By 1970, Lamborghini had forged a lineup it hoped would cover the entire supercar market and was ready to proceed with second-generation models. The Lamborghini Jarama, introduced at that year’s Geneva show in March, can thus be considered a “Mark II” Islero, though it isn’t quite as simple as that.
At the time, Lamborghini’s most modern front-engine chassis belonged to the Espada, which dated from 1968, though as with the smaller Islero and mid-engine Miura, its basic suspension and engine engineering went back to 1963. American safety and emissions rules dictated replacing the Islero. As Giampaolo Dallara had left Sant’Agata, the task fell to his former assistant and new chief engineer Paolo Stanzani, who decided that a new body on a shortened Lamborghini Espada chassis would do the trick.
Accordingly, Stanzani removed 10.7 inches from the Lamborghini Espada’s wheelbase but left everything else intact, though the steering was geared somewhat lower. Bertone’s Marcello Gandini again looked after styling, and body construction was farmed out to Marazzi (who’d both designed and built the Lamborghini Islero’s bodywork).
The result was a more distinctive yet still very angular small 2 + 2, with husky wheelarch flares, Espada-style twin NACA ducts in the hood, and an unusual face with four “eyes” partly concealed by electrically operated “eyelids.” Wearing the Lamborghini Espada’s wide tracks, the Jarama was broad-shouldered, if a little stubby, on its sectioned chassis. Unfortunately, it was a lot heavier than the Lamborghini Islero, though its claimed 162-mph top speed was the same.
Detail finish on early Lamborghini Jaramas was criticized as poor, but it improved somewhat with time. After three years, the design itself improved, the original 400 GT giving way to the 400 GTS. Changes comprised a modest power increase, a thin but wide hood scoop, air exhaust vents in the upper front-fender sides, and redone wheels. Along the way, the Jarama also picked up some Espada modifications, including availability of optional Chrysler TorqueFlite automatic transmission beginning in 1974.
Nevertheless, this Lamborghini was generally judged a letdown compared to earlier models. Said Road & Track in its 1972 test: “Certainly the Jarama is a capable, fast car and an exciting one to look at, but it fails in enough details [ergonomics, noise control, ride, low-speed driveability] that it’s only marginally interesting as a total package.
The Lamborghini factory has had its problems in the last year or so, with Italian labor unrest and the pains of trying to meet changing American safety and emission rules taking their toll on production, quality and profits...The company has changed hands recently, a Swiss firm now holding over 50 percent of capital...Let’s hope Lamborghini not only continues but gets some of the present problems solved.”
Sant’Agata would, but not before things became a lot worse.