The new 2014 Lamborghini Huracán may not be as powerful as a Lamborghini Aventador, as exclusive as a Lamborghini Veneno, or as insane as a Lamborghini Egoista – but it is certainly big news. The larger volumes of Lamborghini’s little models usually results in a sizable profit, which in turn allows the niche automaker to stay solvent while pursuing more esoteric models.
The 2014 Lamborghini Huracán may be the latest Lamborghini built in this vein, but the idea of a smaller Lamborghini isn’t remotely new. Although the company made its name with powerful gran turismos and garnered international attention with outlandish supercars like the Miura and Countach, the idea of a smaller, less-expensive Lamborghini had been considered since the company’s earliest days.
Here’s a quick recap of the little Lambo’s legacy.
1973-1979 LAMBORGHINI URRACO
Even if the idea of a Lamborghini Jr. had been discussed since the foundation of Automobili Lamborghini, it took nearly a decade for the idea to gain traction. A volume-oriented Lamborghini sports car didn’t truly take shape for nearly another decade, when the prototype Lamborghini Urraco debuted at the 1970 Turin auto show.
Designed to be a kinder, gentler Lamborghini, the Urraco was meant to be accessible, easy to drive, and easy to maintain – important traits for a first-time Lamborghini buyer, and traits not readily found in Lamborghini’s other road cars. The Urraco was still a mid-engine sports car, but was the first Lamborghini car to eschew twelve-cylinder power. Instead, the Urraco used a new all-aluminum, SOHC 2.0-liter V-8. That engine helped reduce the car’s overall cost, as did the car’s steel unibody construction, along with the use of MacPherson strut suspension at each wheel.
The Urraco’s 2+2 seating arrangement called for its cabin to be pushed far forward, much like the similar Ferrari 308 GT4, but the sheetmetal Bertone crafted for the Lambo was arguably more graceful. The Lamborghini Urraco looked wider, longer, and lower than the GT4. Its roofline, which swept all the way to the tail of the car, was less upright than the GT4. A triad of louvers, placed adjacent to the rear quarter windows, helped shroud the side air intakes while simultaneously blending into louvered rear window, helping carry the eye across the Urraco’s tail.
A labor strike forced Lamborghini to delay the start of Urraco production until late 1972, but it still had other fish to fry. Urracos quickly garnered a reputation for iffy quality, thanks in no small part to the new V-8, which had an unsatiable appetite for cam belts. Critics kvetched about the meager 220 horsepower on tap, but emissions gear strapped to U.S.-spec models whittled that figure to 180 hp. A road test conducted in the September 1975 issue of Road & Track clocked a U.S.-spec Lamborghini Urraco from 0-60 mph in 10.1 seconds, nearly a second slower than Maserati’s Merak and a second slower than the Ferrari 308 GT4.
A revised 3.0-liter V-8 was launched in 1974 and offered 265 horsepower, but was never offered stateside. Even with the added power, the Lamborghini Urraco was far from a global success. When production ceased in 1979, only 791 examples had been built.
1974 BERTONE BRAVO CONCEPT
The Urraco may have been somewhat practical, but could an entry-level Lamborghini be as exotic as the larger Countach? Bertone mulled that idea with its Bravo concept, which debuted at the 1974 Turin motor show.
The Bravo shared its basic underpinnings with the Urraco, but not a single line, curve, or square inch of its sheetmetal. The car’s wedge-like shape is a drastic departure from the Urraco, inspired in part by the Lamborghini Countach – and, we suspect, ItalDesign’s Lotus Esprit. The Bravo’s cab is still pushed very much forward, but its figure is nearly a pure wedge. A wrap-around front windscreen is rather complex, thanks to a center section that’s nearly perfectly flat, and predates similar designs employed on Bertone’s Alfa Romeo Navajo and Lancia Sibilo concepts by two- to three years.
A louvered hood helps not only hide pop-up headlamp doors, but also echoes the louvers placed over the rear backlight. The angled rear wheel arches are a direct nod to the Countach, as are the slotted “keyhole” air intakes placed just aft of the quarter windows. If the Bravo looked shorter than the Urraco it was based on, it’s because it was. Bertone hacked 7.8 inches from the Urraco's 96.8-inch wheelbase, while the Bravo's overall length itself was nearly 20 inches shorter.
