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Lamborghini Espada: Buying guide & review (1968-1978)

Lamborghini Espada Lamborghini Espada Lamborghini Espada Lamborghini Espada Lamborghini Espada
Do cars come any cooler than the Lamborghini Espada? Stunning yet ever-so-slightly quirky to look at, a glorious engine and room for four all add up to making this Grand Tourer a truly fascinating classic. With striking Bertone styling inspired by the Lamborghini Marzal and the Bertone Jaguar Piraña concepts, at its launch in 1968 the Espada looked quite unlike anything else – and it still remains that way to this day.
 
Perhaps even more surprising than its concept-car looks is the way it feels from behind the wheel. Unlike its live axle-suspended contemporaries from Ferrari, the Espada features a fully independent suspension, which combined with the wide track and low centre of gravity endow it with a level of body control quite unlike any other sixties GT. Moving away from the Miura’s separate frame to an advanced monocoque structure allowed the V12 to be neatly packaged up front. 
 
It remains a car primarily set up for cruising, albeit one which loves to rev. The Espada’s engine is a variation of the 3.9-litre V12 fitted to the Miura. Smaller carbs reduce overall power output, but it’s still good for as much as 350bhp at 7500rpm, revving all the way to 8000. The long shift action of the gearbox doesn’t like to be rushed, and suits the relaxed nature well. 
 
It’s even practical, too. There is genuine space for four adults inside, and the boot is wide and square. Perhaps due to this more practical nature, the car lived on for ten years, remaining a sales success for the company. Although sales were beginning to drop off, production stopped in 1978 due to a less than perfect outlook for the company. An icy relationship between Lamborghini and Bertone (who built the bodies), as well as other suppliers keeping their distance from the small company meant that the plug was pulled in an attempt to give the Countach more of a fighting chance.  
 
Is the Espada a perfect classic then? Well, there are one or two things to look out for to avoid financial disaster, but find one in good order and it’ll be hard to find something more distinctive.
 
Which one to buy?
 
With 1217 models built over a ten year period, the Espada was the most successful Lamborghini until the Countach. They are rare today though, and as a result the number available for sale at any one time is very small.
 
The Espada was produced in three distinct versions: Series 1, 2 and 3. The most common, and indeed the most desirable of the three are S2 models. The S2’s V12 received a 25bhp boost in power relative to earlier models, and its cabin features a larger rectangular dash to house the instruments. 
 
S3 examples came with power steering and air conditioning as standard. While PAS is useful, the rack doesn’t feel painfully heavy without it. It isn’t a ‘must have’ feature even if it is a desirable one. The dashboard changed again, with a box section above the centre console bringing many of the controls closer to the driver. Wheels changed from the knock-off items also fitted to the Miura to more modern five-stud items. 
 
Espadas sold to the USA were fitted with 5mph impact bumpers, which rather detracted from the purity of Gandidni’s lines, while later examples also got an anti-smog device to comply with tightening emissions regulations. Thankfully the company managed to engineer this ‘Smog pump’ to cut out at high revs, leaving power unaffected. After 1976, all European Espadas also received the larger impact bumpers, and are slightly less expensive as a result.
 
As much as restoration projects may seem tempting, such examples will likely need tens of thousands of pounds spent on them to get them back to their best – particularly if any engine work is required.
 
An automatic gearbox was offered for the first time in a Lamborghini too, but the Chrysler-sourced three-speed TorqueFlite transmission was not a good match for the high-revving engine. The ‘box was set to change up at 4800rpm – 700rpm short of the V12’s torque peak. This transmission also severely limited the car’s acceleration off the line, so it’s not the most desirable specification to have today.
 
Didn’t they build a four-door Espada? Not officially, but the coachbuilder Frua put together a concept car for the 1978 Turin motor show, called the Faena. This four-door model was extended by 18cm, and featured a higher rear roof line and larger rear end. The car was shown again at Geneva in 1980, but failed to attract any buyers, meaning that just one car exists. 
 
