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Lamborghini Espada

Published: 8th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!
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Lamborghini Espada
Lamborghini Espada
Lamborghini Espada
Lamborghini Espada
Lamborghini Espada
Lamborghini Espada
Lamborghini Espada
Lamborghini Espada
Lamborghini Espada

Buyer Beware

  • An engine rebuild can be ruinously expensive, as much as £1200 per cylinder. Make sure you know exactly what you are looking at, or take somebody with you who does. Engines should be quiet without any rattles or rumbles, although a little smoke from the exhaust is not unusual.
  • Engines can overheat, so look for signs of oil and water mixing (such as mayonnaise under the oil filler cap), and make sure it gets up to temperature promptly and then stays there whether cruising or idling.
  • A general lack of power could be just poor valve clearances or a worn distributor, but can you properly assess whether a fearsome V12 supercar is down on power?
  • Don’t dismiss a blowing exhaust. Manifolds can cost two grand, while a full system can cost more than double that. Look for bodges.
  • Manual gearboxes can leak a bit of fluid over the years, but if run low they will get noisy. Jumping out of gear or other selection woes will mean time for a rebuild, and another £2500 from your Espada’s fighting fund.A whining rear axle could mean that the oil has run low (they do leak), while clonks could be down to broken shims inside. Either way, expect to pay £3000 for a proper rebuild.
  • The Espada can be predictably heavy on suspension and steering. If it feels vague or anything less than confidence-inspiring, you may be in for an overhaul costing up to £3000.
  • Brakes should be good and strong. If not and the discs/pads look fine, then the servos could well have failed.
  • Road wheels were magnesium alloy, and can become corroded by salt easily. If you need new ones, they cost £500 each.
  • N
  • ew panels are not available, and repairs will soon add up to more than the car’s value. Basically, what you see is what you get, with the two provisos that small bubbling usually means big repairs and all too often, bodge-and-polish merchants will have been there before you.
  • Trim is generally both hard to find and very expensive (new bumpers are around £3000 each), so make sure it is all there and in good condition, or that you can live without it if not.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 4/5

    Impressive even to this day with awesome V12 and good handling

  • Usability: 3/5

    If in good order not overly thirsty and fairly useable as a 2+2

  • Maintaining: 3/5

    No harder than other exotica but parts are becoming very scarce

  • Owning: 3/5

    More a case of ‘what’s that’ rather than popular appreciation

  • Value: 3/5

    Cheap to buy but not to run or restore so buy the best you can

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It is radical, exotic and over-the-top. But for a high octane cocktail of Seventies chic and playboy excess at tempting prices, the Lamborghini Espada takes some beating reckons Simon Goldsworthy

Let’s get one thing clear right from the start. As far as genuine supercars go, the Lamborghini Espada is just about as affordable as they get. But if you think that makes it a cheap car, then you are wrong. Forget the initial purchase price - plenty of us could swing a loan or mortgage extension to cover that. Keeping a quad cam V12 engine and six twin choke downdraft Webers on song is what could bankrupt us, that or trying to resurrect a bad car bought on the cheap. Now, we don’t normally start a feature by dwelling on the downside of a car, but in this case we are willing to make an exception. As the editor so rightly pointed out in June’s editorial, the ‘Mondial-for- Mondeo-money’ myth is peddled by the press because it is a handy cover line, not because it really stacks up in practice. So, having got that particular misconception out of the way, let’s get on to the positives. Chief of which are a quad cam V12 and six twin choke downdraft Webers! Yes, this is the real supercar deal with storming performance, good handling and genuine seating for four all wrapped up in a highly distinctive classy, glassy body.

Which model to buy?

