Ferruccio’s vision of a high-performance 4-seater grand tourer that went on to become the company’s highest selling car.
When Ferruccio Lamborghini first decided to make cars, it wasn’t just to respond to Enzo Ferrari’s infamous spite. He wanted the Lamborghini brand to have a wider appeal than just Ferrari’s race-car-for-the-road approach. The best example of this can be seen in the Lamborghini Espada. This car was meant to complement the 400 GT 2+2 and the Miura by providing a Lamborghini for everyday needs.
Released in 1968, the Espada was designed by Marcelo Gandini of Bertone, one of the greatest car designers ever. He had also designed the Miura while envisioning the Lamborghini Espada as a complementary car to that legendary piece of machinery. This particularly well-maintained 1968 S1 model shown here comes from Eleven Cars, who currently have the model and many other amazing classic and supercars up for sale.
Given this heritage, the styling of the Espada was typically Italian, although somewhat polarising. The design took inspiration from Gandini’s earlier works, the Lamborghini Marzal and the Jaguar Pirana. Some people loved the long hood and swooping hatchback styling while others could not see the appeal. In any case, it elicited a reaction, a basic tenet of good design. The car had spacious interiors with leather upholstery and all the features you would expect in a high-end luxury grand tourer of its time.
Mechanically, the Lamborghini Espada came with a 3.9-litre front-mounted V12. The engine featured six Weber carburettors and 24 valves. This was good for 325hp on the Series 1 cars, enough to push the Espada to a top speed of 150mph (241.5kmph). In its 10-year production run, 1217 examples were made, making it the most successful Lamborghini up until the modern era, comfortably outlasting the 328-unit run of its more stylish, short wheelbase cousin – the Lamborghini Jarama.
The Lamborghini Espada went through three iterations in its life – the Series 1, 2 and 3. There weren’t any major design or mechanical updates to the car through its life, which was a testament to how good the initial product was. The series 2 had power bumped up to 350 hp and an updated interior. And while the series 3 lost some of its aesthetic appeal to accommodate the US-spec safety bumpers, it received an updated and redesigned interior and a new wheel design.
The Espada was dynamically the polar opposite of what has come to be expected of a Lamborghini since then. There were no cramped cockpits, low visibility and heavy controls. This was a GT car through and through, where the cabin was light and airy with space for 6-feet adults to fit in comfortably. The steering eased up nicely at high speed and was a breeze to use. This meant the car was a great long-distance cruiser in the mould of contemporary Bentleys and Rolls Royces.
By 1978, Espada production had ceased. This was the time of the OPEC oil crisis which made fuel very expensive in the US, Lamborghini’s primary market. By this time, Lamborghini too had figured out its niche, the Miura and the Countach that had single-handedly created the mid-engine supercar segment. Lamborghini was no longer trying to be a luxury car maker with a wide spread of offerings. Instead, they were now focused on creating the most desirable, outrageous, bedroom wall poster worthy supercars.
While Lamborghini’s focused direction was great for cementing the company’s identity, it also meant that the Espada would never find a replacement, making it a rare glimpse into Sant’Agata’s past. After continuing this tradition of making outright supercars for nearly three decades, Lamborghini today is once again thinking of bringing out a four seater grand tourer. And while the new car is still almost half a decade away from being a reality, it is certain that the new grand tourer would take its inspiration from Gandini’s masterpiece from the past.
Photos courtesy Eleven Cars.