Like most Bertone prototypes, the Bravo was a fully functional vehicle, and shared its 3.0-liter V-8 with the then-new Urraco P300. Lamborghini considered putting the car into production, but lacked the fiscal liquidity to even consider launching another all-new product line. Had the Bravo entered production, it could have possibly beaten Ferrari’s successful 308 GTB and GTS models – which launched in early 1975 – to the punch. Instead, it remained a one-off concept, kept as part of Bertone’s in-house museum until 2011, when it was auctioned off for just over $800,000 as part of the design firm’s liquidation.
1976-1979 LAMBORGHINI SILHOUETTE
Instead of developing the Bravo into a production car, Lamborghini sought to create a two-seat, entry-level sports car to fend off the 308 GTB/ GTS the only way it could afford to: craft one out of the Urraco. Bertone was employed once again to style what would be known as the Lamborghini Silhouette, but its hands were largely tied by Lamborghini's limited budget.
Most of the car’s front clip was nearly identical to the Lamborghini Urraco P300, as was most of the mid body section. Bertone’s modifications included a deep front chin spoiler and flared trapezoidal wheel wells, but the biggest change was the roofline. The Urraco’s smooth fastback was replaced by a removable targa roof panel, along with a pair of long flying buttresess, which were accented with large black air intakes that wrapped over and into a blacked-out engine compartment – an interesting adaptation of a cue used on Bertone’s obscure 1968 Lamborghini Miura Roadster show car.
Despite the sportier looks and the provision for open-air motoring, the Lamborghini Silhouette’s hardware wasn’t any more exotic beneath the surface. The Urraco’s MacPherson struts remained in place, as did the P300’s 3.0-liter V-8 and five-speed manual transmission.
Any chances of the Lamborghini Silhouette gaining traction in the market were nixed both by Lamborghini’s dire finances (it would file for bankruptcy protection in 1978), and that it wasn’t certified for sale in the United States – arguably Lamborghini’s biggest market for a car like this. As such, when the last example rolled off the line in 1979, only 54 examples had been built.
1980 BERTONE ATHON CONCEPT
Critics found Bertone’s choice of Lamborghini Silhouette running gear for the Athon concept, which debuted at the 1980 Turin motor show show, rather surprising, given Lamborghini was then in dire financial straits. Bertone was well aware of the situation, as its press materials for the concept proclaimed, "at such a testing moment for Lamborghini, it is Bertone’s intention to once again lend its support to a name that it does not want to die.” Certainly, the automaker had a vested interest in seeing Lamborghini thrive, as Bertone had been responsible for the design (and, occasionally, partial assembly) of six of the nine Lamborghini models built to date.
In any advent, the Athon, crafted under the direction of designer Marc Deschamps, was Bertone’s idea of a topless, fair-weather Lamborghini developed for sunny, temperate climates. Bertone claimed the car’s proportions were chosen to “emphasize the mechanical performance of the engine,” but the Athon’s cab-forward stance, long wheelbase, and tall rear deck were likely a consequence of being built from a Silhouette. Even so, the car’s “folded paper” form was relatively clean, and certainly more modern than the aging Silhouette/Urraco form. The Athon’s lavishly appointed interior, awash in rich leather hides and fanciful digital instruments, was gorgeously indulgent, if not at odds with the fact the car lacked any top whatsoever.
As it packed the Silhouette’s 3.0-liter V-8 and five-speed manual transmission and retained that car’s chassis and suspension components, the Athon was a functional vehicle, and Bertone offered it to the press to sample. If there was any hope that positive public reaction would spur Lamborghini to develop the Athon into a production vehicle, it was quickly dashed: there was simply little money left in Lamborghini’s coffers to do anything other than update the existing Countach, and Silhouette models. The one-off Athon remained part of Bertone’s own historic car collection, but following the firm’s liquidation, the Athon was sold at auction for over $477,000 in 2011.