You need to keep some perspective here and actually, the first question should be: which car to buy? That’s because there were only around 50 original RHD cars built for the UK, along with a handful more for other RHD markets. Lamborghini Club UK knows most of them very well, so join them before buying an Espada and you could avoid a lot of heartache. As David Price of LCUK says: “We know the pitfalls and joys of having such a brilliant and intense car as an Espada and can pass that information and experience to new members so they aren’t in the land of the befuddled or feel they have ended up with a monster with which they cannot cope.” This is particularly important as the model soon gained a reputation for being something of a budget supercar, so there are plenty of tired and poorly maintained cars out there. Nothing will take the shine off Espada ownership faster than finding you have bought a money pit, so always go for the best car you can afford and, better still, have it checked out by a specialist who really knows what to look for. If you do end up with a choice of Espadas, the differences are not that huge, and there are so many non-standard and crossover cars out there, that the following is at best only a rough guide. The Series 1 cars were distinguished by a curious hexagonal instrument cluster and vertical slats on that upright rear glass. They also had knock on alloy wheels with spinners. These changed to more conventional five bolt wheels for the Series 2 of December 1969, the same time as the dash lost its quirkiness. As well as getting a modest power boost, the Series 2 cars also got vented disc brakes all round and the option of power steering. The Series 3 cars from December 1972 showed only detail changes on the outside for a neater overall package. American spec cars got impact absorbing bumpers, and these made their way onto all cars for the last two years of production. On the inside, the dash was altogether more sophisticated with a curving centre console rather than the earlier cars’ flat offering, and this helps to make the Series 3 cars generally the most desirable. The Chrysler-sourced automatic gearbox is tough, but not totally matched to the engine’s characteristics and so generally unpopular.

Behind the wheel?

rev counter red lines tantalisingly at 7000 rpm… speedo at 180!

Unlike most so-called four seater supercars, the Espada offers both comfort and space aplenty for two in the back. The downside is, of course, that the engine has to sit up front and give more of a Grand Tourer character than mid-engined barn stormer. Mind you, performance is all relative and the Espada wears its fighting bull with pride. That front mounted engine sits under a massive bonnet complete with a pair of NACA ducts (for cabin ventilation rather than to feed the engine) and breathes through no fewer than six twin choke Webers. When launched back in 1968, it was actually the fastestfour-seater in the world. Don’t let the family four-seater tag fool you either, because the styling is anything but bland. With the upswept lower lines and the downward curve to the roof, it is a dramatic coupe that ends in an abrupt Kamm tail, complete with a trademark upright glass panel above the tail lights to improve rearward visibility. The very wide doors make a dignified entry and exit highly achievable. The seats are thin and rather firm, but are comfortable enough and giving some lateral support without ever coming close to pinching. Overall, the interior feels angular rather than opulent, having a hard-edged feel that goes so well with the exterior styling that is so graceful from some angles and so clumsy from others. Visibility out the back is surprisingly good, thanks to the trademark rear glass. The opening hatch is heated too, in case you want to see the sky. Rear seat passengers get a decent cushion to sit on, sufficient headroom and good visibility. Leg room is adequate too, so long as those up front aren’t hogging it all. And you can still carry enough luggage for a weekend break for four. All four seats are set far apart, and even the wide transmission tunnel fails to make much of a dent into the width. Up front, the driving position is typically knees high Italian. Headroom is adequate, surprisingly so given the car’s low stance from the outside. The deep screen is sharply raked, and there is no need to hunch down to see out. The view out the front is best summed up as subdued aggressiveness: the wings curve over the front wheels, but the bonnet is an otherwise flat expanse of aircraft carrier proportions. Being a big car, the feeling of space is both real and palpable, helped no doubt by a large glass area and thin pillars. Ahead of the driver, the plain metal dash on our test car is stacked with dials on every square inch, including an ammeter and a voltmeter as well as both temperature and pressure gauges for the oil. The big rev counter red lines tantalisingly at 7000rpm while the speedometer tops out at 180mph! If the six twin-choke Webers are set up correctly, an Espada will start easily and idle docilely. Often they are slightly out of synch, although this is betrayed by nothing more than a slight hesitation when you step on the gas. The stubby gear lever has plenty of travel in all directions, particularly side-to-side, although first and third will have your fingers caressing the heater controls. The clutch is truly man-sized, those dual servo brakes more adequate rather than aweinspiring, while the power steering is perfectly weighted to suit the characteristics of the car. These characteristics are of an effortless tourer. With so much torque available, the big V12 will pull fifth gear easily from just 20mph. From there, it is all too easy to glance down and realise with a shock that although the engine has barely spun past 4000rpm, you are actually travelling at over 100mph. Sometimes quite a way over the magic ton. Only the period wind noise gives any clue to this speed as the ride remains exceptionally smooth. Not that the Lambo is just a boulevard cruiser. For what is a very long car indeed, it handles very well, helped by a wide track and some fat tyres. It is pretty supple too, the wishbone set up at each corner soaking up the bumps well but keeping body roll through the corners to a minimum.

Ease of Ownership?

It is foolish to spend all your savings just to put one on the drive

Yes, the Lamborghini is only a car and it is powered by an internal combustion engine. As such, it should not be beyond the ability of a competent DIY spannerman to do their own maintenance. But the ramifications of getting it wrong can be enormous, as the cost of professional repairs can make grown men cry. That is why so many owners opt for a professional annual service from around £2000 to keep on top of the maintenance, seeing this as the cheaper long-term option. Whether you are doing the work yourself or paying somebody else, some parts can be very expensive, others surprisingly affordable if you shop around plus you’ll be surprised at how many bits can be interchanged with other cars of that era. But at the end of the day, the Espada is an executive supercar, built by craftsmen with little room for compromise. Starting around £15K, they may have fallen to levels that we mere mortals can afford, but it is pretty foolish to spend all your savings just to put one on your drive. You’ll find the whole experience to be so much more enjoyable if you have enough left over for running repairs and specialist help because - as a recent Top Gear programme brilliantly proved - there’s nothing worse that a clapped out supercar to sap your enthusiasm. Or bank balance.

The Daily Option?

If you think the Espada makes a viable daily driver, then you have not been paying attention. As well as being costly to maintain, it is very big, fast and if you see the cheap side of 20mpg, then you are obviously not using it properly. In theory, if you had deep enough pockets you could enjoy driving it every day, but you’d be probably the first person to give it a try!

Timelines

1964

Italian tractor magnate Ferruccio Lamborghini gets into car production with the 350GT, allegedly because he was dissatisfied with his treatment by Ferrari.With styling by Scaglione and a V12 engine by Bizzarrini, the new Lamborghini shoots right to the top of the prestige supercar tree.

1966

Legendary Miura coupe debuts with same quad-cam V12, this time mounted amidships and a claimed 180mph capability, although it’s reckoned the car fell short of this. Nevertheless, the Miura was regarded as the ultimate supercar of its day.

1967

Marcello Gandini at Bertone produces the Marzal show car, a four seat Lamborghini with rear mounted six-cylinder engine and gullwing doors. It looks strange and doesn’t handle well, so Lamborghini rejects it and opts for the more conservative Islero with a body styled discretely by Carrosseria Marazzi as a successor to the 350GT/400GT.

1968

Gandini goes back to Lamborghini with an alternative front engine proposal and, once he ditches the gullwing doors, this becomes the Espada - the matador’s sword. Introduced at the Geneva motor show, 150mph and a 0-60mph time of under eight seconds were awesome for such a large four-seater coupe.

1970

Islero production comes to a close, while the Series 2 Espada takes over after just 186 Series 1 cars produced. Power increased to 350bhp and top speed to 155mph. Power steering is an option.With 575 sold, this is the most numerous of all the Espada iterations.

1972

Series 3 gets yet more power, this time a healthy 365bhp from the same capacity. Power steering and air conditioning are now officially fitted as standard, though you will find cars that were built without - specifications were notoriously variable due to bespoke production.

1978

Espada finally bows out after a highly commendable 456 Series 3 cars and a grand total of 1217 Espadas are sold in a decade, making it one of the company's most successful models. However it is rarely spoken in classic car circles to this day as enthusiasts steer towards old Ferraris and Maseratis.

We Reckon...

Most people either love or hate the Espada's quirky looks. Presumably if you are in the market for one, then you fall into the former camp and will need no persuading on that score. In which case, you can look forward to awesome performance allied to supreme luxury, all wrapped up in a package that will turn heads wherever you go. The only downside is that while decent cars may start from as little as £15,000, the running costs are serious stuff, and they only get worse if you try to skimp on the care.


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