Driven by Design: Lamborghini Urraco
(This article is part of the Driven by Design series.)
Over the last fifteen years Lamborghini has actively sought to increase production and market share by building a lower-performance, higher-margin model. It’s also flirted with manufacturing an SUV and sedan, much like company-brethren Porsche. But the quest for margins and profitability is not a new phenomenon. Building supercars is a wonderful business in years of economic growth, but when growth flattens or stalls, people pull back their spending on luxury items.
The Urraco was developed as a competitor to the Dino 246GT and Maserati Merak, but also as a hedge against the Countach’s limited customer base. Built with a [relatively] small displacement V8 and with two extra seats, it was clearly designed to appeal to those with a slimmer wallet and [slightly] more practical needs.
It was penned by Marcello Gandini, at Bertone, and bears a striking resemblance to another one of his cars developed almost simultaneously for a competitor—more on this in a bit though. The Urraco maintains a traditional mid-engine proportion with the doors pushed nearly as far forward as possible. However, the proportion lacks the visual speed that the Countach has because of the disconnect between the a-pillar and slope of the hood (much like the Gallardo, actually).
In Gandini’s defense a more upright windshield makes for a functionally better car. However, it is the flat hood line that makes this a three-box design, rather than a one-box (not that one is better than the other). The Urraco’s stance is OK, but its not terrific. And once again, the long, flat hood bears much of the blame. Additionally, viewed from the front, the car has a front-engine proportion because of the hood’s length.
The surfacing is controlled and pretty, with the crisp shoulder catching light under which the side surfaces roll gently under the body. Another concession to practicality is the relatively upright greenhouse. While it does start to flatten slightly as it approaches the rear, the daylight opening (DLO) adds some visual mass by remaining vertical.
And in stunning contrast to most Italian cars of the era, the detailing is excessive. Particularly questionable are the “wings” mounted on the Urraco’s c-pillar, as they direct your eye up, rather than back. They also visually extend the greenhouse needlessly. If you’d like to know how much better the Urraco would look without them, simply check out the car I namelessly alluded to earlier, the Maserati Khamsin.
In many ways, the Maserati Khamsin is the Urraco done right. It has a 2+2 layout, a V8, but is front-engined. And with a front engine, the proportion and stance are actually helped by a long, flat hood. Additionally, the rake of the windshield doesn’t matter quite as much because whether it’s upright or not, it essentially must have a different angle from the hood.
The Urraco is not a bad looking car, but there seems to be some confusion in its theme. And when compared against one of its designer’s stronger forms the strangeness is amplified. Ironically, while the car was intended to become Lamborghini’s volume leader, (and did outsell the Countach while in production) it was only built for six years before evolving into the Silhouette, then Jalpa, both two-seaters.