Raging Bulls - Issue N. 4 #RagingBulls
At the 1967 Geneva Motor Show, Lamborghini presented their latest product: the Marzal.
The Marzal was a one-off concept car, designed by Marcello Gandini of Bertone, of Miura fame, created to supply Ferruccio Lamborghini with a true four-seater granturismo, whose lineup at the time included the 400 GT 2+2 and the iconic Miura P400.
Among the Marzal’s characteristic features are the doors with large glazed surfaces and gull-wing opening, as well as the roof, made by Belgian company Glaverbel, although Ferruccio didn’t like them at all.
The engine, a 1.965 cm³ inline-6, was obtained by cutting the Miura’s V12 engine in two. The transmission was a 5-speed, and the maximum speed was 225 km/h.
The Marzal had enough room for 4 passengers, which was obtained thanks to a frame 12 centimeters longer than that of the Miura known as the ‘TP200‘, and through a positioning of the engine behind the rear axis.
Although it was classified as a concept car, it was fully functional, to the point that it appeared at the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix where Prince Rainier III, accompanied by his wife, Princess Grace, drove the car on his traditional parade lap before the start of the race. The car made a second public appearance at the 1996 Concours Italiano in Monterey, California in honor of Carrozzeria Bertone. The Lamborghini Athon was also exhibited at this time. Italian magazine Quattroruote, after testing it, published its driving impressions.
Ferruccio couldn’t be convinced about this car, and as such it remained a one-off displayed on various auto shows on Lamborghini or Bertone’s stand, although it later served as a stylistic inspiration for the lines of the subsequent Lamborghini Espada.
The design of the Marzal was so innovative that it attracted a variety of model makers, including Politoys (later Polistil), Dinky and Matchbox, who reproduced it, although in non-original colors such as orange.
The Marzal was located for a long time in the Bertone Design Study Museum, and it was sold in auction at Villa d’Este, Italy, on May 21, 2011, for the highest bid of €1,350,000, approximately $2,000,000.
Like for most of Lamborghini’s most iconic models, the Marzal’s name derives from bullfights; in fact Marzal is the name of a breed of bulls used for bullfights.
While Dallara and Stanzani worked with the help of New Zealand test driver Bob Wallace to improve the car in production, Ferruccio – ever full of ideas – was pushing to show the world new models, and the success of the futuristic Marzal prototype led Lamborghini to produce a version suitable for mass production.
Marcello Gandini was also contracted to create the look of the new car and the engineering was largely done by Gianpaolo Dallara, though he didn’t change the already winning formula of Lamborghini, a front mounted 3.9-litre V12 engine, delivering it’s power through a 5-speed Lamborghini gearbox to the rear wheels.
About a year after the presentation of the Marzal, at the 1968 Geneva Motor Show, Lamborghini lanched the Espada.
This new model was a four-seater grand tourer, selling alongside the 400GT 2+2 and the mid-engined Miura.
The Spanish name “Espada” means “sword”, referring to the sword that the matador uses to kill the bull during bullfights.
Starting from the mechanics of the 400 GT, with an extended wheelbase of 15 cm, the house of Sant’Agata Bolognese created a 2 + 2 coupé of remarkable personality. Bertone succeeded in “civilizing” the futuristic Marzal line, while guaranteeing sportiness, originality and habitability, thanks to the adoption of aesthetic solutions experimented on the Pirana prototype.
The Espada used a monocoque steel body. Suspension was fully independent, with double wishbones, coil springs, hydraulic shock absorbers and anti-roll bars. Four wheel disc brakes were also fitted.
Twin fuel tanks held 95 litres (25 US gal) of gasoline, and the fuel cap was hidden behind a black cosmetic grille in the C-pillar, one of Gandini’s signature touches.
The styling of the Espada was very sensational for the late ‘60s, 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 the ventilation for the interior, was simple but effective. The original fastback pavilion with a two-piece rear window and a new chassis with a flat bed and load-bearing body, allowed the passenger compartment to accommodate 4 single bucket-type seats, despite the low height.
Production of the Espada can be split in three different series; The first series, known as GT, Series I or S1, was produced between 1968 and 1970.
Mechanically wise, everything was identical to the 400 GT. The 3929 cc (240 cu in) V12 engine breathed through six Weber side-draft carburators and 24 valves commanded by two chain-driven overhead camshafts per bank. The 5-speed gearbox was mounted in block with the engine. Most transmissions were manual, and the Espada also introduced one of the first automatic transmissions able to transfer the torque of a large sporting V12. This automatic transmission had very unusual gearing, with 3 ratios: drive, 1 and reverse.
When leaving the factory, Series I Espadas originally fitted Pirelli Cinturato 205VR15 tyres (CN72). The finishes are of a high standard, with the leather completely covering the cockpit, including the dashboard, and the accessories, offered as standard and on request, were numerous: standard air conditioning and electric front windows, while among the options you could have safety belts, metallic paint and radio with a sound cassette.
At the 1968 Turin Auto Show, an Espada with a Lancomatic suspension was shown. This suspension was made available as an option, but only a few Espada’s were ordered with it. This system was perfected by German company Langen and replaced the normal spring/damper units, but it proved to be unreliable.
