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Motoring: Lamborghini Espada - 1970

In the 1960s, Bertone's brilliant chief designer, Marcello Gandini, developed a new show car for one of Italy's wealthiest men, and its newest automaker, Ferrucio Lamborghini. Lamborghini's intent was to create superlative grand touring cars for the world's richest and most powerful men. Having started with the graceful 350 GT and 400 GT 2+2, he then began to focus on a successor - still powerful and agile, but more comfortable for long-distance travel. The result was the Marzal, which debuted to critical acclaim at the Geneva auto show in March 1967. Low and sleek, and powered by a rear-mounted six, it was as revolutionary at the time as the Countach would be later. The production version - the Espada - was introduced the next year, powered by Lamborghini's front-mounted 350-hp dual overhead camshaft V12.

With true four-place seating in a 46.5-inch-tall form, the Espada was unlike any previous GT. As Road & Track wrote in its 1970 road test, "The most satisfactory combination of four-passenger seating and practicality with thoroughbred GT performance and appearance we've yet encountered." The first Espadas had heavy steering, but power steering became optional in the Series II cars and standard with the third version. To get more room inside, the chassis was elongated and widened.

The second-series Espada was given a more powerful engine, as well as bigger bumpers on American versions to meet U.S. safety regulations. The Espada was in production for ten years, from 1968 to 1978. A total of 1,217 were built: 186 Series I, 575 Series II and 456 Series III. As with many small-production cars, a series of running changes is evident in Espadas, and it would not be unusual to see differences from car to car. For example, the Series III included a different rear bumper and taillights than the Series II's, and a unique dashboard that wraps around the driver's cockpit.

At the time of Espada's production, it was the most successful Lamborghini built in terms of absolute sales volume. The Espada had an exterior design as unique as the Miura's, being low, flat-topped and wide, like a Stealth Bomber with its rear stabilizers removed. At a cost (new) of $US21,000 in 1968, the Espada was $US1,750 more than the Miura. Even more surprising, the steel-bodied Espada tipped the scales at 3,307 pounds, just 457 pounds more than the two-seat supercar. Today the Espada stands alone as a V12 exotic that can transport four adults in comfort.

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