It was a long, uphill battle to get the Espada into production. Seemingly no designer would deliver on Ferruccio Lamborghini’s desire for a four-seat grand touring coupe. While style was fine, outlandish design was unacceptable. Yet designers disappointed him on the Islero (which was supposed to be a real four-seater) and fought him on what became the Espada.
Marcelo Gandini at Bertone was forced to redesign the Espada more than once to comply with Lamborghini’s wishes, even though its Jaguar Pirana looks stayed intact. Gullwing doors were a favorite feature of Gandini’s, but Ferruccio declared they were ridiculous and impractical for such a car. And while the styling was being settled, there was quite a bit of new engineering taking place for the Espada, too.
The new third-generation (J30) Nissan Maxima went in a bold new direction from its predecessors. Larger, more luxurious, more technologically savvy, and better made than the first two, the third Maxima was the first to cater to the North American market. The Maxima’s sudden transformation was so complete that it diverged from its former sibling the Bluebird to become an entirely separate model. First up today, we consider 4DSC styling.
In 1968, Lamborghini launched two new front-engine grand touring coupes at the same time. It was only the second time the company introduced two new models in the same model year. The two cars in question were the restrained and conservative Islero 2+2, and the larger more in-your-face Espada. While we covered Islero’s rapid demise previously in this series, the four-seat Espada had a much more successful life.
It was the realization of a large four-seat coupe from company founder Ferruccio Lamborghini, who’d wished for a car of said type since the company’s inception. The short-lived Islero turned into a last-of-moment for Lamborghini, as its sales flop proved the company with the raging bull logo was better served by more exciting, outlandish designs.
We covered Espada's styling in our previous entry. Penned by Marcelo Gandini at Bertone, the Espada was nearly a Xerox copy of the Jaguar Pirana concept, at 125 percent magnification. But its large size and generous interior space for four caused some new challenges for Lamborghini’s engineers; the road to the production Espada was not a smooth one.
After its short-lived first generation outing as a rear-drive car from 1981 to 1984, the PU11 Maxima of 1985 adopted the front-engine, front-wheel drive format the Maxima kept permanently. But that wasn’t the only precedent set by the PU11, as Nissan decided to move forward with V6 engine configurations and leave the inline-six in the past.
The addition of the sporty SE trim with its monochromatic details, and fancy electronic options like a Sonar Suspension System were both indications of where Nissan was headed with the Maxima. It was a sportier and more interesting direction than its stiffest competition, the staid and conservative rear-drive Cressida. Sales showed what buyers preferred, as the Maxima outsold the Cressida many times over throughout the mid-Eighties. And at the end of the decade, Nissan gave customers more of what they wanted with the very first 4DSC, a four-door sports car.
After its first few years as an 810, 910, Datsun by Nissan, Maxima by Datsun, Datsun/Nissan, and similar, the Maxima settled into its permanent home under Nissan branding. The well-equipped compact sedan sold over 198,000 copies in the United States between 1982 and 1984 (‘82 is the earliest year sales data is available) before an all-new Maxima arrived in 1985. With its second generation, Nissan veered off to distinguish the Maxima from its most direct competition, Toyota’s Cressida. Picture it, October 1984.
In our last installment of Kia’s large sedan history, we took a look at the second generation Cadenza. With its second salvo at the likes of the Toyota Avalon and the Buick Lacrosse, Kia planned to capture the near-luxury sedan customer who cared about value. Unfortunately, the Cadenza didn’t excel at anything in particular, and failed to stand out against more established competition.
A similar story played out a few years before when Kia introduced the first full-size rear-drive luxury car it ever designed in-house. Called the K9 (Quoris or K900 elsewhere), the large sedan shared a platform with the new rear-drive Hyundai Equus. Both sedans were the flagship offerings at their respective brands.
The Equus was flashy and almost American-inspired, while the K9 was conservative and understated. But it turned out a large and anonymous looking luxury car was not to the taste of most customers. Even in its home market, buyers vastly preferred the Equus and its large winged hood ornament. What was Kia to do?
Kia’s second attempt at a K7 (Cadenza in North America) arrived at a time when the company fully embraced a styling language of its own. More upscale and nicer to look at than the derivative generation of 2010 to 2016, the new Cadenza debuted in all global markets for 2017. Kia was hopeful the second Cadenza would sell better than the first one, particularly in North America. Any predictions on how that went?
