Automobili Lamborghini was founded only five years earlier, but things were looking great, its front engined 350 GT and the mid-engined Miura sold very well, the first model made was now already in its second generation with the Islero. But both cars only offered space for two people, the Islero was a 2+2, but the two rear seats were not very comfortable.
In 1968, Ferruccio decided to built a full four-seater Gran Turismo, and it was presented as the Espada 400 GT, whose styling was inspired by the Marzal prototype of 1966, the first Espada prototype even retained the gullwing door-design, but this was abandoned for the production model.
Marcello Gandini designed the Miura and the Marzal, and was also contracted to create the look of the new Espada, the engineering was largely done by Gianpaolo Dallara, though he didn’t change the already winning formula of Lamborghini, a front mounted V-12 engine, delivering it’s power through a 5-speed Lamborghini gearbox to the rear wheels.
Automatic transmission wasn’t available in the beginning of the production run, but it would become available on later Series. The Espada chassis was a strong fabricated pressed-steel platform, built by Marchesi of Modena, the engine was installed 7.9 inch further forward while an addition of 3.8 inch to the wheelbase freed up enough space for the four-seat cabin, note that an Espada is only about 100mm longer compared to the 400 GT 2+2.
The styling of the Espada was very sensational for the late Sixties, a real head-turner, with its wide track and low lines the car was very impressive. The front of the car, with quad circular headlamps and double NACA ducts in the hood, that fed not the engine but the ventilation for the interior, was simple but effective.
The interior featured four bucket-type seats, with enough space for the rear passengers, if the front seats weren’t pushed all the way back. The dashboard on this first series looked rather messy, but presented the driver with everything he might need, the first show car even had the Marzal steering wheel, but this was redesigned for the production units, the dashboard cluster inside this first series kept the hexagon styling Gandini also used on the Marzal.
On the 1968 Turin Auto Show, an Espada with a Lancomatic suspension was shown, it was made optionally available, but only a few Espada’s were ordered with it. This system was perfected by the German Langen company and replaced the normal spring/damper units with units who’s damping was controlled by the resistance of a fluid, but the system proved to be unreliable.
Only 186 Espada Series I were built, and today they are very hard to find, let alone find a good one, if you really want to buy an Espada, try finding a Series II car, and always remember, a V-12 powered Lamborghini seems to have 12 pieces of everything.
In 1970, a new Series II took over, with minor modifications, the basic Espada chassis would later be used for the Jarama 2+2, in a shortened form.