Legendary motor-writer Archie Vicar considers the merits of Lamborghini’s thirsty, unreliable and evil-handling Urraco.
The article, “Second thoughts, same as the first” appeared originally in Scarborough Morning Bugle-Advertiser in June 1975. Photos by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to the poor quality of the images, stock photos have been used.
The A64 is my road to Damascus regarding the Urraco and indeed everything made by Lamborghini. The rain poured in sheets from the high heavens and as I stood at the window of the Old Telephone Box pub in Scagglethorpe (excellent beef and Yorkshire pudding) I noticed a lake of water accumulating inside the Urraco which was parked outside, with the A64 beyond. Actually, I say “road to Damascus” but that implies that there was a point when I held other opinions about the tractor-maker’s marque. In truth, my prejudices were confirmed on the A64.
For many people the name Lamborghini Urraco conjours up the sound of V8s and of the rush of wind over and through the car’s startlingly low body. Many of the comments in the press have been favourable regarding the car’s roadholding and performance. For me it conjours up the indignities of trying to find my way from standing outside the car to sitting inside the car without getting mud from the sill onto my twill trousers (impossible). It also makes me think of the inconvenience of having to get out again upon discovering that one simply can’t wear a jacket while driving the car such is the shortage of space and excessive engine-heat seeping into the cabin.
The prospect of being invited to test-drive the car for four days in the north east of England for this paper filled me with foreboding. Hence I stopped at the Old Telephone Box about half an hour after leaving Scarborough where we began in the mid-morning. The traffic had been appalling and I spent much of the time looking at the back axle of an articulated lorry carrying what resembled a consignment of lavatories to somewhere in-land.
It is now 1975. When I talk of the Urraco I am talking not of the 2.0 litre P200 of the launch year 1970 to 1973 and not the 2.5 litre of the year before this. The current car has a 3.0 V8 and perhaps by 1979 it may have a displacement appropriate to the cylinder count. If a two-litre V8 is downright unusual, then the 3.0 is less so, I suppose. By the time you read this perhaps the Urraco will be a 3.5 litre car so you may as well take all this with a pinch of salt.
Which reminds me of the super roasted duck that my photographer selected for lunch on the day of our test. It needed salt. We both chose two pints of the excellent local beverage, a high-strength IPA with a pleasant lack of bitter hops. As you know the Urraco has a transversely mounted engine and rear wheel drive. And a very small V8, as I said. The ashtray isn’t worth the name.
The idea with this car is to offer a cheaper alternative to some of the more astronomically expensive cars from both Lamborghini and Ferrari. That assumes that Lamborghini have any idea at all about what the large firms call product planning. I suspect the Urraco was what they felt like making and what they could make at the time. Only by sheer chance it ended up as a smaller, cheaper car but it could easily have turned into a 8-litre, three-cylinder hearse for all I know.
You can’t see any obvious signs of cost-cutting or diligence. It is both as well-trimmed and carelessly assembled as any of its brethren. All Ford Cortinas are much safer and more thoughtfully prepared products – which does Ford a huge disservice as their Cortinas are very good cars indeed though not Wolseley-standard (exceeded only by Alvis?).
I struggled into the Urraco and once Land-Windermere had stowed his equipment there was no room left to move my seat. We took out the equipment and the seat wouldn’t move anyway as the runner had rusted. A sign?
We put the equipment back in and I found myself spread-eagled with my arms extended too far and my feet too close to my hips. One does a lot of twirling as the steering is so low-geared. I was thus eager to leave Scarborough’s crooked streets and to reach the open road. The steering works, I suppose, it is not that bad yet one has to work at it and driving around town grew quickly wearing.
The engine is more powerful than before but also louder and harsher. I wonder if they perhaps should have started with a Fiat 2.0 litre, and then selected a Lancia boxer engine, and then perhaps the V6 found in the wonderful 130 saloon and coupe (which is another nicer car than the Urraco). The 3.0 is certainly flexible. Standing in the way is the baulky gearbox and the very heavy clutch. Now I realise a heavy gearbox comes with the territory. However, the Urraco’s is reaching the point where one is inclined to find third and leave the car there, merely exploiting the flexibility. Or indeed not drive the car at all.
As I say, we pulled into the Old Telephone Box and parked up so as to let the lorry get past and to have a refreshment and a bite to eat. Also, driving the Urraco in the rain is a burden since the wipers’ commitment to their work is on a parallel with the Italian army’s commitment to stay engaged in combat.
I let Land-Windermere out into the rain and he scurried off like a housebound dog released into the yard. That gave me time to order some more IPAs and a few malts. There were also some nice cigars on sale which rounded out the lunch. The business of attending to the water filling the car’s seat had a very therapeutic effect on me – that or the beer – and it seemed to help me reach the conclusion that a four-day test drive around the North York Moors would not end well and ought to be called off.
Frankly, I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing in what way the Urraco would behave when its engine overwhelmed its feeble and capricious roadholding. So the growing body of water inside the car decided for me that perhaps all that I had thought about the Urraco was correct but incomplete. Now I know that it also leaks like a punctured sieve at the slightest sight of rain.
I telephoned Mrs Vicar when the water overspilled the bucket seat and began a cataract onto the carpet in the footwell. Mrs V. kindly collected us in the family car and I think the chap from Lamborghini’s concessionaires towed away the Urraco and Land-Windermere the following day.