Editorial: Reproduction Lamborghini Jota OK With Me. Except That It Isn't
Once upon a time, I commissioned Guy Broad Jaguar to build an XK120 from the chassis up. From the breakaway steering column to the oversized (though Jag-sourced) six, it was my idea of what an XK should be. She was built with as many upgraded repro parts as possible, by non-union labor. Before I could fettle the machine for something akin to drivability, I spun her on black ice and took out a small English village. (Come back Colleen, all is forgiven.) By the time the car was re-re-built, divorce had claimed my most beautiful asset. But I’ll never forget the consternation the car caused amongst the cognoscenti.
Adherents to the Church of Original Jaguar XK considered Colleen a heresy. Her existence diminished the eight billion man hours they’d spent researching, sourcing and replacing rusted engine parts. And the two thousand hours spent by the roadside—or in a shed—trying to coax their XK to life. Colleen’s adoring fans were restricted to those who didn’t know what she was and those who couldn’t fathom spending a year in provenance.
This month’s Octane magazine offers another type of litmus test: a Lambourghini Jota repro.
All I remember about Lambos of that era: you couldn’t see anything and they’d roast you alive while you were looking. And deafen you for your trouble. And kill you for cornering. [NB: You, not Stirling Moss.] They were the world’s fastest hair shirts.
Obviously, I never drove the one and only V12 Jota. Whoever did made short work of it. Octane reports, “Its career was exceptionally short-lived; after being sold to Italian company Interauto in February 1972, it was heavily crashed and subsequently written off.” Heavily crashed. Don’t like the sound of that. Nor am I enamored with the idea of an overly-faithful recreation of the Jota’s spam-in-a-can character.
Before I share writer Mark Dixon’s prose on the nouva Jota, you may or may not know that this sort of work is OK (an exception, if you will) with the keepers of the authenticity flame. Ish. That’s ’cause it’s a repro of a car that you can’t restore—’cause there ain’t any. The “shark-nosed” Ferrari 156 projects are the perfect illustration. And still the faithful argue about the proximity of the repro to the original, right down to the engine bolts. (I swear.) So, Jota.
You sit low and casual in the Jota, legs spread as if slouched in your favourite TV-viewing easy chair. The screen sweeps around in panoramic Stratos fashion and the broad sills, each of which contains a 60-litre fuel tank, create useful elbow room on either side. There’s lots of black-painted sheet alloy, blue Dymo labels with evocative Italian descriptions, and a total absence of anything soft or forgiving.
The foot pedals are reassuringly large and well spaced, their broad metal treads looking as if they’ve been lifted from one of Cavaliere Lamborghini’s tractors, but it’s impossible for the driver to release the handbrake without brushing an elbow against the rear bulkhead. That’s a mistake you make only once: after being cooked for a couple of hours by four litres of tuned V12, that sheet of alloy gets as hot as the baking tray under your Christmas turkey.
If I remember my Pleistocene Era buff bookery, this is the part where the reviewer says “But on the right road…” Not quite, old chap.
But the clutch is surprisingly light and you can trickle the Jota away on a whiff of throttle – just as well, for the sake of the hearing of anyone standing within 40 feet. The steering is light, too, despite the 9.5-inch section front tyres (the rears measure an incredible 12.5 inches across). Rearward vision is non-existent, of course, but otherwise the Jota isn’t difficult to drive. It does make a fantastic sound.
Ah, the sound of old supercars. Are you up on your Greek mythology? Sirens. Not the sound of the police come to save you from yourself. The sound of orgasmic women luring you to your death.
Forget all the usual niceties of induction hiss, valve train chatter and the other nuances that journalists like to use to pep up their copy: the Jota is simply raw, animal, noise. It’s loud at idle and it just gets louder as you pile on the revs. At low engine speeds it sounds as though someone is blowing a tuba straight into your ear; then at around 3000rpm the brassy blast becomes a little ragged, as though the two banks of cylinders have got out of synch; but get past that and it sweetens into the most glorious, red-blooded howl you can imagine.
And… that’s it. No mention of handling, for some reason. Anyway, I’ve got no problem with this car—except that I do. If you know what I mean.
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