The cars we loved.
While the supercar boom of the 70s may have been started by lamborghini with the launch of the Contach in 1969 it would not be long before the Italian company would recognize the need for more affordable sports cars.
A new trend was developing in Europe where established makes like Ferrari and Maserati were building more affordable sports cars. Often these were 2+2 that were V8 powered as opposed to the V12s in more exotic cars. Lamborghini’s late entry to this arena was the Urraco. Late because despite being introduced in the wake of the Countach at the 1970 Turin auto show, it would not make it to market until 1973. It was designed to compete with the much more attractive Ferrari Dino and the just as odd looking Maserati Merak.
Design wise the, despite being designed by Marcello Gandini at Bertone, the P250 Urraco was not gonna win any beauty contests. Lamborghini hoped the Urraco would keep the factory humming between the occasional sale of Countaches, making the Urraco a more affordable workin man’s counterpart. The interior was a bit more attractive with its full array of gauges. Typical of a some Italian supercars dash elements looked thrown together by necessity. The placement of the vents for instance look like an after thought.
Technically the traverse mid-mounted V-8 was rather advanced with its belt driven single overhead cams and four wheel strut suspension. At 2.5 liters it produced a healthy 220 hp. The wedge that hid the rear mid-engine placement was visible through exotic looking louvers. American bound cars had to comply to harsh safety standards that required big bumpers. While the bumpers often ruined the aesthetics of most cars, they might have actually helped the Urraco’s looks in my opinion.
Unfortunately, the Urraco’s looks and price point were not enough to endear it to Americans (or any one else for that matter). On top of that the usual practice of strikes in Italy crippled production. While labor strife was not completely in Lamborghini’s control, it did not help the Urraco’s reputation that timing belts were failing rendering sized engines useless.
A more powerful and advance 3.0 liter DOHC engine failed to make it to America due to federal regulations. The new engine corrected some of the problems of the 2.5 by adding a chain driven belt for improved durability. After smog regulations, the 2.5 that American buyers were stuck with could only manage 175 hp, hardly more than a common Camaro or Mustang.
It was slow too in this configuration, needing nearly 10 seconds to reach 60 mph. The fuel crisis would put the nails on the already expensive and sluggish Urraco. With fewer than 800 cars built in 6 or so years, the Urraco would be reworked as the better looking Silhouette before being replaced by the Jalpa.
If you can find one today, they can sell for less than $20,000. So for the cost of a used Honda Accord, you could have a mid-engine near exotic that is sure to turn heads