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The Lamborghini Espada PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lars H   
Thursday, 12 March 2009 13:36
A lot has been written about the Espada and more will be written.

It proved that a high performance can be successfully

married to elegance, comfort, reliability and seating for 4

And it was the most practical car of Lamborghini's

and the most sold !

And yet :

It is a car known mostly to only a very few !

Espada ?

Be invited to read about this fabulous car

Born as the result of a "bad experience" owning a Ferrari, Lamborghini produced its first car in 1964. Founded by wealthy industrialist (and former Ferrari owner!) Ferrucio Lamborghini the cars were targeted directly at the same market as the already famous rival, Ferrari. Initial models were the impressive 350GT and 400GT followed by out-and-out sports cars such as the 1966 Miura.


By the 1970's the firm was beginning to struggle and so it was purchased by French firm Mimram. Later the company was purchased by US giant Chrysler and then later by Volkswagen. Today the company continues to produce some of the most outrageous and awesome road cars in the world.

Ferruccio Lamborghini was born on april 25th 1916 as a farmer son in Renazzo, a little village north of Bologna. When he grow up he was interested in all sorts of machine's, and, like most young Italians in these days, he was fascinated by fast cars.

His parents recognized his interest in technical things and let him go to Bologna where he got his degree in Industrial Design. After his study he started as a trainee at a metal workshop.

During the second world- war he was stationed on Rhodos (Greece) at a transport unit. He was the one that kept all the vehicles moving. After the war he went back to Renazzo and went on with his civilian life. In this farmer community was a real need for tractors, but after the war they were very hard to find. No problem for Ferruccio: he built one himself from scrap-iron. All the farmers in the neighborhood saw the thing and they all would like to have one, so he bought a few light armored cars from the British Army, and converted them into a carioch (= little tractor). He was not the only one that build carioches so he had to find a way to sell them. On market day he took his carioch to the marketplace and challenged the other makers for a pull-duel...most times he won. His first factory was established in 1949 in Cento. After three years he stopped building carioches and started producing new tractor's with Diesel-engines of his own design, in a few years his name was established, and he was the biggest tractor producer of Italy.

In 1960 he started a second company, this company produced heating and cooling equipment, in a few years it was a big success, he even was decorated with the Cavaliere del Lavaro by the president of Italy. So, in 1962, he had no worry's about money... He liked sport cars and owned a few Farrari's, a Morgan, a Mercedes-Benz, a Jaguar and a few more. The story goes (We don't know if it is true) that he had some problems with one of his Ferrari's and went to the Maranello factory to complain about it. They said to him : You don't know nothing about cars, you better drive a tractor. So he decided to built a better car by himself. If it's true, we'll never know, but the fact is that he started working on it in 1962... He contracted Giotto Bizzarrini (who designed ferrari's 250 GTO engine) to design the engine, in 1963 the engine was finished, it was much more advanced than the 250 GTO engine, it had twin camshafts on every row of cilinder s and produced 360 Hp. So, the Lamborghini-story could start...

The engine was built in his tractor-factory, but his completely new car factory was built in Sant'Agata Bolognese, only a few kilometers from Ferrari's factory in Modena. The plant was 46000 square meters and one of the most modern car factory's in the world. In 1970 Lamborghini was one of the last independent car manufacturers ( Ferrari was taken over by Fiat in 1969), business was not going well and his son Antonio was not interested in running the factory. In 1972 he decided to sell 51% of his stock to Rosetti, and later that year he sold the rest to Leimer, he ran the factory for them until 1974 when he left the company and started producing wine. Today it's one of Italy's biggest wine producers with over 900.000 bottles a year. He build a golf-course and rumors say that he was involved in the restart of the famous Bugatti, but that's never been confirmed. Sadly this great man is no longer with us, he died on 20 february 1993.

The Lamborghini Espada was based on two Bertone show cars: the Marzal and the Pirana, the first was based on a lengthened Miura chassis with a V6 (One row of the famous V12) and the Pirana on a Jaguar E-type chassis. The design of the Marzal was to radical for Lamborghini, and a Lambo must have a V 12 and not a 6 cilinder. But the basic idea of both cars was Feruccio Lamborghini's ideal car. So, Lamborghini and Marcello Gandini from Bertone started working on the Espada, No mid-engined V6, but the "standard" V12 in the front, the first prototype had wing-doors but later they decided to put normal doors in the car.

Before the design of the Piranha was modified to become the new Lamborghini Espada four-seater, Bertone prepared a more challenging design ready for this all-new Lamborghini.

Using gullwing doors like on their Marzal, the first Espada prototype looked very futuristic, since Ferruccio Lamborghini really disliked the glass panels in the lower parts of the Marzal doors, they were removed on this Espada, a small front part of the side windows could be wound down for fresh air, because of the sheer size of these doors, special struts were mounted to keep them open with the weight of the glass panels not helping to reduce the mass of them. But because they were so big, entry to the rear seats was very easy.

Big air holes appeared on the front fenders, later on the Espada production car they were still there but luckily became a little smaller, also the Naca ducts in the engine hood were used on the production units as where the four big round headlamps,a trademark for the successful Espada series.

This prototype was completely finished and was driven by the Lamborghini test drivers, but Ferruccio deemed this design to be just a little over the edge, he saw the Piranha based on Jaguar mechanics at the Bertone Design Studio and demanded his Espada to be loosely based on this design instead of the daring prototype he received.

The final design had the more lean and un-clustered looks of the Pirna, however streched a little, looked very long, but it wasn't: 474 cm, the size of a normal car like the Ford Mustang, but it was so low (118 cm.) and wide (186 cm.). Although some say the Espada was made of aluminium: they are not, the car is made of steel and only the bonnet is aluminium.

We now know the original Espada as Series I, from 1970 on the Series II was produced (official 400 GTE Espada), it had an improved dashboard, vented discs all around, and a 350 Hp. (serie I 325 Hp.) engine. On the Series II power assisted steering was an optional accessories.

In 1973 the Series III was introduced, it had a slightly different nose, p.a.s. and air-condition were standard and the brakes and suspension were improved. The dashboard was renewed again and an automatic gearbox was optional ( this was a Chrysler Torqueflite which was a shame, it switched at 4800 Rpm, while maximum torque comes in at 5500 and the engine is willing to rev until 7500 Rpm.) For years the Espada was the fastest saloon-car in the world, it's top speed is over 250 Km/h.


The Espada production numbers

Type Series                   1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 Total

Espada 400 GT   S1          1     37    149                                                                  186

Espada 400 GTE S2                  2    228   196   151                                                  575

Espada 400 GT   S3                                    3    10  187   140   48    33    24     21     463


What the press said:


Malcolm McKay, Classic Cars & Thoroughbread, 5-'95:

"Well, I have to say it, driving the Espada is the next best thing to sex. The exhilaration, the excitement....there is no better comparison."


Mark-Anthony Conti, Classic Cars & Thoroughbread, 5-'95:

"I found nothing in the car to disappoint me. It's more of a sports car than I expected, and is a grand tourer par excellence. One day I will buy one."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 December 2010 10:40