When the wild-looking Espada debuted in 1968, Automobili Lamborghini was still in its infancy. A few years before, tractor manufacturer Ferruccio Lamborghini announced a new GT car based around a Bizzarrini-designed V12 engine. The 350 GT and 400 GT featured elegant Carrozzeria Touring coachwork and a capable, well-sorted chassis with independent suspension.
Lamborghini wasted little time expanding its offerings, and the outrageous mid-engine Miura followed. The technologically advanced Miura was first shown as a bare chassis, which alone was enough to cause a frenzy among journalists and motoring enthusiasts. It reached a fever pitch when the chassis reappeared wearing breathtaking bodywork designed by Marcello Gandini for Bertone. The Lamborghini we know and love today had arrived.
While the conservatively styled Islero took over from the 400 GT as the 2+2 Gran Turismo, Mr. Lamborghini also wanted a car capable of comfortably carrying four adults while still offering thundering performance and sophisticated style. The Espada (named for a bullfighter’s sword) debuted at the 1968 Geneva Motor Show, sharing much of its underpinnings with the Islero, including the front-mounted 3.9-liter V12 fed by six sidedraught Weber carburetors. A robust, Lamborghini-designed 5-speed gearbox helped push the new four-seater to over 150 mph.
As with any Lamborghini, the styling had to make a statement, and the Gandini-penned Espada brought far more drama than the Islero, taking much of its inspiration from the Marzal and Pirana concept cars and brilliantly playing on themes shared with the Miura. The Espada was Lamborghini’s most popular model of the 1970s, with 1,217 units built over ten years and in three official series. These luxurious, distinctive, and exciting GT cars enjoy a loyal following and have become essential collector cars in recent years.
Chassis 7159 is a very early Series 1 Espada, believed to be one of the earliest examples in the USA. This car is the 54th built and is among the first batch of 56 vehicles sharing unique details that closely represent the Espada as envisioned by Gandini. These include the fabulous double-stacked octagonal instrument cluster, the vertical louvers on the rear glass panel, and other functional details like the spring counter-balanced hatch struts.
According to registry information, chassis 7159 was completed to European specifications and delivered to Lamborghini Great Britain, finished in Champagne over a Brown interior. By the mid-1980s, the car had traversed the Atlantic to California, later transferring ownership to a collector in Massachusetts. In 1993, it underwent an extensive restoration, with over $90,000 spent on the project. It was refinished in black over a cream-beige leather interior at that time and prepared for touring and driving enjoyment. In 2004, 7159 was sold to its most recent owner, who maintained it in outstanding condition throughout his tenure. Notably, this car is pictured in the International Lamborghini Registry and Automobile Quarterly (Volume 51, No. 2, 2011) as a prime example of the early Series 1 Espada.
While at a local midwestern concours in 2009, Lamborghini’s famed test engineer Valentino Balboni was visiting and sought out the car, adding his signature to the engine bay. In 2012 the Espada was invited to Concorso Italiano as part of a commemorative display celebrating the 100th anniversary of Bertone and was displayed alongside the Jaguar Pirana, a concept car that informed Gandini’s design for Lamborghini. Lamborghini historian Olivier Nameche also noted that this car retains its original engine per factory records - #2847.
Today, the Espada is presented in lovely condition, with a well-preserved restoration and appealing black paintwork with a rich luster. The paint has held up well, though a few minor imperfections are visible on inspection. The luxurious cream-beige leather-lined cabin is in beautiful condition and offers a surprising amount of passenger space and practicality for a journey’s worth of luggage. Original details abound, including Jaeger instruments and a Blaupunkt radio mounted ahead of the passenger. These cars are renowned for their comfort and long-legged touring ability, and 7159 is no exception.
Records show that in 2009, the car received a major service to include a new clutch, pressure plate, flywheel, rebuilt clutch hydraulics, resealed differential, rebuilt and balanced driveshaft, ignition tune, and ceramic coated exhaust headers among other work. In 2016, it was fitted with new reproduction aluminum alloy wheels shod with correct Michelin XWX radials, replacing the porous and corrosion-prone magnesium originals, which are included in the sale to preserve originality. The V12 runs beautifully, and the car is an absolute joy to drive.
Thanks to attentive care and maintenance, Espada 7159 remains a marvelous example of Lamborghini’s dramatic four-seater, with the added desirability of being a very early car. It is prime for enjoyment on tours, rallies, and weekend adventures and will undoubtedly be a go-to in your stable.
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