Along with the Jalpa, the Urraco is one of Sant’agata’s less beloved sons. In fact, it flies so under the radar in the company’s history that it often ends up being completely forgotten from it. However, unlike the Jalpa, the Urraco has the advantage of being a really, really good looking car and for that reason alone it deserves a whole lot more attention than it gets. The Urraco’s killer looks aren’t really surprising once you consider it was penned by automotive master Marcello Gandini, the man responsible for the Countach, the Diablo, and the all powerful, all glorious Miura (among many other amazing Lamborghini and non-Lamborghini stuff).
Presented in 1970 and sold from 1972 (delivered from ‘73) to 1979, the Urraco was born of a Gallardo kind of mindset, just 30 something years before that model came along: a less complicated, less powerful and of course, less expensive option to get folks into the Lamborghini owners club. But while things worked out well for the Gallardo with almost 14.000 units made during its 10 year production run, the Urraco wasn’t exactly a sales hit. Unlike its modern spiritual successor with its healthy V10 heart, the Urraco was powered by a 2.0, 2.5 or 3.0L V8 and when we say powered, we use that term lightly because these were not the fire breathing Lamborghini engines of a performance enthusiast’s dreams. In fact, the most powerful 3.0L engine would still only make 247hp.
That sounds bad, but when you think about the Urraco’s competition, equally under powered things like the Merak and the Dino 308 , weak hp figures were just signs of the times and backlash from the same oil crisis which killed off American muscle for almost four decades. And obviously, quality was an issue because 70’s Italian car. In fact, the bad reputation for all three (Urraco, Merak and Dino) was cemented by one of Top Gear’s most beloved and most watched challenges, the 2005 “budget supercars” bit.
However, while the Merak is simply an ugly version of the Bora and the Dino 308 is just a block of cheese from a Tom & Jerry cartoon, the Urraco’s styling lifts it far above the Maserati and the Ferrari. The Urraco is as striking as it is delicate and beautifully proportioned. Gandini’s typical wedge predilection didn’t run wild with the Urraco and a lot of graceful, curvaceous lines made it to the final design, giving the car a less aggressive attitude than that of the Countach for instance. This also helped it age better, made its appeal more timeless and less anchored to a particular era, its design language is more universal than that of other Lamborghini products. The louvers and vents give the Urraco attention grabbing features without the rest of the car needing to be too loud, too in your face. The whole thing is a masterclass in the advantages of key defining features versus just a generally dramatic and outrageous styling.
So the Urraco looked great and it ended up not being particularly more troublesome than any other exotic of the era, something which makes its total production run of just under 800 units seem like a letdown. Why wasn’t the Urraco the easy cash boost Lamborghini hoped it would be? Simply put, the company just took too long with it. Pretty much 3 years passed between presenting the concept and starting deliveries to clients. Lamborghini fell behind and as such, the competition always had the upper hand. Plus, all the issues which hindered the already relegated to the back of the pack early Urracos needed troubleshooting, something which again took time, assuring the Urraco would always stay a step behind everything else development-wise. Plus, at the end of the day it was still a fairly complicated car which demanded timely maintenance, something most – less flushed than usual – owners would often neglect, giving the car an overall bad rep.
The Urraco ended up living on as the Silhouette from ’76 to ’79, an evolution of the 3.0L version but with updated styling which isn’t ugly, but it’s already an extensive mix of influences which gives it the same kind of “bolt-on” character that the Countach would end up owing its long life to. The Silhouette was a better, more practical car than the Urraco, but not a more charming or more interesting one. This evolution of the Urraco concept would then turn into the Jalpa which is a bit of an 80’s mess, but design-wise very few cars successfully transitioned from the 1970’s to the 1980’s. Again, using the Countach as an example, the car became an 80’s icon while being born in the 70’s, but when you park a ’74 and an ’84 Countach side by side, they might as well be completely different models.
If you’re as interested in the Urraco as we are, how much would you need to spend to get one today? Well, quite a bit more than if you were looking for one let’s say a decade ago. For anything that you can realistically live with and it’s simply not just a complete restoration project from the very start, prices will begin at around the 50 something thousand mark…but anything for that price will still need a whole lot of attention and constant patching up. In comparison, a very nice, all sorted, ready to roll 2.5 Urraco will set you back pretty much double that. The gorgeous 1973 P250 S featured in this article for instance is for sale by Go.911 in Germany for 89.000 Euros (about 100 grand U.S.). If you were to consider a Merak or a Dino 308 in the same condition, either one would be about 20 to 30.000 less, so the Urraco definitely carries a premium in the “cheap” classic supercar market.
For anyone who’s brave enough to commit to a 70’s Italian exotic without looking to break the bank, the beautiful and charismatic Urraco might just be the way to go. It’s not the cheapest option available, but it’s certainly one of the best. In fact, we can only think of one truly tempting alternative to it…Check AutomotiveViews again soon to find out which.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
All image credits: Go.911 – Markus Schenkl Automotive (note: this is NOT a sponsored post)