Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
The First 2+2 Supercar
The Urraco was an ambitious project, Ferruccio Lamborghini wanting to move over 2,000 units each year, thus turning Lamborghini into an Italian success story like their nemesis Porsche. While the theory was good, the timing was completely wrong, with the 1970's energy crisis putting pay to this adventurous project.
The project failed completely. In technical view, the Urraco was quite interesting. It was a mid-engined sports car, but simultaneously had 2+2 seating layout. That made it the first 2+2 mid-engined car in the world, even earlier than Ferrari 308GT4. The original car was powered by an underpowered sohc 2.5-litre V8, then upgraded to DOHC 3-litre V8 and the new car was called Urraco P300 (compared with the original P250). P300 was an excellent GT, with sensuous handling
accompanied with excellent brakes.
It may have beenn beautiful from every angle, but if Lamborghini had any ideas that a 2+2 configuration would suit the family man by offering rear accomodation, they were very mistaken. Even if you did decide to compromise on rear space, repairs were reported to take up to five months in Australia, so at best you would need a second car.
Where the Urraco did excel was in the cornering department, where you could could pull close to one g laterally - which may have been even better than the Muira
, and was the equal of many strictly 2 seater supercars of the era. Lamborghini's engineering department developed a brilliant suspension setup, using struts front and rear with ample wheel travel and the softness to soak up road bumps so they wouldn't spoil your line. At the same time stiff anti-roll bars
would keep body lean to near nil.
Complementing this was built-in understeer with the ability, via throttle response, to induce exactly as much oversteer as you needed. So fine was the balance that you could brake OR accelerate in the Uracco mid-corner and the it would remain compliant. A relatively short wheelbase and firm dampers meant some slight pitching would occur at certain speeds over poor surfaces, but the ride was always very good and the Urraco tracked true, even in gusty side winds.
Lamborghini's Quad Cam V8
Powering the Urraco was a 2.5 litre V8 (10.4:1 compression) with a cam on top of each bank of cylinders, with its combustion chambers in the heads (unlike the original bowl-in-piston design) and plenty of power with 164 kW (220 bhp) although it didn't peak until right on the 7500 rpm redline, which meant you had to ring its neck to get the best out of it. The torque peak was at a more useable 5750 rpm. The engine was mounted transversely and was fed via four dual-throat carbs, the engine driving the rear wheels via a five-speed gearbox. Some road testers claimed the Urraco would pull from 2000 rpm but, given the torque and power range, we doubt they were getting anywhere in a hurry.
The gearbox was set out with second, third, fourth and fifth in a conventional H pattern, even though top was pretty much an overdrive. Therefore, second had to be fairly low and close to first which was really too tall for quick getaways without a bit of clutch slip. The change from 1st to 2nd would come all too quickly, and unfortunately the gearbox did not encourage quick shifts. The movement from first to second would take some getting used to, with a up-across-up movement at odds with nearly all other gearbox configurations. The gate was extremely precise with each slot clearly located with a light spring loading in the second/ third plane - providing you didn't rush.
Styled by Bertone
There was arguably never an ugly Bertone
design of the 1970s, as the Urraco continued the classic stylists theme. The original Urraco prototype was first seen in 1970
, and to our eyes you could be forgiven for thinking the Urraco was a car of a decade later, mid 1980s perhaps. Visibility in any 1970s supercar was always going to be a compromise, but at least you could see out the front and sides without too much difficulty, of course the limitation being the very low seating position. The view over your shoulder was not too bad either, but the engine lid slats did cut rear vision. Some road testers noted that the engine's reflection could be more of a problem than the slats themselves, or maybe it was another excuse to admire the brilliant Lamborghini V8 donk. There was a window between the passengers and power of course.
Since the car falls away steeply in front and the tail was cut off short, city driving was always a challenge. The seats had good range and rake adjustment but looked better than they actually were, which would become apparent on long journeys, or when cornering hard, and they were a long reach from the shelf-mounted switches. An adjustable foot rest on the front passenger's side was a typical Lamborghini touch. There was proper plus-two space in the back, and thankfully the production version had slightly more headroom than the 1970
prototype, and the ribbed rear seats gave adequate comfort without taking too much space.
On The Inside
The boot was small, but it was well trimmed and shaped in such a way that you could put in a small suitcase. There was also a locking glovebox and a shallow bin around the central handbrake lever. Plus the rear seats were nicely dished, Lamborghini obviously expecting these to be used more to carry things rather than people. The interior trim was sporting rather than plush, in keeping with the car's mission. If you had big feet, you would have trouble getting comfortable, as the wheel arches intruded into the cockpit to some degree. After driving a 2003 Ferrari 360 recently, fixing this issue must be low on the priority list for Italian supercar makers.
Typical of the genre, the pedals were small, but they would have been perfect if you have purchased a Urraco when you were 12. Thankfully you could heel/toe for downshifts without too much trouble. The brake pedal connected to four wheel vented discs and was brilliantly progressive. Even at speeds well over 160 km/h (100 mph) you would have absolute confidence that the Urraco would stop on demand. A small deep-dish and thick-rimmed steering wheel was perfectly placed and transmitted just the right amount of road feel. It required too many turns in tight places though: an 11.2 m (37 ft) turning circle was pretty damn big for a car the Urraco's size. But again, this was typical of the genre, the Ferrari Dino 246
was about the same in length and turning circle and had only two seats.
Near Perfect Aerodynamics
The Urraco's dash had an oversized tacho sited on the far left and a large speedo was at the far right; neither were ideally situated, and while we do not have first hand experience, it seems there were plenty of drivers who were not fans of the design, they requiring you to take your eyes away from the road for far too long. In the middle were six dials, either side of the warning lights. Lamborghini provided for a takeoff, at the end of one cam, to drive the air conditioner - although we do not know how many of the 776 buyers went for this option. If they didn't, however, they would certainly have cooked rather quickly in the sun, as the vents and outlets being only fan assisted would have had trouble coping with the amount of sloping glass on the Bertone design. What made things really tricky was that you would never really want to wind down the window: the aerodynamics
were so right that the car had virtually no wind noise, and the aural note from the V8 was something you would not want to interfere with.
Not surprisingly, the Urraco was priced well above a Porsche Carrera RS
, the Alfa Romeo Montreal
, the Citroen SM
and the 350 SLC Mercedes
, although it was slightly less than the 450 SLC. At launch, Lamboghini had big expectatins for the car - hoping to move from an initial production of 1000 per year to around 1500 per year. Between 1974
only 776 Urracos were made, 21 of these were labelled Urraco PIII (P250 Tipo III) for the American market. It seemed Lamborghini's projections were way too optomestic. After that,
it was modified to Silhouette (more like a Urraco with
Targa roof) and eventually became the 2-seat Jalpa
. Too many, it seemed
a pity that such a good car died in this way.