By 1967, Lamborghini was flourishing and the Sant'Agata factory was a hive of activity. Both the Miura and the 400GT were popular, but along with success, they shared another defining characteristic - neither was particularly spacious inside. Especially the two-seater Miura.
The next logical step, Ferruccio decreed, was a full four-seater Grand Touring car, capable of conveying four passengers and a decent amount of their luggage in great comfort at high speeds. As a first step towards this, Bertone's Marcello Gandini duly penned the four-seater Marzal concept, which debuted at the 1967 Geneva Motor Show.
The Marzal, with open doors.
To say that the the Marzal continued Lamborghini's tradition of space-age design would an understatement. Mid-engined like the Miura, albeit by an inline-six created by halving the Miura's four litre V12, it featured huge gullwing doors, glazed to sill level, and a glass roof panel. Remaining a one-off, it was used at the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix to ferry around Prince Rainier and Princess Grace.
The Marzal would play an important role in the development of the Espada, but so would another Gandini-designed car. This one, however, wasn't a Lamborghini, but a Jaguar.
The Jaguar Pirana.
For the 1967 Earls Court Motor Show, the Daily Telegraph newspaper (believe it or not) commissioned Bertone to create the Jaguar Pirana. Based on an E-Type chassis, the Pirana was supposed to be the embodiment of the "ideal modern car". It must certainly have struck a chord, because Gandini would ultimately combine many of its design elements with those of the Marzal to create the Espada's final form.
A contemporary publicity shot of the Espada.
The production Espada would also ultimately share the Pirana's engine and drivetrain layout. While the Miura's mid-engine design gave it great handling, it didn't exactly lend itself to creating interior space. As such, when Gainpaolo Dallara came to engineer the Espada, he took the 400GT's front engine/rear-wheel-drive layout as his starting point. Powering the car was the familiar Lamborghini V12, mated to a 5-speed Lamborghini gearbox (a Chrysler automatic transmission would later become an option).
Under the Espada's bonnet was Lamborghini's proven V12.
Placed in a pressed-steel chassis created by Marchesini of Modena, the Espada's engine was tuned to produce 325bhp, less than the 400GT, but better suited to long-distance cruising. All-independent wishbone coil suspension cushioned the ride and four disc brakes ensured the car had enough stopping power. In comparison to the 400GT, however, Dallara moved the engine forward by eight inches and added 4.2 inches to the car's width. All this combined to create the spacious cabin Ferruccio had specified. The Espada boasted four comfortable bucket seats, plenty of legroom for its jet-set passengers and space for ten cubic feet of their luggage, not to mention plenty of luxury. The seats were swathed in leather, windows were electric and rear seat passengers got their own individual air conditioning vents.
The leather-lined interior of an Espada.
For the body, Gandini seamlessly blended elements of the Marzal and Pirana. These included the Marzal's front decklid design, which wrapped over the car's wings and - in its new incarnation as the Espada's bonnet - gave excellent engine access, and the Pirana's upswept side rear windows, now elongated to provide the rear seat passengers with a better view. A glazed hatchback provided access to the luggage and, in an innovative design feature later borrowed by cars as diverse as the Maserati Khamsin and Toyota Prius, a full-width glass panel spanned the Espada's kamm tail, giving excellent rear visibility.
This rear three-quarter angle on the Espada clearly shows the unusual rear glazing.
With a top speed of 155 MPH and a price tag of $21,000, the Espada was revealed to the public at the 1968 Geneva Motor Show as the world's fastest four-seater. Its name continued the Lamborghini tradition of bullfighting association, "espada" being the Spanish name for a matador's sword.
A Series II was introduced in 1970, with a redesigned steering wheel and dashboard, new front grille, vented brakes, an increase of 25hp under the bonnet - and an illuminated centre armrest for the rear passengers! Power steering was also offered for the first time. This car was in turn superseded by the 1972 Series III, bedecked with another new grille and, from 1975, bigger bumpers to meet US crash regulations. The Series III also got another dashboard redesign as well as another power increase - this time taking the engine's output to 365bhp.
The Espada's sleek and timeless profile.
In its first year of production, just 37 Espada's were made, but production levels soon rose, and while the car's sales figures are thought to have been adversely affected by the early-seventies oil crisis, it still enjoyed a total production run of 1217 cars over a ten-year lifespan. As such, when it was finally retired in 1978, the Espada was the best-selling, and longest-lived Lamborghini yet.
LookSmart's Espada Models
Oddly, few models of the Espada were made during the car's production run. Polistil created a highly-detailed 1/43 model in their Politoys-M range which was copied by Nacoral in Spain. Germany's Siku also modelled the car in approximately 1/55 scale, producing a standard road car and, unusually, a Fire Chief version! Coincidentally, Politoys also modelled the Jaguar Pirana - and the Marzal. Indeed, the Marzal proved much more popular with modelmakers. Dinky, Edil, Matchbox, Zylmex, Playart, Yatming, Sablon and many others all modelled Gandini's concept car.
LookSmart have modelled the Espada in a number of colours, including this highly attractive burgundy with cream interior.
In addition, though, they've modelled an example of the car with a rather unusual feature. Later Espadas were offered with a sunroof as an option. But early on in the car's life, two were ordered with glass roof panels, similar to the one featured on the Marzal. LookSmart's range has also included a model of one of these cars.
One of the two glass-roofed Espadas...
...and the LookSmart 1/43 version.
Next Week: The Uracco Family