186 S1 Espadas were made in total.
In 1970, the Series I Espada was replaced by the Series II, also known as GTE, built between 1970 and 1972. Outside the only change was the deletion of the grille covering the vertical glass tail panel. New five-bolt wheels were introduced to replace the Miura knock-off types.
Inside, the changes were more radical: the dashboard was completely redesigned and now featured a lockable glovebox, the steering wheel was also redesigned, the rear passengers received additional ventilation, and the new rear armrest now incorporated a small light. The instrument binnacle was of a more conventional rectangular shape, with round gauges. A wood-trimmed fascia extended along the entire width of the dashboard.
Power output increased to 350 hp (345 bhp) thanks to a higher 10.7:1 compression ratio.
New ventilated disc brakes with a width of 32 mm at the front and 22 mm at the rear were installed and power assisted steering was made optionally available. The front portion of the door windows were now fixed.
575 Series II Espadas were made, making it the most popular and desirable variant.
Two special versions were built on the Series II chassis, the first was presented by Bertone himself, the Espada VIP featured a TV set between the front seats, a complete bar was installed in the rear sides and the two-tone leather interior was upholstered in the same colors as the exterior. This special is still owned by Bertone, but a better known special was designed and built by coachbuilder Pietro Frua on a reinforced ‘74 S2 chassis and was designated the Frua Faena.
The Lamborghini Faena was a 4-door sedan which debuted at the 1978 Turin Motor Show.
It took Pietro Frua 8 months to create his four door Lamborghini, and to do so he stretched the standard Espada chassis about 178 mm (7 in) to accommodate the rear seats and ended up with a car totalling 4586 mm (18 ft) in length which added 200 kg (440 pounds) to the total weight, the wheelbase went to 2830 mm, with a width of 1900 mm and a total height of only 1250 mm, the Faena really looked impressive.
The car’s lines looked clean at the front, with big headlights mounted in twin pop-up units, but the rear design spoiled the car, it did however include a sliding sunroof unlike the weird looking glass panel found on one specific Espada.
The Frua Faena didn’t prove a success, although it was very nicely built, and Pietro Frua hoped it could be produced in small quantities, but this show car was the only one ever produced.
After the Geneva Auto Show the car was sold to Lambo-Motor AG in Basle who sold it to a German collector. He still owns the car, altough it remained registered in Switzerland.
In 1996 the Faena could again be admired at the Pullicino Classics in London, the car was in very good condition although it wasn’t restored yet.
A 1970 Espada with serial number #7665 was converted into a custom 2-door convertible by a German bodyshop.
The car was finished in a brilliant red paint over a white leather interior, but the most striking feature was actually the fact that this car was now a convertible, during the removal of the roof section the bodyshop performing this job also redesigned the entire car, the front of the car received smaller rectangular headlights and a deep front spoiler was installed too.
The wheel arches were enlarged covering deep wheels, while side skirts were also moulded into the bodywork. The whereabouts of this car are currently unknown
The Series III Espada, also known as S3, was launched in 1972. Its 3.9 L V12 engine now produced 325 hp (321 bhp).
Bertone redesigned the interior of the Espada once more and the dashboard changed to an aluminium-trimmed cockpit that kept all instruments and most controls,including the radio within easy reach of the driver, power-steering was made standard along with air-conditioning and the center console now had a more upright kick-up from the front. Underneath the bodywork, the rear triangular suspension arms were modified, the spring and shock rates rejigged, the disc brakes were upgraded once again, and under the hood, two alternators were installed. Available options now included a sunroof, which howewer wasn’t demanded much.
Newly designed wheels on five-stud hubs replaced the earlier knock-off wider wheels fiitted with Pirelli Cinturato 215/70WR15 (CN12) tyres, making the Espada S3 instantly recognizable; other exterior changes included the square instead of hexagonal mesh grille and tail lights from the Alfa Romeo 2000 replacing the previous Fiat-sourced ones.
In 1974, a Borg Warner automatic transmission became available.
From 1975 large black ‘safety bumpers’ had to be installed to meet United States safety requirements and, starting from 1976, these bumpers were also fitted to European models; some people consider cars produced with them as a separate fourth series, but Lamborghini did not officially change the model designation.
Although this last model of the Espada was kept in production for the longest period, it didn’t sell as well as the Series II, in its six years production, it only sold 456 units. The complete Espada production totaled at 1217 units, making it Lamborghini’s second biggest success, only the Countach would top this figure much later.
In 1999, a new version of the Espada was rumored to be in the works, but it was right at the time Lamborghini wanted to concentrate on the Diablo’s successor, so little became of the idea aside from a few drawings.
In 2006, Edmunds.com reported that Lamborghini intended to revive the Espada in 2009.
Lamborghini presented the 4-seat Estoque concept car at the 2008 Paris Motor Show, however no production model has been forthcoming.
The Espada, howewer, was not the only new car presented by Lamborghini at the 1968 Geneva Motor Show. The Islero, as it was called, was conceived as the successor to the successful 400 GT.
The Islero was named after a Miura bull that killed the famous matador Manuel Rodriguez “Manolete” on August 28, 1947.
