Obsessions #5 – Lamborghini Espada

| 27 Jul 2011

No classic car makes me go quite as weak at the knees – even the thought of it turns them to jelly, the sight of one makes me soil my underpants – as the Lamborghini Espada.

Of all the cars likely to feature in this horribly self-indulgent series of listing the cars I don't have the wherewithal or guts to own, this one has been the object of the most agonising close encounters.

The main problem with the Espada is that, even when they were teetering on the precipice of affordability for me – gosh that was a long time ago, they're mostly POA nowadays – the only ones I could afford were precisely the ones that I shouldn't have bought.

Decent examples that wouldn't turn me upside down and empty my pockets weren't that much more expensive at the time, but all classic buyers fit into two groups: those who buy the worst example of the cars they most desire because that is all they can afford (and then try to live with the inevitable consequences) or those who work out what they can afford and then buy the best example of something sensibly within that price range. Maybe even putting aside a little contingency fund.

As you know, I am a mercurial and impulsive person who is easily besotted with cars and therefore comfortably fits into the former group, never learning my lesson, repeatedly buying cars that syphon away my assets as relentlessly as a dual cyclone Dyson.

But it's an Espada! An ESPADA!

Surely anyone who ever even expressed a passing interest in classic cars would wilt into puddle of adoring goo at the prospect of owning one. It endorses any owner with instant hero status.

From its very origins hidden somewhere in the Lamborghini Marzal and the Jag-based Bertone Pirana, to me every facet of its conception, 10-year production, Faena swansong and continued existence is immaculate. Gandini again. Genius.

I mean, this is a car not for some ageing playboy who doesn't want to face up to his responsibilities like so many GTs, this is for the fella who loves his family, welcomes his family and uses them as an excuse to indulge himself. No GT man ever took his mistress to the polo in an Espada, the car would just raise too many questions in her mind about the level of his commitment, and it screams "I will never leave my wife and kids" as determinedly as an Austin Cambridge.

No other car this powerful and sexy ever did that.

An Espada is big and brutal yet sensuous and svelte, the same anachronous sexiness as eight lanes of female Olympic swimmers on the blocks (is it blocks in swimming, looks like one of those little kitchen steps that my 4ft 8in tall granny used to have so she could reach the Fray Bentos on the shelf, when she wasn't boycotting it because of the Falklands - even though Fray Bentos is in Uruguay - or reading about its regular health scares in the Daily Express that is?) waiting to dive into the pool and power their way remorselessly to gold. Its gaping front-end has a benign beauty, huge and terrifying, but only really threatening to plankton, its… well it's just like a normal car, scaled up a little bit.

And that engine. Yowzer.

I sent erstwhile colleague "Dr" Dave Richards to go and see one for me once (not one of the cars pictured here, I should add). It was £12k (to me, apparently, marked up for £15k though I was also aware what it had made at auction en route to this particularly charming dealer) and based in Cheshire and he happened to be up there doing a job for us. I could easily have gone myself, but I don't trust myself to have any objectivity when faced with an Espada. I would have bought it on the spot and tried to drive it home. Guaranteed.

Dave knows my weakness and adjusted the strength of his response accordingly. He knew that a little bit of bubbling, a tired interior and an engine that was a pretty unknown quantity wouldn't put me off, so he put it in a language I could understand and simply promised me £25k of bills in the first year.

But Dave, it's an Espada for only £12,000! An ESPADA for £12k!

Funny thing is, even though his advice did not (quite) fall on deaf ears, I still kind of blame him, still quiz him every time I see him in case he was exaggerating, still hold him personally responsible for denying me my dream.

I met the dealer in question at Rétromobile this year and, being one who turns his stock over pretty rapidly, he couldn't initially remember the car I was talking about. When it did dawn on him, he got a rueful look in his eye. "Ah, that one," he said, "it wasn't a bad car." Ha! Dave had misled me. Except the dealer continued: "But I can guarantee you wouldn't be buying me a drink now if you had bought it. There was nothing particularly wrong with it… at the time… but it's an ESPADA!"

I guess he's right, he definitely wasn't misleading anyone back then or now, but simply pointing out that a £12k Espada is unlikely to offer a lifetime of trouble-free classic motoring, and the issue with an Espada is that, like a rather tiresome friend of mine, its problems are always bigger and more dramatic than anyone else's. And that's what you have to expect and commit to if you buy one.

Still would, though. A blue manual please. With that pre-impact-bumper-nonsense, understated, vaguely Celica-esque front chrome trim.

And if my missus is reading this, let me have an Espada and as long as I am driving it you will have all the peace of mind you will ever need that I am not straying. That sort of reassurance has got to be worth the investment, hasn't it?