The British motorway service areas are great places. Not only can you get gastronomic experiences you can’t get anywhere else, you can also rely on seeing something in the car park. Often, you won’t want to linger to eat it or examine it, but sometimes you do. And this was one of those days.
I can’t remember the previous time I saw a Lamborghini Espada in the metal, even in a museum collection. So, to see one, on a day like this English summer morning, parked up and ticking gently as it cooled, with space around it to look (but not touch!), was a treat well worth getting up early for. It was even worth enduring the services for.
The Espada has been covered on CC previously, when JPCavanaugh saw one at an unexpected location. But a quick recap: introduced in 1967 with a 4.0 litre V12 under perhaps the lowest and flattest bonnet ever, it looked like a concept car. Like the Lamborghini Marzal in fact, shown at the Geneva Motor Show in 1967 by Bertone, and styled by the immortal Marcello Gandini.
The Espada was that show car toned down just a bit – the doors were no longer all glass and gullwing opening, and the dash brought much more inline with what you might expect from an Italian supercar. Power was from a 345bhp version of Lamborghini’s glorious V12 rather than the mere 2.0 litre V6 of the Marzal. This is a series II car, with minor external changes and a revised interior.
You may feel the Espada has not aged that well. Maybe, but pause and consider this. This particular car dates back to 1970, the time of the Austin Maxi, the Plymouth Road Runner and the Ford Torino. They aren’t many cars of 1970 that are as at home on a bedroom wall now as they were then. This, the Miura and the Daytona? That’s about it.
The Espada came just 5 years after the Jaguar E Type 2 seat Coupe and just one year after the E-Type 2+2 Coupe. Given how it looks now, against the 1966 E-Type it must have been astonishing. You may feel it is the best looking 2+2 ever, and, much as I like the E-Type, I’m not sure I’d argue.
Of course, it’s not the longest running 2+2 around, or even in that car park. Perhaps that honour can be handed to the Porsche 911. OK, there have been six major variations over 51 years, but in terms of style, configuration and place in the market, little if anything has changed beyond recognition.
Just two parking slots from the Espada was this 1972 Porsche 911T. The 911T was actually the entry level 911, with a 130bhp, 2.4 litre version of the everlasting Porsche air-cooled flat-6. The mainstream 911 had 165bhp and the 911S had 190bhp in Europe, and in the US market power was inevitably a little lower. 130bhp may not sound a lot for a 911, but a 1973 Rover 2200TC had 98bhp, so the power gain for the Porsche was around 30%. In 2014, an Audi A4 2.0 litre is around 210bhp and an entry level Porsche Boxster starts at around 260bhp, so there is a valid comparison to be made – the Porsche has a proportionally similar advantage over the Audi as its predecessor did over the Rover.
This example is one of the few cars you could imagine looking good in a shade that can be politely termed chocolate brown. Of course, the condition of this car and those superbly styled Fuchs alloy wheels help a lot.
Being a 911T had few downsides – it’s a bit slower, but any 40 year old car is going to feel slow today compared with its modern equivalent. Also, of course, with less power you’re going more slowly when you get to the corner and discover your speed exceeds your talent, which was always a risk with a classic 911. And the flat-6 will make the same noise as its powerful siblings.
So, two cars that were milestones in 1970 and 1972, and maybe what we thought we’d all be driving on the motorway. More than to make you linger in a motorway services car park, before you’ve had a proper English breakfast. Quite an achievement, and a great start to the day.