Since Carrozzeria Touring, the company that designed Lamborghini’s chassis, was bankrupt, Carrozzeria Marazzi was the next logical choice as it was funded by Carlo Marazzi, an old employee of Touring, with sons Mario and Serafino, who had already built the last few 400 GTs.
Mario Marazzi not only had to build the new Lamborghini Islero, the new model was also styled by him working together with Frederico Formenti and, under the guidance of Ferruccio himself, the Islero became known as the original vision Ferruccio had for his grand tourer.
A wider track compared to the 400 GT allowed for wider tires, usually the well known Pirelli Cinturato 205VR15 tires would be mounted at the factory in Sant’Agata. And while the Islero’s body suffered from a lack of proper fit between the panels, its good outward visibility, roomier interior, and much improved soundproofing made it an improvement over previous models.
Compared to the 400 GT, the dashboard design was heavily modified too, using a multitude of dials set on a wooden background surrounded by a lot of leather behind a wood-trimmed steering wheel. The seats inside the Islero were upholstered in leather and both the steering and windows were power assisted.
The Islero was a clean and inoffensive car to look at but lacked the personality of the 400 GT, and it paled next to the sensational Miura and the bigger Espada. At the front, a large air intake would be found below a thin, chrome bumper while a split bumper was used at the rear.
The first version of the Islero, known as Islero 400 GT, was powered by the same 4.0-litre V12 engine found in the previous 400 GT, which pumped out 320 hp, as well the same 5-speed manual transmission, plus fully independent suspension and disc brakes. When leaving the factory the Islero originally fitted Pirelli Cinturato 205VR15 tyres (CN72).
Top speed was rated at 248 km/h (154 mph) and acceleration from 0-100 km/h (0-60 mph) took 6.4 seconds, making the Islero a rather quick vehicle.
Ferruccio Lamborghini liked the Islero so much, he actually chose it as his own personal car in 1968, and drove it a lot back then. Ferruccio’s personal Islero, car #6201, was sold at the Pebble Beach 2013 Gooding&Company auction for $247,500 after beign restored by Gary Bobileff.
Sales of the Islero were, howewer, disappointing. in fact, after just one year of production, only 125 Isleros had been sold. This was probably due to the Islero’s less intriguing design, and the presence of the mind-blowing Miura and the larger Espada didn’t help sales.
Ferruccio Lamborghini took the critics to heart and decided to improve the Islero, to make it a better car and increase the sales.
The improved car, known as Islero 400 GTS or simply Islero S, was distinguishable thanks to a few styling changes, which included a horizontal air exhaust that appeared behind each front wheel, brightwork blind slots on the front fenders, an enlarged hood scoop (which supplied air to the interior of the car, not the engine), slightly flared fenders, tinted windows, round side-marker lights (instead of teardrops on the original), and a fixed section in the door windows. Small rectangular fog lights were installed underneath the front bumper, the front side windows now showed fixed triangular panes in their front portions and the rear window was now electrically heated.
The greatest improvement could be found on the inside; the interior was completely redesigned, new seats with higher backrests at the front offered more comfort and were finished in leather on the sides with velours inserts in the center, the rear seat was split by a fold-down armrest, toggle switches replaced the earlier pull units and a glove box was installed on the dashboard, the dials on the dashboard were better grouped. Many Isleros were ordered with a full leather interior.
Overall, the Islero S’s biggest improvement was found in the craftmanship and build quality, which were much better than the previous version.
On the mechanical side, there weren’t many changes.
Changes underneath the bodywork were minimal; the old, square chassis from the 400 GT 2+2 was still used but the rear suspension was modified in line with the Espada suspension to improve stability under hard braking or accelerating, the brake disks were enlarged, and the engine’s camshafts were replaced with the ones found on the Miura S, which bumped the power to 355 hp (350 bhp) and raised the compression ratio to 10.8:1, although torque remained the same.
The performance was also improved: top speed was now 259 km/h (161 mph) and acceleration from 0-100 km/h (0-60 mph) took 6.2 seconds.
Howewer, despite all of the improvements made, the Islero S sold just 100 units, even less than the previous Islero GT, and only 5 were made in right-hand-drive. In total, 225 Isleros were made, and the last one left the factory in early 1970 and, after just two years of production, it was replaced by the Jarama.
Perhaps, the Islero is most famous for its appearance in the 1970 thriller movie The Man Who Haunted Himself, starring the late Roger Moore, where he drove one of the 5 RHD Islero Ss.
Today, the Islero is looked upon as one of the most underrated Lamborghini cars. Ferruccio Lamborghini himself stated, during an interview, that he preferred driving the Islero over the Miura and Espada.
Nowadays, Isleros don’t sell for values as high as other Lambos from the era, although they can still be very expensive, due to their rarity. For example, in August 2015 a 350 GT (#0220) would be sold for $935,000 while an Islero S (#6531) would reach just $401,000 at the same auction, less than half.
The 2008 Estoque concept draws some styling touches from the Islero, as well as the previous 350 and 400 GT.
Thank you for reading this article! Raging Bulls will return next week with Issue N.5! Don't miss it!