Performance and specs
 
Engine 3929cc V12
Power 325bhp @ 6500rpm (350bhp @ 7500rpm)
Torque 290lb ft @ 5500rpm
Top speed 155mph
0-60mph 6.5secs
Fuel consumption approx 16mpg
Gearbox Five speed manual, two-speed automatic
 
Dimensions and weight
 
Wheelbase 2650mm
Length 4674mm
Width 1821mm
Height 1191mm
Weight 1480kg
 
Common problems
 
• The quality of steel used for the Espada’s construction wasn’t exactly the finest, and as a result rust can pop up pretty much anywhere – the front valance, A-pillars and bonnet are all common spots. Body panels are rare and expensive, so make sure everything is visually sound.
 
• It’s worth taking a look for the rot in harder to reach places if you can, like the boot floor beneath the fuel tanks. That’s ‘tanks’, plural, as the Espada has two, with a total volume of 95 litres. The fuel filler caps are hidden beneath the black grilles on each of the rear quarter panels.
 
• Give the wheels a quick once-over. They are made from a magnesium alloy, and are prone to corrosion.
 
• Given the relatively low mileages these cars tend to have covered in their life, the numerous cow hides used to trim the gorgeous interior, seats and dashboard should still be looking good. Spares can be difficult to track down, and re-trimming is surprisingly expensive. 
 
• The engine has many expensive components, so full rebuilds can easily rack up into five-figure sums. If you can find one with a recent engine rebuild, it'll be a huge bonus. If the mileage is heading towards 60,000 and there is no evidence of previous work, be prepared to budget for a full strip-down. Fortunately, spare parts are still in good supply.
 
• Just like the rest of the powertrain, exhaust systems are pricey. If the original is damaged or corroded, there are many higher quality stainless items to choose from among aftermarket suppliers. Expect to pay over £2,000 for the best parts.
 
• Setting up six Weber carburettors to work in perfect harmony is a complicated (and therefore expensive, if outsourced) process. They are reliable though, and shouldn’t need much fettling once they’re in order. 
 
Model history
 
March 1968: Espada S1 launched at the Geneva Motor Show
December 1969: Espada S2 launched at Brussels Motor Show. Gains 25bhp, redesigned interior and subtle exterior styling tweaks.
December 1972: Espada S3 launched. Updates include a redesigned dash, new five-stud alloy wheels, revised mesh grille and Alfa Romeo 2000-sourced tail lights replace the previous Fiat 124 Sport Coupe units.
1974: Two-speed automatic transmission available
1975: Impact bumpers fitted to comply with US safety regulations
1978: Espada production run ends
 
Owners clubs, forums and websites
 
• www.lamborghiniclub.co.uk – Big UK owners club
• www.lamborghiniregistry.com – International Lamborghini community and forum
• www.lambocars.com – All the latest Lamborghini news
 
Summary and prices
 
As with many sixties Italian classics (and the market in general) values for Espadas are going through the roof. Barely a few years ago it was possible to pick up fine examples for £40,000-£50,000, now, expect to pay between £120,000-£130,000 for the best.
 
Cars which need some work with marginally higher mileages are priced at around the £100,000 mark. At the lower end of the price range, getting your hands on an S3 restoration project will likely not result in much change from £60,000.
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Last updated: 13th Jul 2016
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Lamborghini Espada cars for sale

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Lamborghini Espada
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  • Lamborghini Espada 4,0 400 GT

    €171,300(£152,731.08) €171,300(£152,731.08)

    Lamborghini Espada 4,0 400 GT Equipment: Meget fin stand kun kørt 47000 km fra ny Har været afmeldt siden 1985 DK bil fra ny skal ses og opleves ring for info

    • Year: 1977
    For sale
    CC Cars
  • 1973 Lamborghini Espada Coupe

    $149,500(£122,186.35) $149,500(£122,186.35)

