The Espada was Lamborghini’s brilliant follow-up to the Miura, almost equally ground-breaking and influential. It showed that Lamborghini was not just a one-trick pony, and was a force to be reckoned with. Just like the Miura pioneered the mid-engine supercar, the Espada essentially created a new genre: a full four-seater (not just a 2+2) ultra-high performance coupe with leading edge designer styling. Not surprisingly, both were styled by Marcello Gandini, at Bertone.
Given its unique qualities, able to sit four in reasonable comfort, it’s not a stretch to apply the Personal Luxury Coupe (“PLC”) moniker to it, which is more commonly applied to American coupes. But I have a specific reason for doing so, as this review will be immediately followed by a review of a genuine American PLC in the same issue, one that cost one quarter of the Espada’s lofty $21,000 ($150,000 adjusted). It will make for an interesting comparison; it’s too bad R&T didn’t make it back then.
Before we get into the review, the Espada and Gandini’s 1967 Marzal concept (above), on which the Espada was based, were the two cars I most obsessed on at the time of their arrival in 1967 and 1968. I was fifteen, and followed new cars from all over the world religiously, but these two simply blew me away.
Why more than the mid-engine supercars? Precisely because these were legitimate four passenger cars, and in my mind, infinitely better looking than the pony cars at the time (Why couldn’t the ’67 Camaro look like this?), and the new flock of PLCs that arrived in 1969, starting with the Pontiac Grand Prix. (Why can’t the GP look like this?).
And I’ve been asking myself that ever since. Well, obviously the Espada had some influence (along with a few other Italians at the time) on the second generation of pony cars. Not so much so on the PLCs, needless to say. Or sorry to say.
So on to the review.
R&T notes that the Espada “seating package is roughly equivalent to that of an American pony car, but flattened and stretched”. And its interior was of course vastly more seductive than the rather spartan pony cars, but that’s where some of the big bucks go to.
Looks a lot more inviting than the black cave of a Mustang fastback’s rear seat.
But R&T was disappointed in the poor workmanship of many details, given the lofty price.
Of course it wasn’t just styling that differentiated the Espada from American pony cars and PLCs. Under its long hood resided the 4 liter V12 rated at 390 hp @7000 rpm. 390 hp wasn’t exactly earth-shattering in the US in 1969, although from engines typically more like with 7 liters, and at 5500 rpm, or so.
Performance was good, with a 0-60 of 6.5 seconds, and the 1/4 mile in 15.0 @100 mph. Right in American muscle-car territory. or even a well-endowed PLC. And the 1/4 mile was only a half second slower than the Miura, due to a faster-shifting transmission. Of course top speed was another matter, as the Espada’s was well over 150 mph, although not confirmed in this test.
R&T sums up that the Espada was a reasonably practical family car, considering its pedigree, although the quality lapses (and less than stellar brakes) did diminish the overall experience.
So what did Detroit offer that was most closely comparable to the Espada?