1981-1988 LAMBORGHINI JALPA
Does a Silhouette by any other name smell as sweet? We’re not sure about that, but if the Jalpa is any indication, it does look a little different and pack a little extra power. Two years after Silhouette production came to an end, Lamborghini introduced the Jalpa, a slightly refreshed version of the two-passenger targa-top sportscar.
You’re forgiven if you mistake a Jalpa for a Silhouette. Cosmetic differences between the two are slight, at best. Fender flares grew in size, as did the front chin spoiler. The roofline and flying buttresses remained largely unchanged, but the shape of the rear air intakes was altered to provide a sleeker appearance. Bertone also helped modernize the interior, replacing the old wrap-around instrument panel with one that set round gauges in square, block-like partitions. Early cars wore black bumpers and trim accents, although a monochromatic paint scheme was introduced in 1984.
The original Jalpa prototype used the Urraco P300/ 3.0-liter V-8, but the engine was modified before the car could enter production. An increased stroke brought displacement up to 3.5 liters, allowing power to rise to 255 horsepower. The Jalpa was also homologated for sale in the United States, whereas its predecessor was not. After building 410 examples, Lamborghini discontinued the car in 1988.
1987-1990 LAMBORGHINI P140 PROTOTYPE
Even before Chrysler took control of Lamborghini in early 1987, it was obvious to the Italian automaker that a replacement for the Jalpa was urgently needed. Despite Bertone’s best efforts to hide the ravages of time, the Jalpa did feel old. Frankly it was old, given its Urraco underpinnings were nearly twenty years old at that point in time.
Before the Mimran Group sold Lamborghini to Chrysler, it ordered the development of a new Jalpa replacement. Codenamed P140, the car was a complete departure from the Urraco/ Silhouette/ Jalpa cars that preceded it. The chassis was to be built from bonded aluminum sections, the body would be crafted from carbon fiber composite, and both front and rear suspensions were to use double wishbone arrangements. The best news of all was the prospect of a new engine: although loosely derived from the Jalpa’s V-8, the P140’s engine was a 3.9-liter, DOHC V-10 blessed with four valves per cylinder. The V-10’s estimated output was said to be close to 372 horsepower.
All that hardware was to be wrapped in sharp, angular sheetmetal designed by Marcello Gandini, the man who’d helped shape both the Miura and Countach while employed at Bertone. Ironically, Gandini was also tapped to design the Diablo, the Countach replacement that was also being developed at the time. Both cars shared a wedge-like form and razor-sharp panel lines, but the P140 was arguably more attractive, thanks to a shorter tail and cleaner air intake design. P140 prototypes were built as coupes, but both targa and speedster variants were under consideration.
Unfortunately, building the P140 from scratch also meant engineering and tooling costs were substantial – in fact, they were even rumored to be more expensive than that of the Diablo. This didn’t win the program any favors with Chrysler, who had already delayed the car in order to expedite the launch of the Lamborghini Diablo. Any chances for the P140 reaching production were effectively nixed by October of 1992, when Chrysler management shelved the program indefinitely. Only one of the two prototypes built survives today, while the other was given a new lease on life in 1995.
1995 ITALDESIGN CALA CONCEPT
After Chrysler sold Lamborghini in 1994, the company’s new owners felt it was finally time to bring a sub-Diablo model to market. Work on the P140 resumed, but after years of sitting on the shelf, the car’s styling was neither fresh nor in step with the production Diablo, which had been heavily altered from Gandini’s original design.
What to do? The logical choice would have been to call up Gandini or Bertone, as Lamborghini had done for decades. Instead, Lamborghini turned to Giorgetto Giugiaro’s ItalDesign firm to reskin the lone running P140 prototype. The result, dubbed Cala, was shown as a concept car at the 1995 Geneva motor show.
Predictably, the Cala was angular, but ItalDesign’s concept was infused with softer curves than the larger Diablo. The roofline was neatly arched, as were the front and rear fenders. Pop-up headlamps were eschewed in favor of fixed projector lamps set in rounded triangular fairings. A removable targa top panel was also included, despite the fact the windshield appeared to extend into the panel, where it formed a “widow’s peak.” Beneath the surface, the Cala was little more than a warmed over P140 prototype. Its chassis was constructed from bonded aluminum elements; its body crafted in carbon fiber. Power came from a 3.9-liter V-10, said to provide 400 hp and enough power to blast the 2843-pound Cala from 0-60 mph in five seconds.
