The Lamborghini Story

told through the cars they built


By 1968 Lamborghini were looking to the market for long distance road travel and so they launched two new models, the Islera and the Espada, at the 1968 Geneva Auto Show.

Why was it called 'Islero'? Ferruccio Lamborghini was still obsessed by bullfighting and this was the name of a Miura bull that had killed a famous matador called Manolete in 1947. Perhaps they hoped that this ghoulish name would result in massive sales to testosterone fuelled buyers but if so they will have been disappointed.

This was a 2+2 grand tourer coupe with as usual a four litre Lamborghini V12 engine now producing 320 brake horsepower. It could reach 154 miles per hour and go from 0 to 60 in 6.4 seconds. Instead of a mid-mounted engine it was now a conventional layout with a front mounted engine driving the rear wheels. The bodywork was designed to allow more head room for rear seat passengers and wheel arches were widened to allow for bigger tyres which would provide more comfort and better traction. So far so good.

Bodies for the 350GT and 400GT had been manufactured by a company called Carrozzeria Touring but they had gone bankrupt; a very common problem in the car manufacturing industry. Another company called Carrozzeria Marazzi took their place with many of the employees from the old company; sadly though they didn't have the same facilities available and quality issues soon became apparent, at least in early incarnations of this car.

A total of 225 were built, including 100 of an updated verson named the Islero S, with an engine more highly tuned to produce 350 bhp. This car had a maximum speed of 162 mph and acceleration from nought to 60 in 6.1 seconds. Yet again, sales figures for the Islero didn't set the world on fire.

The Islero was intended to be a car suitable for executives to use for commuting or travelling long distances. True to Ferruccio's ethos it was never dreamed of as a racing car. Nevertheless in 1975 a couple of French racing drivers decided to compete in the GTX class of the 1975 Le Mans 24 hour race in a highly modified Islero S. They needn't have bothered. Their qualifying lap times were just not good enough and they had a crash during qualifying anyway. No doubt Enzo Ferrari made some comments but they have not been recorded.

Touring's bankruptcy however had a huge effect on the sales of this car. Bodywork quality simply wasn't good enough - possibly because it was brought to market too quickly. Initially, at least, body panel fit was just not good enough and the quality of the interior was not up to the standard that buyers felt they could expect in an expensive car like this. A new and better GTS version was launched in 1969 but by then it was too late. It only lasted a year before it was discontinued.