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- Post is under moderationRUN BY Dougal Macdonald
OWNED SINCE October 2004
CAR: #Lamborghini-Islero / #Lamborghini / #Lamborghini-V12
TURNING A DREAM INTO REALITY
I blame the September 2001 issue of C&SC. Aged 26 and working in Hong Kong, I was living a life of long hours, little sleep and no cars. Then a story by Richard Heseltine on the Lamborghini Islero started a dream that took 17 years to bring to fruition, and life has now come full circle with a role on the magazine. Four years and multiple re-reads of the article later, that dog-eared issue of C&SC and I returned to the UK. I had always fancied a classic, but why an Islero? I wanted a fast four-seater with a boot, good for drives to the Highlands or southern Europe – in other words, a proper GT. And this restrained express has always been overlooked. Which was exactly why I wanted one. Insurance was the main barrier.
At 29, with no insurance history for five years, that barrier was firmly down: I remember getting a £5200 quote for cover on a BMW 520i. In a moment of madness, I asked one insurer for an Islero quote. After liaising with the classic department, she said: “How does £600 sound?” I almost fell off my chair.
The chase was on, but how was I going to find and finance my unicorn? The latter was answered when my grandmother passed away and left me some money, but the former proved trickier. Just 255 of this lesser-known Italian were built: 125 first-generation cars, then 100 of the ‘S’, uprated from 320bhp to 350bhp and easily identified by its bonnet scoop and flared arches. I prefer the earlier model and they were a little cheaper – about the price of new Ford Mondeo – but engine fires and crashes took their toll on survival rates. Then, in February 2004, I saw an advert in C&SC for a 1968 car with Joop Stolze Classic Cars. I struck out for The Netherlands to find the car at the back of a barn, covered in dust and looking unloved. I had planned to drive home so was disappointed, but bought it nonetheless.
A friend gave me the number of a Putney garage, and the car arrived on a dark and rainy night. I can’t explain the thrill as I got in, turned the key and it fired, but after a few seconds of chattering chains the garage owner told me to turn it off.
I didn’t know then, but that was the last time it would run for 14 years. The engine block was sound, but the rest of the car was knackered. Eventually, a deal was done: I would do the laborious and non-technical work; they would train me and do specialist work when they had time. And so began the next four years. My first job was removing nearly four decades of dirt and underseal over three weeks of hell. The more I took off the Islero, the more problems I found. One rear quarter was full of rust, which had been filled over and took five days to remove, and the passenger footwell was so rotten that I put my foot through.
By the end of the year I’d stripped and rebuilt the engine. By the end of the four years, though, the time had come to get back to work and I left for Africa. Over the next seven years the car was resprayed and the suspension reattached before, in 2013, the garage owner asked if I’d return to London to help sell his stock of exotic cars. I packed my bags and the following Monday I started my new job.
Focus returned to my beloved Islero, and major jobs were done when money was available, including a handmade Larini exhaust. By 2015 it was time to move and I was unsure it would ever get finished. I was given the name of Lambo specialist Colin Clarke and we agreed a figure to complete the work. Finally, in May 2018, I picked up the car and my wife and I went away to the Cotswolds for my birthday… marred only slightly by a terrifying drive to the hotel in the dark with no headlights.
Further scares have included a return trip from Goodwood with only full beam – so I had to hold the stalk all the way – and driving back from Bicester in 36ºC with the windows stuck up… explaining to my brother why I arrived with no trousers on took some explaining. But the Silverstone Classic gave me a tick on the bucket-list when I got a parade lap of the circuit for the Islero’s 50th anniversary. The V12 at 4000rpm in fourth still gives me goosebumps, and moments like that make it all worthwhile.
Clockwise from top left: at Colin Clarke Engineering, with the engine about to go in; reassembly begins at last after the respray; finished interior; glorious V12 is now as good as new.
Main: the Islero has been taken back to exactly as it left the factory. Above: as found in Holland. Below right: at Silverstone for the model’s 50th anniversary.
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Lamborghini Islero Open
Lamborghini Islero 1968-1969View Group →
The Lamborghini Islero is a grand tourer produced by Italian automaker Lamborghini between 1968 and 1969. It was the replacement for the 400GT and featured the Lamborghini V12 engine. The car debuted at the 1968 Geneva Auto Show. The Islero (Italian pronunciation: Spanish: was named after a Miura... bull that killed matador Manuel Rodriguez "Manolete" on August 28, 1947 (Lamborghini also produced a car named the Miura, from 1966 to 1973).
Since Carrozzeria Touring, the company that designed Lamborghini's chassis, was bankrupt, Carrozzeria Marazzi was the next logical choice as it was funded by Carlo Marazzi, an old employee of Touring, with sons Mario and Serafino. The design was essentially a rebody of the 400GT, but the track was altered to allow for wider tires and while the Islero's body suffered from a lack of proper fit between the panels, its good outward visibility, roomier interior, and much improved soundproofing made it an improvement over previous models. It had a 325 bhp (242 kW; 330 PS) 4.0 L (3929 cc) V12 engine, a five-speed transmission, fully independent suspension, and disc brakes. Its top speed was rated at 154 mph (248 km/h) and acceleration from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) took 6.4 seconds. 125 Isleros were built. When leaving the factory the Islero originally fitted Pirelli Cinturato 205VR15 tyres (CN72).
An updated Islero, dubbed the Islero S, was released in 1969. The engine in this model was tuned to 350 bhp (261 kW; 355 PS), but the torque remained the same. There were quite a few styling changes, including brightwork blind slots on the front fenders, an enlarged hood scoop (which supplied air to the interior of the car, not the engine), slightly flared fenders, tinted windows, round side-marker lights (instead of teardrops on the original), and a fixed section in the door windows. Various other changes included larger brake discs, revised rear suspension and revamped dashboard and interior.
The top speed of the S improved to 161 mph (259 km/h) and acceleration from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.2 seconds. 100 examples of the Islero S were built, bringing the production total of the Islero nameplate to 225 cars. Ferruccio Lamborghini himself drove an Islero during that era – as did his brother Edmondo. The car is also famous for its appearance in the Roger Moore thriller The Man Who Haunted Himself and in Italian Vedo nudo (first movie novel, Islero 1968, as the car of Sylva Koscina).
Lamborghini Islero S
Islero: 125 units
Islero S: 100 units
Total: 225 units
Designer Mario Marazzi at Carrozzeria Marazzi
Body and chassis
Class Grand tourer
Body style 2+2 Coupé
Layout FR layout
Platform tubular steel frame
riveted aluminium body panels
Engine 3,929 cc (239.8 cu in) 60° V12
Transmission five-speed, reverse manual all-synchromesh
Wheelbase 2,546 mm (100.25 in)
Length 4,521 mm (178 in)
Width 1,727 mm (68 in)
Height 1,270 mm (50 in)
Curb weight 1,315 kg (2,899 lb)
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