    Ferruccio Lamborghini was one of the wealthiest industrialists in Italy and a Ferrari owner, but he considered Ferraris unrefined as grand touring cars – suited only for racing.  Enzo Ferrari responded angrily, insulting Lamborghini who immediately set out to create a better grand touring car than Ferrari with the world’s richest and most powerful as the desired audience. The first Lamborghini was introduced just four months later at the 1963 Turin Auto Show. Lamborghini constructed a modern production facility near Bologna and completed 273 two-seat front-engine 3.5-liter V-12 350 GT coupes in 1964, the first year of production.  That car quickly became the 400 GT with a larger 3.9-liter V-12 and 2+2 seating.  The spectacular mid-engine V-12 Miura unveiled in chassis-only form at the Turin Auto Show in 1965 was intended as a display car, but went into production as the worlds first Supercar in 1966.  The Miura was followed two years later by the revolutionary Espada, fulfilling Lamborghini’s vision of a true grand touring car seating four adults in luxury with performance and styling as dramatic as anything Lamborghini had previously produced. Lamborghini later described the Espada as “my Rolls-Royce; still quite fast but also large and comfortable”.  The Espada was styled by Marcello Gandini at Bertone, who also styled the Miura, derived from the earlier Lamborghini Marzal concept car.  The Espada was powered by the same Giotto Bizzarrini-designed 3.9-liter 60-degree dohc V-12 engine as the Miura, mounted in the front of the car driving the rear wheels through a 5-speed Lamborghini gearbox.  Like all Lamborghinis of the period, chassis development was undertaken under joint heads of the technical department:  Giampaolo Dallara and Paolo Stanzani.  In production trim, the Espada was capable of a top speed of 155 mph, making it then the fastest four-passenger automobile in the world.  The Espada was offered in three series [S1, S2, S3] between 1968 and 1978 with running changes and slight differences between series.  A total of only 1,217 Espadas were produced, still making it the most successful of all Lamborghini models up to that time. The Espada Series III offered here is finished in classic Rosso red with a light tan leather interior.  The car has been repainted to a very high standard, with straight panels and very good panel fit throughout.  The car is equipped with signature knock-off Campagnolo magnesium alloy wheels.  The interior has never been restored and is in good original condition.  Beautiful supple leather covers the seats, door panels, center console and trim.  The stylish suede-covered Series III dashboard is in very good condition and is one of the most distinguishing interior features, placing most of the gauges and controls directly in front of the driver and re-positioning the Philips am/fm cassette player to the driver’s left.  Aluminum trim on the dashboard and console and a leather wrapped steering wheel both replaced wood used in earlier series, updating and brightening the control area considerably.  The floor area, doorsills and the large, flat cargo area are all covered with a darker plush carpet, and it is hard to say enough good things about the superlative rear seats.  The underhood area is nicely detailed to a standard complimenting the rest of the car.   Mechanically, the car runs and drives wonderfully.  Included with the sale are tools, a jack, spare belts, owner’s and radio manuals. This is a very pretty car; an important part of early Lamborghini history, cars that are increasingly being appreciated by collectors and investors alike.  The Espada cost more than a Miura when new.  Added to the visual and investment appeal is the fact that this car can also be enjoyed regularly in any number of ways.  Drives or dinners with children or another couple, regional and marque events, and – as it was originally intended – fast, long distance touring in comfort and luxury are all engaging possibilities.

    For sale
  • Lamborghini Espada S2

    €225,000(£200,610) €225,000(£200,610)

    Is there any cooler car than the Lamborghini Espada ? This stunning looking car, based on the striking Bertone designed Lamborghini Marzal concept, was quite unlike anything else on the road when it was launched in 1968. This Italian grand tourer still looks as fascinating today, with a glorious engine and room for four. Perhaps even more surprising than its exotic looks is the way it feels from behind the steering wheel. The Espada features a fully independent suspension, and the combination of the wide track and low centre of gravity endows it with an uncomparable level of body control, certainly compared to other sixties GT's with a live-axle suspension set-up. It remains a car primarily set up for cruising though, albeit one which loves to rev. The Espada’s engine is a variation of the 3.9-litre V12 fitted to the Miura. Smaller carburettors reduce overall power output, but it’s still good for as much as 375 bhp at 7500 rpm, revving all the way to 8000. The long shift action of the gearbox doesn’t like to be rushed, and suits the relaxed nature well. It’s even practical, too. There is genuine space for four adults inside, and the boot is wide and square. This fantastic example i

    • Year: 1971
    • Mileage: 68748 mi
    For sale
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