Italian supercars are known for two things. The first is dramatic styling, something the Lamborghini Jalpa (pronounced 'Yal-pa' or 'Hal-pa', depending on which specialist you speak to) has sewn-up. The second is the engine. While the V8 is of fairly small capacity there is no ignoring its presence - it dominates the driving experience. Its output of 255bhp was enough to shove the Jalpa to 60mph in 7.3 seconds, and allow it to comfortably crack 150mph. It produces peak power at 7000rpm but the engine is still flexible at lower speeds, and is happy to spin to its howling 7500rpm redline at a prod of the throttle.
All of this vivid performance and aural excitement is accompanied by the clacking of the gearlever through its open gate - the gearshift is of the racing iety with first gear on a dog-leg - although you'll probably find the clutch rather heavy in traffic. Not that urban motoring is this car's natural habitat, as it is far more at home on flowing roads where you can really make the most of that singing engine. There, you'll also benefit from precise steering free from the heaviness that afflicts it as parking speed, and powerful brakes that have no trouble in hauling the car down from big speeds.
Climb inside and you'll find a functional-looking leather-lined cabin that looks particularly luxurious in the black fascia/cream trim combination that was so popular at the time. It's logically laid out too, the instruments and switches arranged in a series of pods that make up the dashboard. That said, don't be surprised to find some slightly wonky gaps as build quality wasn't one of the Jalpa's strongest suits. It proves comfortable for the most part though, although wheelarch intrusion means the footwell is cramped, the pedals no doubt designed for smaller feet clad in stylish Italian loafers.
Torque 231lb ft@3500rpm
Top Speed 161mph
Gearbox Five-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Corrosion isn't the dominant factor you might expect, although a 1980s Italian supercar constructed from steel clearly presents seom risk - little was galvanised to prevent corrosion in those days. So, examine every panel to ensure rust isn't nibbling at their edges, door bottoms and wings being particularly vulnerable. Also check the floor area ahead of the rear subframe and the bottom corners of the wings where they neet the wheelarches - this latter area is known for trapping muck and moisture. The floor of the front luggage compartment can dissolve too, so remove the spare wheel to be sure, and lift the interior carpets if that's possible. expert body repairs are expensive so ensure that any previous work hasn't been done poorly on the cheap.
All external fixtures and fittings need checking, as parts prices are crippling. Replacement bumpers are hundreds of punds, while a new windscreen will set you back more than £2000 before fitting, so damage to these parts and items such as mirros and lights will rack up big bills. Make sure the pop-up headlamps are working too - they can fail.
The Lamborghini's V8 engine needs fastidious maintenance - a complete overhaul will cost you a five-figure sum. The all-alloy construction requires a cooling system that's in peak condition, so watch for signs of overheating and murky coolant, signifying internal corrosion and silting. Likewise the lubrication system, so ask for proof that regular oil changes have been carried out. Oil leaks often originate frm the crankshaft oil seal, the timing chain cover and oil return pipes between the cylinder head and block. Be wary of anything exhibiting signs of head gasket problems, and ask whether the exhaust valves have been changed; the original sodium-filled valves were prone to breaking and specialists recommend a change to solid valves. Listen for excessive clatter from the timing chains and camshafts and check that pipes and hoses haven't perished in the high under-bonnet temperatures.
The Jalpa uses four twin-choke Weber carburettors and, excessive thirst for fuel aside, they shouldn't give trouble. Air leaks or wear can cause poor running but a re-build isn't too difficult, although expertise is needed to set-up and synchronise them correctly. Likewise, the ignition system is fairly reliable if maintained properly, although it's susceptible to damp.
The transmission is generally strong, but excessive noise or a reluctance to engage gears will likely mean a costly re-build. The clutch lasts fairly well in normal use, but parts alone can exceed £1600 and replacement is an engine-out job. A tired or leaking slave cylinder is probably responsible for failure to disengage properly.
Worn suspension bushes will seriouslty affect the handling, while the front MacPherson struts can suffer from play in the top bearing. The braking system uses mostly ATE parts common to BMWs of the period, so refurbishment isn't too costly, although check for rear calipers that have seized through lack of use. Depending on age, single or dual brake boosters are fitted and they can be problematic; ensure stopping ability is up to scratch. Check the Campagnolo alloy wheels - corrosion can set in and you'll be looking at professional restoration.
INTERIOR & TRIM
Interior quality was always patchy. Water ingress from failed targa roof seals will cause damage and play havoc with the electrics. The Jalpa can suffer from niggling faults caused by corrosion in the fusebox and iffy wiring/relay connections. The air-conditioning was never terribly effective and some owners may have ignored a defunct system due to the cost of getting it going again.
The allure of Italian supercars is obvious, but often accompanied by ferocious running costs. Running a Jalpa on a shoestring isn't a realistic proposition and is the root cause of most problems. By all means enjoy everything it has to offer, but spend as much as you can afford and get any potential purchase inspected by a specialist.