What’s it like to drive the 1971 LAMBORGHINI JARAMA?

Today is a twofer – kind of…

I met John Roth for the first time at my show, Wheels and Waves. He and a couple friends rolled up in a few unique rides, Roth’s being this ‘71 Lambo Jarama. Now, it’s been a grip since I’d seen this model, most likely 25 years. And to see John scoot into the show took me back to ‘71 in a flash.

I was 6 years old and knew I loved cars. This Lambo just came out and was the company’s state-of-the-art car. Although, it didn’t really do all that well – the funky proportions and hand built uniqueness made it stand out.

As a machine shop owner, Roth has worked on a slew of cars. So when it came to getting something unique, he was all over it. 

“It’s a 4-liter V-12, about 330hp with a five-speed transmission,” Roth said as we took our first spin. “Like all the Lamborghinis of the era, independent suspension and disc brakes at each axle. It’s built on a shortened Espada platform, but oddly is a heavier car at about 3,200 lbs. My understanding was that the design intent was for the car to be aluminum bodied but it went into production in steel. By and large, it was an advanced car for the day.” 

Roth bought the car a little over two years ago from a dealer in Florida. At the time, he had been looking for an Espada and while had come close, he hadn’t been able to complete a transaction. 

“I hadn’t even considered a Jarama as there were only about 300 made,” he said. “I never expected to see one on the market.”   

 According to Roth, until quite recently, Jaramas haven’t even been considered collectible. This car had been bouncing around a bit, moving from dealer to dealer and he didn’t expect much when he flew to Florida to see it. 

“I was pleasantly surprised,” he said. “It had records since new, appeared to have not gone through an extended period of neglect when it was just a ‘used car,’ and had recent repair bills totaling a small fortune from a competent Lamborghini garage, but it’s an old Lamborghini. It still has needs. It will always have needs.” 

When people think of classic Lamborghinis, it’s usually the Miura and the Countach, but the hyper exotic cars aren’t what the founder wanted. Feruccio Lamborghini aimed to build fast, comfortable Grand Touring cars like the GT350 and 400, Espada, Islero and Jarama. These are the cars Roth enjoys. 

“I wanted a car with a large green house, plenty of room in the foot wells, good handling and ample power,” Roth said. “In my view, Lamborghini did this the best in the period.”

I was scheduled to meet up with another driver after John, but got a text saying that the “Jeep” broke down near Moonshadows. Roth graciously offered to head down to the car and see if he could help. After 45 minutes of going over the Custom Jeep (Coming Soon), Roth found the problem in a large fuse. The Jeep was dead for now, but the Jarama, Roth and I roared on up PCH.

That’s when Roth went on further with his story. 

“I don’t commute with the car generally,” he said. “I use it for touring around the South and Central California coast mostly. While I appreciate them, I don’t get too excited about static displays of perfect cars. I want cools cars to get used, to get broken and repaired. While they are at some level an artistic expression, they are clearly tools for transportation and should get used as such.”

 His best short story with it was the test drive. He took a red-eye to Fort Lauderedale, and arrived at the dealer at opening time under a light drizzle. 

The Jarama was spotless, sitting in the showroom. 

“The salesman asked me if I wanted to drive it and I declined as I didn’t want to get his car dirty,” Roth said. “He said something like, ‘Come on! It’s always raining here. Let’s go!’ So, we went.

“We hit the freeway as the drizzle turned to a torrential downpour, a good three inches of water on every street. We had near zero visibility, crashes, and general mayhem. It took 45 minutes to work our way back to the showroom. I asked if it was the scariest test drive of his career. He said no – it was the weirdest.” 

 And what does roth love about driving in Malibu? 

“The Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu make up some of the most scenic places on the world,” he said. “Great views and great driving roads literally surround us here. We are lucky to be here and driving in the hills helps me appreciate it. 

“PCH, from Santa Monica to Carmel is on everyone’s list but I can’t be pinned to a single road. While it’s only open three or four months a year, Trail Ridge Road in Colorado is a favorite as is CA190 across Death Valley. These roads are all very different, but special in their own way.”

Watching Roth work on the Jeep revealed to me that he’s successful at his business for one reason. His willingness to help. And although he couldn’t restart the car, the effort was all it took to find the answer.

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