This is probably the last place you thought you’d see an article about a Lamborghini, right? Nick Bolonis flipped the script with his ultra-rare 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa – number 387 out of 412 ever made – and swapped in an LS1 engine with intentions of making it one of the coolest Lamborghinis we’ve laid eyes on. An earlier article can be seen here.
After purchasing his Lamborghini Jalpa a few years ago, Bolonis spent hours on end trying to figure out how to make reasonable power out of the 3.5L V8 that came in the car originally, but with parts being hard to come by and mechanics who know how to work on these classic Lamborghinis even harder to find, a game plan was conceived. The decision was made to pull out the factory 3.5L engine and swap in something a little more potent – a modified LS1.
One of the trickiest aspects of engineering the engine and trans to work in the car was getting all of the Toyota parts to fit correctly and mount up correctly. Bolonis was using the MR2 transaxle along with the shifter, linkages, clutch, and slave cylinder also from an MR2. A one-off adapter plate was machined to mate the MR2 transaxle to the block, and the factory GM flywheel was machined down to comply with the MR2 clutch setup. Custom shifter cables were also made, as the MR2 cables were too short and wouldn’t work with the Lamborghini chassis.
With the LS1 making more power than the factory 3.5L V8, the engine cradle was strengthened by adding a few gussets around the engine mounts. Bolonis needed all the structural rigidity he could possibly get. The engine and transmission weigh significantly less than the factory engine and transmission, but with the added torque of the LS1, it could damage the whole frame. His Jalpa actually sat one inch higher after the swap because of the reduced weight of the all-aluminum V8.
An LS6 intake manifold, a cam swap, and some head porting amongst other little modifications pushed Bolonis’s LS1 to a healthy 5oo horsepower at the flywheel. Swapping in the LS1 was a risky decision for Bolonis, but it helped the car reach a near 50/50 weight distribution and added over 200 HP compared to the stock engine. Bolonis’s Jalpa was easily running 11.8 at 124 MPH passes at Calder Park Raceway in Victoria, Australia.
When Bolonis bought his Jalpa, it was a dark metallic blue with tan leather interior and dark blue piping to match the exterior. He was going to keep the car this color at first, but when the whole drivetrain had to come out to replace the clutch after frying it at the drag strip for the second time, the decision was made to fully make over the car to how he wanted it to look. Bolonis bought a set of silhouette-style wheels, measuring 15 x 8 up front and 15 x 11 out back, from Eurospares for that classic Lamborghini look and feel. Purchased from England, where it rains almost all the time, Bolonis’s Jalpa showed a lot of rust once it was stripped down. The stone guard/underbody coating was removed during the stripping process and actually lightened the car up another 22 pounds.
Since Bolonis’s Lamborghini was getting the full restoration treatment, he figured that it was the perfect time to make some modifications to the looks of the car. The first part of the transformation was doing away with the flip-up headlights and welding the holes where the lights used to be closed. The front and rear bumpers had quite a bit of damage, so those were scrapped as well. The reverse lights are pretty cool too – they were sourced from a 1966 Mustang and welded into the body of the Jalpa. The custom exhaust with massive tips is a nice touch as well because it can be seen, giving it a mechanical, racecar type of feel.
To ensure he’s safe while making passes, Bolonis fabricated a roll cage that is legal for drag racing, but made it so that the side intrusion bars could be removed for easily getting in and out of the car when driven on the street. More interior changes include reupholstered factory seats with black leather as well as grey stitching and piping to match the exterior paint color.
Stopping power was a big factor in Bolonis’s build and he didn’t feel that the factory brakes were up to the task of slowing the car down from the high speeds he would be pushing, so he replaced the Bendatalia brake booster/master cylinder with the MR2 unit that he had lying around. After the new unit was installed, Bolonis slapped on some EBC Yellow Stuff pads up front and some Red Stuff pads in the rear, drastically improving braking performance.
Horsepower is highly addicting, and since Bolonis has been into drag racing for quite some time, he decided to throw on a Magnuson MP112 supercharger kit, bringing the horsepower number up over 600. Also installed was MSD‘s Atomic EFI system, which has integrated fuel lines, an integrated ECU and is capable of power levels up to 1,000 horses.
Mid 2012, Bolonis ditched the manual MR2 transaxle for an automatic transaxle out of a Toyota Camry and installed a few little modifications to the engine – before he knew it, he was making 10.65 passes at 130 MPH like it was no big deal.
With the new-found power of the supercharger, Bolonis needed to put the power to the ground effectively, so he mounted up a couple of Mickey Thompson ET Street radials to a pair of Weld Racing Magnum 2.0 Drag wheels, which look pretty similar to the silhouette-style wheels that were on the car already, and set out to achieve a new personal best.
Bolonis’s most recent run in the Jalpa resulted in a 9.99 at 138 MPH in the quarter – yes, that’s right, a 1988 Lamborghini making high nine second passes. We’ve got to commend Nick Bolonis on his awesome and ever-so unique build. It’s definitely not every day that you see an American V8 engine in a very rare 1980’s Italian sports car. We love it, Nick, and hope to see more of this car in the very near future!