Today’s Rare Ride is brought to you by a Tweet that featured today’s subject and was the exact moment your author became aware of its existence. Released in the Nineties prior to the American retro styling craze, the Classic was a limited edition sedan sold only to Japanese customers. Curious yet?
As we return to the history of Kia’s large sedans, we find ourselves in the midst of the 2010s. When the full-size and rear-drive K900 was introduced for the 2015 model year, Kia’s front-drive comfort option, the K7 (Cadenza to you), was in the midst of its first generation. A replacement for the unloved and ugly Opirus (Amanti to North Americans), the K7 ushered in sophisticated but bland Euro-centric styling from Peter Schreyer upon its launch in 2010.
Cadenza didn’t make its way to the North American market until 2014, and debuted with slightly sharper styling and a nicer interior via a mid-cycle refresh. Kia took its time in bringing the Cadenza to the North American market, as they wanted to be sure they got it just right.
In the end, the first Cadenza fell between the soft rock of the Lexus ES and the hard place of the Nissan Maxima. Additionally, it lacked the prestige to compete with other large front-drive upmarket offerings of the time. The new cadenza lasted only three model years in North America, as Kia was ready for an all-new generation K7/Cadenza in 2017.
Lamborghini proved it could make a luxurious grand touring coupe that a few people were willing to buy instead of a Ferrari with its first-ever production car, the 350GT. Based on the 350GTV prototype that was not actually drivable, the 350GT eventually grew and matured into the very similar 400GT we featured last time.
At its inception, the 400GT was just a 350GT with a larger engine, since the intended roof edits to turn the 2+1 into a 2+2 were not production ready. Lamborghini advertised the 350, 400, and 400 2+2 as three separate models, a fun take on the truth. But after three variations of the original 350 design, it was time for something new. The replacement process was not without drama.
The 350GT was Lamborghini’s first production car, and as we learned in our last entry, was a very rapid adaptation of the 350GTV prototype. And while the GTV was certainly more elegant looking than the GT, the former’s foibles included a hood line that was too low to fit the company’s V12, as well as a general lack of practicality.
Practicality was the word of the day in the 350GT’s development. The 2+1 grand touring coupe brought Ferruccio Lamborghini’s vision to life, as a competitor to the well-established finery from Ferrari. There were just 120 examples of the 350GT produced before its successor joined the ranks. The new car had a larger engine that made more power but looked very similar to its brother. Meet the 400GT.
After Lamborghini’s 350GTV show car debuted in Turin, Ferruccio Lamborghini was very intent on turning the coupe’s good publicity into sales of a real production Lamborghini. But the prototype lacked running gear, an engine that fit under its hood, and there were many other miscellaneous issues. As we learned last time, redesign work began on the GTV’s chassis, engine, and body at a furious pace. That’s where we pick up today.
We return to our coverage of Lamborghini’s front-engine grand touring coupes today, and the story of the company’s first prototype. A teardrop-shaped two-door with sweeping lines and an angular rear, the 350GTV was the first passenger vehicle Ferruccio Lamborghini ever made. His past experience was as a successful businessman and builder of stylish Italian tractors at Lamborghini Trattori.
The high-strung 3.5-liter V12 was completed (albeit in race car specification) and the coupe’s body had been casually assembled by the craftsman of Carrozzeria Sargiotto, who usually made plastic moldings and not cars. Was the next stop the 1963 Turin Auto Show? Nope.
I was reminded the other day (by Facebook) about a particularly beautiful coupe I’d photographed at a local car show in 2014. It had two doors, a big engine in the front, svelte and restrained styling, and a Lamborghini badge on the nose. It’s easy to forget that Lamborghini made elegant grand touring coupes long before it got to the likes of the outrageous Countach or LM002. We start at the beginning, with the company’s very first prototype, the 350GTV.
It’s a new week, and I’m back with another German car Rental Review for your enjoyment! Today’s rental is one of two American market entrants into the premium compact five-door liftback segment, and not a car one expects to find in an Enterprise lot. Presenting a 2020 Audi A5 Sportback, two years and 50,000 rental miles later.