, but that's why it wasn't ruined. Aside from a wing, it was virtually unchanged from when it went into production in 1981 to when it ended in 1988. Meanwhile the countach sprouted so many growths and wings and spoilers that its lifespan resembles that of Elvis.
Now we're back to the first paragraph of the article. The 10 year old's bedroom wall posters. When Jeremy Clarkson reviewed the alfa 8C, he discussed how art critics say that a car cannot be art because it has a purpose besides art. He argued that the 8C's poor transmission and overall underwhelming performance under a gorgeous body meant that it could be considered "art". Well, with a mid 6-second 0-60 and legendary italian reliability (namely the lack thereof) then I submit that the silhouette should be remembered for what it really is - Art.