The late ’60s produced some really incredible cars. It was an era when the Ferrari 275 GTB/4 and the Lamborghini Miura were breaking production car speed records and ushering in the era of the supercar. But, these cars weren’t how the makers of exotic Italian machines were making their money — it’s something we sometimes forget today, but it was bigger 2+2 touring cars that were the bread and butter of high-end Italian sports car market at the time. Lamborghini was a bit late with its offering in this niche, but most would agree that it was worth the wait.

Lamborghini’s first 2+2 was the Espada, named for the Spanish word for “sword.” It was one of the more indirect references the company would use to bullfighting, but it still counts. Like the Miura, it offered outrageous styling, although the design was different enough to not look derivative. It also offered a ton of power and class-leading interior space. It should hardly come as a surprise that it became Lamborghini’s best-selling model for years to come. The car was tweaked several times over the years, and there are three different series of Espadas, but the biggest change from one to the next was always the interior design.

Continue reading to learn more about the Lamborghini Espada.

  • 1968 - 1978 Lamborghini Espada
  • Year:
    1968- 1978
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    350@7500
  • Torque @ RPM:
    5500
  • Displacement:
    3929 L
  • 0-60 time:
    5.9 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    152 mph
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

1968 - 1978 Lamborghini Espada High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 658419
The Espada drew on both of these cars for inspiration, although the engine was moved to the front and it got a pair of conventional doors.

The Espada was styled by Marcello Gandini, of Bertone. He had designed the Miura and would later design the Countach, and you can see an evolution of his ideas in these cars. Gandini had followed up the Miura with a couple of concept cars in 1967, the Lamborghini Marzal and the Jaguar Pirana. These cars were pretty similar, with the Jaguar being the more restrained version of the idea and the Lamborghini being more flamboyant.

The Marzal had gullwing doors made entirely of glass, and a rear-mounted engine to go with crazy futuristic interior. The Espada drew on both of these cars for inspiration, although the engine was moved to the front and it got a pair of conventional doors. But, with its similar shape to that of the concepts, it still looked like a car that could have had its engine in the back. It was a very bold design, the sort of thing you’d see in concepts, but only Lamborghini had the stones to put into production.

Interior

1968 - 1978 Lamborghini Espada High Resolution Interior
- image 658415

The interior of the Espada also borrows a lot from the Marzal concept, although some of the wackiness has again been toned down. The most important feature to carry over is the spacious four-seat layout. Considering this is the company’s first 2+2, the back seat is especially well executed. The dash in the concept had an eye-catching but impractical honeycomb pattern to it.

This was abandoned for the production version, but the Series 1 cars still took a more creative approach to the dash, with separate pods for some gauges, sitting in unnecessary tiers. This was done away with for the Series 2, but it was a charming sort of oddball quirk while it lasted, an appropriate sort of thing for a Lamborghini. For the Series 3, the trim was changed from wood to aluminum, but the layout remained largely the same. The car’s sloping center stack was still pretty rare in cars at this time, but Lamborghini made excellent use of it.

Drivetrain

1968 - 1978 Lamborghini Espada High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 658416
The car was initially offered with only a manual transmission, but an automatic was eventually offered

This was a period when Lamborghinis had thus far all been powered by V-12 engines, and the Espada followed suit. Really, it was all the same V-12 in different displacements and states of tune all of the was up until the Aventador got an all-new engine, and in this case it was a 3.9-liter version that put out 325 horsepower. This went up to 345 for the Series 2 and then back down to 321 for the Series 3.

This being one of the reasons why the Series 2 cars were the most popular version of the Espada. The engine had dual overhead cams and was fed fuel by six side-draft Weber carburetors. The car was initially offered with only a manual transmission, but an automatic was eventually offered, making the Espada one of the only cars at the time to offer both a big V-12 and an automatic transmission. Although most buyers would still opt for the manual.

Prices

1968 - 1978 Lamborghini Espada High Resolution Exterior
- image 658421

Before Lamborghini brought out the Espada, the company had never sold more than a couple hundred units of any model of car. But, the Espada proved very profitable, and would stay in production from 1968 to 1978, in that time selling 1,217 units. So this is not all that rare of a car, add to that the divisive nature such extreme styling and the fact that GT cars tend not to be as sought after as supercars and the Espada comes in at a fairly low price.

It’s not difficult to find examples in the $60,000 to $70,000 range, and rare examples, such as right-hand-drive Series 1 cars, will top out a little over $200,000. Cheapest of all are the cars made from 1975 to 1978, as these were fitted with big, ugly impact bumpers to meet the new U.S. safety regulations.

Competition

Ferrari 365 GT 2+2

1967 - 1971 Ferrari 365 GT 2+2
- image 658119

Beginning production the same year as the Espada was Ferrari’s bigger four-seat, V-12 powered GT car. It had much more traditional styling, both inside and out, than the Espada. But, even though it was by far Ferrari’s top model during its life, its sales figures weren’t as high as the Espada’s. But, the 365 was still an excellent car, possibly the most civilized road vehicle that Ferrari had built to date. The downside is that today they are much more expensive.

Read our full review here.

Aston Martin Lagonda

1976 - 1989 Aston Martin Lagonda High Resolution Exterior
- image 551808

Introduced toward the end of the Espada’s production life, the Lagonda represents of Aston Martin’s rare forays into the world of weird and outrageous styling. Though it is technically a four-door, and therefore not a 2+2, its proportions are much more similar to those of a larger 2+2 than to those of most sedans. Its design actually made it very popular at its launch, and it stayed in production for a very long time. Today it has the kind of charm that a desperately weird car from an ordinarily very conservative company can have.

Read our full review here.

Conclusion

1968 - 1978 Lamborghini Espada High Resolution Exterior
- image 658411

Though the Countach and its 16-year production would eventually outsell the Espada, it was the Espada that made Lamborghini into a company that could sell just over 2,000 units of the Countach. Sure, the Miura deserves a lot of credit for putting Lamborghini on a lot more people’s radar than it had been previously, but the Espada is where the company actually made the money to expand.

And its not hard to see how that worked out, the Espada did an amazing job of combining the flamboyance that the marque did so well with a bit of extra practicality that made it so much easier for customers to justify buying one. It’s a car that deserves a lot more credit.

  • Leave it
    • * Not especially rare
    • * Styling is not for everyone
    • * Not a Miura
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: