Remembering The Lamborghini Islero

Lamborghini Islero

Over fifty years ago, Lamborghini debuted its replacement to the 400 GT at the 1968 Geneva Auto Show. The replacement in question? The Lamborghini Islero. Like many another Lamborghini’s, the Islero’s namesake was a Miura bull. In this instance, it was the one that killed matador Manuel Rodriguez “Manolete” on August 28, 1947. Making its debut alongside the Islero that year was the Lamborghini Espada. Whereas the Espada was a flashy little number with dashing good looks and an aggressive swagger, the Islero was an altogether more conservative proposition. It may have shared the Espada’s mechanical underpinnings, but that’s where the similarities ended. Discreet and refined, it had far more in common with the earlier versions of its understated predecessor than with its comparatively radical counterpart. But that’s not to say it was dated. Although some did accuse it of being boring…

The Lamborghini Islero GT

As Top Speed notes, the Islero was the first Lamborghini produced with hidden pop-up headlights, a radical development that could thank Lamborghini’s new designer, Mario Marazzi of Carrozzeria Marazzi, for its implementation. With top speeds of a significant 154 mph (248 km/h) and the capability of going from zero to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.4 seconds, it was deceptively speedy, despite its staid appearance. Much of the rest of Marazzi’s design seemed a straight copy of the 400 GT, sharing as it did the same spacious interior and advanced visibility. But whereas the 400 GT was slightly lacking in the refinement department, Marazzi has conceived the Islero as an elegant vehicle with a simplicity and understatement that fitted right in with the modern aesthetic. But as Lamborghini would soon find to its cost, one man’s ‘understated’ is another man’s ‘yawnsville’.

The Overlooked Classic

Facing off against the flashy Espada, the Islero was easily (and quickly) overlooked. But the low-key aesthetic wasn’t the only problem in paradise. Even if customers bought into its simple style, they were unlikely to be pleased with the functionality. Carrozzeria Marazzi was a new player in town, and their workmanship hadn’t been put fully to the test. Coupled with a lack of resources, the end result was a car that failed to match the standards set by vehicles built by Touring. Overshadowed by its peers and suffering from some market crippling deficiencies, the Islero GT failed to find its audience, with production subsequently limited to just 125 models. Even taking center stage as Roger Moore’s vehicle of choice in the thriller The Man Who Haunted Himself and as Sylva Koscina’s drive of choice in the Italian short film anthology Vedo Nudo wasn’t enough to save it from lapsing into obscurity. There was something about the spec (reproduced here courtesy of Top Speed) that just didn’t hit the mark.

Lamborghini Islero Specifications (GT)

Lamborghini Islero 1

  • Engine: DOHC, naturally aspirated, 60-degree, 24-valve, 4.0-liter V-12 engine with an aluminum block
  • Compression ratio: 10.5:1
  • Fuel feed: Electric Bendix fuel pump, 6 twin-barrel Weber 40 DCOE 20 carburetors
  • Output: 320 horsepower at 7,000 rpm
  • Torque: 276.6 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm
  • Top speed: 155-160 mph
  • 0 to 60 mph: 7 seconds
  • Gearbox: Lamborghini 5-speed manual, all-synchromesh
  • Suspension: All-independent with double wishbones front and rear, coil springs, Armstrong shock absorbers, and anti-roll bars
  • Steering: ZF worm and roller
  • Brakes: Girling disc brakes all around with twin Girling vacuum servos
  • Weight: 2,734 pounds
  • Wheelbase: 100.22 inches
  • Length: 177.83 inches
  • Width: 67.99 inches
  • Height: 49.91 inches

The New and Improved Model

In an attempt to reverse its fortunes, Lamborghini released an updated, GTS version of the Islero in 1969. The new model came with a host of new, improved features, noted by Wiki as including engine cooling vents on the front fenders, an enlarged hood scoop, flared fenders, tinted windows, round side-marker lights (a change from the teardrops on the GT), a fixed section in the door windows, increased power output, larger brake discs, revised rear suspension and revamped dashboard and interior. Other details worth noting on its spec include:

  • Engine: 3.9L V12
  • Power: 257 kW / 345 hp / 350 PS
  • Torque: 393 Nm / 290 lb-ft
  • Weight: 1,460 kg / 3,218 lbs
  • 0-100 kph: 6.2 seconds
  • Top Speed: 259 kph / 161 mph
  • Layout: front engine, rear wheel drive
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
  • Wheelbase: 2.55 m (100 in)
  • Dimension: 4.53 m (178 in) long, 1.73 m (68 in) wide, 1.27 m (50 in) high

The End of the Line

Lamborghini Islero 2

The GTS may have been an improvement on its predecessor in a number of ways, but it didn’t exactly become an overnight sensation. By that time, the Islero had become a nice looking but basically ignored creature, with people too busy making doe eyes over the far more obvious charms of the Miura and the Espada to worry about their sensible sibling. Only 100 models were produced in the GTS’s yearlong production run, with the turn of the decade marking the death bell for the Islero. By the time the late 70s rolled around, the Islero had largely been forgotten, both by the public (who had never been too fussed about it in any case) and by Lamborghini itself, who was too busy forging ahead with their new focus on mid-engine supercars to give much of a fig for the much-maligned Islero.

The Legacy

Despite its scarcity (only 225 models were ever released), the Islero has never become quite the heavy hitter at auction that other limited-edition runs are. Even if the GTS managed to correct the niggling problems of the original, the bad rep of the GT version has always hung over the series like a bad smell. Originally priced at around $18,000 to $20,000 (the equivalent of $123,153-$136,837 by today’s money), you can expect to pick up one at auction for around $300,000 to $400,000. As writes, that kind of figure might seem a lot, but compared it to the $935,000 a classic 350 GT can fetch, it’s practically a steal.

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