Lamborghini Jarama: The Forgotten Supercar

Images: James Mann @ 2012 Courtesy RM Sotheby’s, Archivio centrale dello Stato/Stile Bertone

With the Miura and the Espada well established and a steady stream of orders flowing for these two cars, Ferruccio Lamborghini decided that it was time to sort out matters with his third model line.

From certain angles the Lamborghini Jarama did manage to look very dramatic

The classical front-engine 350 GT that had got Lamborghini going in the first place, had morphed into the 400 GT and the 400 GT 2+2 by 1966. As Carrozzeria Touring, the coachbuilder of the 400 GT and the 2+2, collapsed financially, Lamborghini turned to Carrozzeria Marazzi (which had several ex-Touring employees) for a replacement of the 400 2+2.

The straight but acutely angled C-pillar evolved from what Gandini had used for the Iso Rivolta Lele and the Fiat 128 Coupe Shopping

The replacement was the Lamborghini Islero, also a 2+2 coupe, designed by Marazzi (with inputs from Ferruccio Lamborghini himself), with the latter supplying the bodies too.

The problem was in the wheelbase which was too short; and with the rather pronounced overhangs, front and rear, the Jaramas proportions just didn't work

Unveiled in 1968, at the Geneva Motor Show along with the Espada, the discrete-looking Islero was completely overshadowed by the Gandini-designed four-seater. Not surprisingly, the Islero proved to be a slow seller, with just 225 finding buyers over a two-year period.

The fascia which was neat and well laid out featured a safety ledge at the bottom end

Clearly, a more flamboyant design was needed. And so, Lamborghini turned to Bertone and its ace designer Marcello Gandini to design a replacement of the Islero.

Marcello Gandini's original proposal featured a polished aluminium plate on the C-pillar, as can be seen in this illustration by Fausto Boscariol

Instead of designing another body over the tubular chassis that had first been seen in the 350 GT, Bertone decided to develop the replacement model on the semi-monocoque chassis of the Espada, but shortened, with 2+2 seating. Twenty-seven centimetres (10.6-inches) were taken off the chassis of the Espada, as Gandini drew out a rakish sports coupe.

As well as in this scale model of the car

In some ways reminiscent of the prototype Fiat 128 Shopping, the new 2+2 Lamborghini, the Jarama—named after the region famous for breeding bullfighting bulls, other than that of the racing circuit from the same area—was unveiled at the 1970 edition of Lamborghini’s favourite launching ground, the Geneva Motor Show.

Though from some angles—specifically from the front three-quarter—the Jarama was dramatic, it wasn’t quite the aesthetic success as its siblings. A very rakish front windscreen was complemented by an even more rakish fastback rear screen, the trapezoidal greenhouse held up by slim pillars.

An early Jarama crash tested for safety, which it seems to have been

In Gandini’s original drawings the C-pillar had an aluminium wrap-over strip, which may have given the car a certain sleekness, but in prototype and production form the pillar remained body-coloured.

Wide, squat, and muscular, several design details, however, deserve to be noted. The NACA type air intakes on the hood—first seen on the Espada—were revisited on the Jarama. The front was unusual with its four headlamps partially hidden under eyelids, a design element that had already appeared on the Iso Rivolta Lele and the BMW Spicup the year earlier.

Even if the rear three quarter isn't the prettiest view, the car was dramatic nonetheless

But in the Jarama, the eyelids didn’t pivot up, but dropped down and under the lamps. The mid-level swage line running the length of the car with the pronounced wheel arch lips gave the Jarama added muscularity.

Another interesting detail was the neat built-in spoiler at the trailing edge of the roof, a feature that many cars used subsequently.

Somehow it is difficult for a mid-way product to do well

Despite all these detail innovations, the Jarama was not one of Gandini’s more inspired designs, and it certainly was not the most successful of Lamborghinis from Bertone: in almost eight years of production, just 327 found buyers.

Gautam Sen

Serial concours judge, author, founder-editor of several Indian auto mags, as well as co-conspirator with design greats Marcello Gandini, Tom Tjaarda, and Gérard Godfroy on a few vehicle projects


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