As much as Lamborghini wished to build and sell the Cala, it yet again found itself without the liquidity to do so. The automaker even asked Audi to supply engines and drivetrains for the car in an effort to reduce tooling costs, but it never came to be. That said, the blend of ItalDesign styling and Audi technology did pave the way for the next chapter in Lamborghini history.
2003-2013 LAMBORGHINI GALLARDO
After purchasing Lamborghini in 1998, the Volkswagen Group’s first objective for its new acquisition was to build a new 12-cylinder flagship to replace the ancient Diablo. As such, the Cala/P140 project was pushed aside while Lamborghini brought the Mucilage to market – but in 2000, Lamborghini began work once more on a smaller, more affordable sports car.
That effort yielded the Lamborghini Gallardo, which debuted at the 2003 Geneva auto show, with more than a little help from its latest corporate parent, Audi. Designed in part by ItalDesign, the Gallardo seemed cut from the same cloth as the larger Murciélago, yet appeared leaner and more balanced. Beneath the surface, the Gallardo shared nothing with the P140/Cala – but it would wind up sharing quite a bit – including a platform – with the Audi R8 super car. A new 5.0-liter V-10 was exclusive to the Gallardo, and offered 500 hp and 376 lb-ft. of torque.
Unlike previous small Lambos, the Lamborghini Gallardo never exactly languished on the market without revision. In late 2005, a drop-top Gallardo Spyder joined the lineup. In 2006, the Gallardo range received a 20-horsepower bump, bringing output to 520 horsepower. In 2007, a limited edition Superleggera model, which added 10 horsepower while shedding 220 lbs, was briefly offered.
In 2008, a more extensive makeover left the Gallardo with lighting and a front fascia patterned after the Reventón, along with the LP560-4 suffix. The latter was indicative of a new 5.2-liter V-10 – similar to the one offered in the R8 5.2 V-10 model – which offered 560 hp. In 2009, the LP550-2 Valentino Balboni special edition model lost 10 ponies, but ditched all-wheel drive in favor of rear-wheel drive. 2010 saw the introduction of a new Gallardo Superleggera, which is 154 pounds lighter and 20 horsepower more powerful than a standard Gallardo, joins the lineup as a regular production model. A convertible version of this package, known as the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder Performante, launched later that year. Buyers seeking a wilder Gallardo were forced to wait until 2011, when the Gallardo Super Trofeo Stradale – a limited-edition model derived from a race-spec Gallardo – debuts at the Frankfurt motor show.
But wait, there’s more. Lamborghini used the 2012 Paris auto show to reveal yet another facelift for the 2013 Gallardo, which gave the car a nose and tail styled to keep the car in line with the company’s latest 12-cylinder flagship, the Aventador. Admittedly, this iteration of the Lamborghini Gallardo was relatively short-lived, as production came to an end in November of 2013.
Any doubts as to the viability of a lower-tier Lamborghini model were all but eradicated by the Lamborghini Gallardo. After a decade of production, Lamborghini had built and sold some 14,022 Gallardos. Not only does that make the Gallardo the best-selling Lamborghini nameplate of all time, but it also means that the Gallardo accounts for roughly half of all Lamborghinis built since 1963.
2014 LAMBORGHINI HURACÁN
Predictably, the Gallardo’s incredible success means the new 2014 Lamborghini Huracán has some fairly big shoes to fill. Out of the gate, it appears to have the makings of a winner. Although the Huracán is 26 pounds heavier than the outgoing Gallardo, it makes up for that added glut with a heaping of power. Its new direct-injection 5.2-liter V-10 cranks out 610 horsepower, eclipsing even the high-performance Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera. Lamborghini claims that, in conjunction with all-wheel drive and a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the 2014 Huracán can rocket from 0-62 mph in 3.2 seconds, which beats the LP570-4 Superleggera by roughly a half-second.
For more details and a closer look at the new 2014 Lamborghini Huracán, click here to read our first look story.