Navegar por Cascais num Lamborghini (EN)
It was one of those planets- falling-into-alignment things. An email came from Visit Cascais, the tourist authority trying to make up the visitor shortfall in this beautiful Portuguese region north of Lisbon since F1 and Moto GP left the now-state-owned Estoril circuit. (I love Estoril. It has a wonderful atmosphere, perfect for classics; give me half-an-hour and a Lotus Elan…) Anyway, with three classic events on the calendar – an impressive concours in Cascais organised by Adelino Dinis, an historic rally and the historic racing festival at Estoril including historic F1 – all parties were persuaded to combine and create Estoril Classic Week. Catchy.
And they wanted me to come and see what it is all about. As well as those three core activities, they were laying on a half-day drive in a classic car. So I replied and asked what cars might be available for me. Back came a link that, to my
surprise, took me straight to an old friend’s website.
Fabrice le Roy started Rentacarclassic a decade ago in Nice with just a handful of classics, has since opened a second bureau in Monaco, and is planning a third base – his first not on the Riviera – in Cascais. There’s now a fleet of 50-plus cars, the company name has been tweaked to Rentaclassicar, and when I contacted him his transporter was loaded up with the first ten cars of a 30-strong delegation heading for Cascais. He sent me a phone snap and several of the cars took my fancy but, of all
of them, one really grabbed my attention: a Lamborghini Jalpa.
This was the third element of planetary alignment, you see. Although we are living in a very different classic environment now, 15 years ago there were expensive classic Lamborghinis (Miuras, 300 and 400GTs and early Countachs), cheap Lamborghinis (Urraco, especially the 250, Espada, and LM002), middling Lamborghinis (later Countachs, Islero and the then-modern classics such as Diablo) and then a trio of forgotten Lamborghinis: the Jarama, the Silhouette (there were just 54) and the Jalpa. This V12- and V8- powered trio were lodged in the £17,000-22,000 bracket and dealer Ian Grange had a couple sticking at the lower end of that scale.
I wanted a Jalpa because it was more stand-out than the Ferrari 308 it was built to challenge (but palpably didn’t), looked a bit like a Pantera (thanks Bertone), and promised to be a comfortable, usable GT rather than the motoring masochism Sant’Agata usually specialises in. But I was a chicken. Now I could find out whether I was a stupid chicken or a wise one. Fabrice made sure the Jalpa had my name on it.
I first meet the car in the marina at Cascais, which seems wholly appropriate because there is a lot
of Miami Vice about its demeanour. In bronze and largely made out of plastic, with a two-tier plastic dashboard, Old Kent Road column stalks and Park Lane leather, it is as 1980s era-defining as anything else you are likely to see.
To start, two pumps on the gas, hold it down about three inches, turn the key, then the 3.5-litre V8 fires and settles. Yes, the clutch is agricultural, but the heavy yet deliberate gearshift becomes reassuring with speed and purpose.
Once you get into the zone, in no small part thanks to gorgeously weighted steering, the Jalpa is a delight to drive, trickling through town as comfortably as it launches itself at a series of lacets up a mountain while spitting contempt at the Alfa Romeo behind. More Pantera traits: it’s almost as if Lamborghini used it as a template.
From Cascais we head towards Sintra and, the higher we rise above the plateau and sea, the better the driving into the amazing national park, where you have to tiptoe around the potholes and cyclists. Then back down the mountain to the most westerly point on Contintental Europe at Cabo da Roca, via some roads used in many a car launch and therefore familiar to many car magazine readers.
The last part of our tour follows the coast along the breathtaking N247 back to Cascais. We’ve had speedy straights, sweeping corners, hairpins, steep climbs and dramatic
drops – the lot, and, Targa roof tucked away, my biggest concern in the Jalpa has been the amount of attention we’ve received from the surfing community at Guincho. Yes, it’s analogue and yes it is a bizarre mix of opulence and corner- cutting, but it is a real feelgood – and sound-good – car.
If you consider that the Gallardo was the product of German philosophy then the 400-off Jalpa was the most sensible car Lamborghini (proper) ever built, yet without compromising the driving pleasure. Once home I instantly googled Jalpas for sale. And then Silhouettes. And then Jaramas (even though it has four more cylinders).
Regrets? Quite a few.