Today, you’re going to learn about the Lamborghini Espada, which is arguably the strangest car I’ve ever come across. I say this because the Espada is made by Lamborghini — a car company famous for 2-seater vehicles with wedge shapes and midmounted engines — and yet it’s a 4-seater luxury car. It’s almost a sedan. The rear end looks like a Prius.
OK, so the Espada may not be the strangest car I’ve driven. But it’s definitely the strangest Lamborghini in existence. And today I’m going to explain why. See the used Lamborghini models for sale near you
First, a little background. I borrowed the Espada from Tomini Classics in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, which has a truly incredible inventory of some of the most amazing cars ever built. I mean it, go look at their inventory. And yet, when they asked if I wanted to come shoot some videos, I immediately chose the Espada. I didn’t even really think about it. This is largely because I knew I would never, in any situation, ever, as long as I lived, be offered the chance to drive another Espada.
The primary reason for this is rarity: Lamborghini built just 1,217 Espada models over its 10-year production span of 1968 to 1978, making it rarer than the Porsche Carrera GT — but from 40 to 50 years ago. And then there’s the other reason: The Espada, like other unloved and forgotten Lamborghini models, just doesn’t exist. Yes, there are 1,217 of them out there, but while people have maintained and kept up the Miuras and the Countaches and the Diablos, the "forgotten" Lamborghini models don’t have the same support. I bet there are more nonrunning Espada models than running ones.
But the one I drove ran beautifully, and I was tremendously excited to climb behind the wheel. The Espada I drove was a 1973 Series III model, from the final (and most powerful) series; it featured a 3.9-liter V12 with 320 horsepower. That doesn’t sound like much, especially for a touring car, but the Espada isn’t that heavy, weighing in at just over 3,500 pounds. No, it’s not wildly fast, but it’s not exactly slow; it feels like it would’ve been fast for 1973, or "reasonably quick" today.
I was more impressed not by the Espada’s acceleration, but by its on-road feel. I figured a 45-year-old Lamborghini would be shaky and unstable and really just a concoction of hand-built parts randomly strewn together by Italians in a barn, but the truth is the exact opposite: This was intended to be a grand tourer, and it felt like a grand tourer, with an immensely stable ride that remained planted and confidence-inspiring even as I eased into higher highway speeds. Who could’ve possibly known that the Espada wasn’t a bad car?
And then there’s the sound. Even though this was intended to be a grand tourer, Lamborghini didn’t exactly muzzle their V12 — and it sounds like a symphony of Italian wonder that we simply no longer get in the days of emissions regulations and turbocharging. Admittedly, many modern cars sound great, too, but the 1960s and 1970s Italian cars have a distinctive growl under high speed that just makes you grin from ear to ear when you’re pressing the pedal.
Interestingly, the Espada offered one major benefit not seen on most 1960s and 1970s Italian cars: interior space. I drove five exotic 1960s and 1970s Italian cars during my stay at Tomini Classics, and the Espada was virtually the only one I could comfortable fit inside; it was designed for grand touring, and it truly felt like I could’ve taken it on a lovely grand tour, sitting upright in the comfortable leather seat without worrying about my knees hitting the gear lever or my knuckles hitting my thighs as I went around corners. So I’m surrounded by this glorious sound and driving an ultra-rare, surprisingly comfortable, surprisingly stable vintage Lamborghini — it was the most wonderful feeling.
But then you get out of the Espada, and you turn around and look at it, and you sort of understand why these are rare, why they’re unloved, why they’re the "forgotten" vintage Lamborghini: Because the Espada, for all its benefits, is really, really weird-looking. The Lamborghini collector wants the beautiful Miura or the distinctive, bold Countach. The Lamborghini collector does not want this hatchback-looking 4-seater with a foot rest for the front passenger seat.
And, so, the Espada continues to fade into obscurity — but, at least now you know about it. And the next time the subject of vintage Lamborghinis comes up at your local cars and coffee, you can spout off your knowledge of this car and look like a connoisseur of the brand, an appreciator of the underappreciated, an expert in the weirdest Lamborghini ever made. At least, until I post my review of the Jarama. Find a Lamborghini Espada for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.
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