The cars we loved.
The Espada was Lamborghini’s first breakout success. Hard to imagine if you saw the ugly Urraco/Marzal concept cars it was based on. Bertone had designed the Marzal for Lamborghini and featured it at the 1967 Geneva Auto Show. It was said that after seeing a similar project designed using Jaguar mechanicals called the Pirana at Bertone’s studio, Ferruccio Lamborghini himself demanded that the production car look more like the Pirana and less like the futuristic Marzal and Urraco drones. The Marzal no doubt ended up being the inspiration for more than a few late 60’s/early 70’s Hotwheels cars.
The change in direction was a good one, as the Espada was an instant hit. The name meaning sword in Spanish, referred to bullfighter’s weapon of choice to slay bulls. The low slung car look like a bull about to charge and easily could have been mistaken for a Detroit muscle car up from Plymouth or Ford. Only the fat rear would have given it away to the casual observer. The rear was a kind of bulky fast back hatch opening glass design. It looked rear heavy from some angles, but overall the design worked. With over 1,200 units sold, a lot of buyers agreed.
Never intended as an all out performance car, the Espada was a big comfortable grand tourer. 2 + 2 seating offered four passengers comfort while delivering the performance that comes with a 325 hp 4.0 litre V12 with dual overhead cams. Like the outgoing 400 Gt that it replaced, the Espada featured four-wheel disc brakes, a fully independent suspension and a traditional front engine rear wheel drive layout. Large for the time, the Espada’s stable ride at high speed performance came courtesy of 15 inch wheels on wide tires. On a good day the 3000+ lb. Espada could go from 0 to 60 in the six second range and reach 160 mph. Like most premium cars of the time, air conditioning and power windows were standard, but came mostly with 5 speed manual transmissions. There were a few 3 speed automatics, one of the first coupled to a V12 engine.
There were three distinct variations of the Espada, distinguished by production years. S1 cars were produced from 1968 to 1970. S2 cars 1970 to 1972 and the final series S3 were produced from 1972 to 1978. Each series got revamped interiors, but externally were mostly unchanged. After 1975 the Espada got large bumpers to comply with U.S. safety regulations. Officially there were never any variations beyond the hard top coupe, but some tuners made convertibles. Bertone even designed a four door sedan, but it too late in the Espada’s life cycle and never made it to production.
There was talk of bring back the Espada as a Diablo successor. There were conceptual drawings floating around the internet, but nothing became of it. Instead, Lamborghini created a sedan concept called the Estoque. The Estoque is likely to see production and join Panamera, Raptide and others in the high stakes supersedan market. That still leaves a void in Lamborghini’s line up that only a proper 2+2 gran touring car like the Espada can fill.