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.
We return to our timeline of front-engine Lamborghini GT coupes, but take a step back in time. Our last entry left us at the conclusion of 1969 when the slow-selling Islero ground to a halt. Dealers had a difficult time shifting all 225 examples of the Islero, comprising 125 regular Isleros and 100 of the upgraded Islero S.
Ferruccio Lamborghini dictated the Islero’s restrained and elegant design to Mario Marazzi, after several concepts to replace the aged 400GT did not meet with the boss’s approval. What Lamborghini was really after was a four-seat grand tourer in the finest tradition of grace and pace. The Islero fit most of those qualifications, but was a 2+2 and (as mentioned) almost impossible to sell. Luckily, there was another front-engine Lamborghini GT that debuted at almost the same time as Islero in 1968. Say hello to Espada.
We return to our Rare Rides Icons coverage of Lamborghini’s front-engine coupes at a moment of relative triumph. After three earlier design proposals failed to pass muster with Ferruccio Lamborghini, a fourth received approval and was chosen as the 400GT’s replacement. Part of an in-house collaborative effort between Mr. Lamborghini, Carrozzeria Marazzi, and Lamborghini’s engineers, the resulting coupe was sedate, elegant, and not that removed from the outgoing 400GT 2+2.
When we last left Lamborghini’s front-engine coupe timeline, Ferruccio Lamborghini found himself about out of time to designate a replacement for the 400GT 2+2. Touring’s Flying Star II two-seat shooting brake was radical and possessed neither the restrained GT styling Mr. Lamborghini desired, nor the full four-place capacity. The company turned to Bertone and design legend Marcelo Gandini, who proposed the four-seat Marzal.
The Marzal’s design was as radical as the Flying Star if not more, and had gullwing doors and an interior filled with silver textile. After it debuted Ferruccio remarked how the Marzal was just a fun design exercise and was not intended to be a production car. Whether that statement was actually true remains unclear, but seems unlikely given the events that occurred post-Marzal. Lamborghini needed a real production design, and fast.
We pick up our Lamborghini front-engine grand touring coverage at a time of design disappointments. Though the exotic Miura gave the company instant notoriety as it simultaneously created the super car class, the company’s other model was due for replacement. A more traditional looking two-door, the 400GT 2+2 was an edit of the 400GT Interim (2+1), which was itself an engine upgrade on the 350GT, the company’s first production car.
Ferruccio Lamborghini anticipated the need for a new design, and went in search of a 400GT replacement around the time it entered production in 1966. Lamborghini turned first to Carrozzeria Touring. But even though they penned the 350GT and 400GT designs, their two-seat shooting brake suggestion, Flying Star II, was not to Lamborghini’s taste.
In fact it was sort of like Touring didn’t read the prompt. An abandoned race car design called the 400GT Monza from Neri & Bonacini was also presented as an option. The firm built Lamborghini’s tube frames a few years before, but that didn’t lend them enough goodwill at Lamborghini to get their design accepted. Time for take three!
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.
We know some of the vehicles now residing in Davy Jones’ locker after the Felicity Ace disaster include hyper-rare Lambos and more than a few Porsches. Also on the docket? A bog-standard Kia Soul and a 1996 Honda Prelude SiR.
We figured that one would get your attention.
Lamborghini introduced the Countach LPI 800-4 over the weekend, undoubtedly hoping to rake in some of the wealth that’s been amassing in the upper echelons of society. Supposedly retailing somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million, the vehicle is effectively an Aventador with some retro-inspired bodywork with the powertrain of the new Sián.
While a 6.5-liter V12 and electric motor providing a combined maximum output of 802 horsepower is nothing to sneeze at, there was some level of expectation that the Countach design might even outdo the truly wild Sián FKP 37 Lamborghini previewed in 2019. But producing something striking is difficult when you’re simultaneously attempting to marry the concept with a 50-year-old design everyone has been fetishizing since before they were old enough to learn what that meant.
We’ve featured a number of Zagato-enhanced Rare Rides previously, the majority of which were from exotic European nameplates. The most recent example of the type was the Ferrari 599 GTZ Nibbio Spyder. Today’s Rare Ride is from a different Italian brand, one thus far unrepresented by Zagato edits.
Presenting the Lamborghini 5-95, from 2014.
Lamborghini’s Countach is arguably one of the most important vehicles ever to be manufactured in that it solidified the brand’s reputation and helped create an entire subgenre of automotive pornography. The model is often touted as being one of the only posters featured on more teenage walls than Bo Derek and was among the first performance automobiles to appear in videogames with any regularity. Introduced in 1974, it’s the one Lamborghini almost everyone recognizes and probably the vehicle that best represents the brand. It’s wildly impractical, beyond garish, and totally obsessed with giving an experience so unique that you cannot help but place the car on a pedestal.
Oh, and Lamborghini said the Countach is coming back in limited quantities for its 50th birthday. Though it’s to be reimagined as a modern automobile.
Lamborghini has changed hands more than a few times since it was founded as a way to show up Ferrari in 1963. It’s currently owned by Volkswagen Group, which recently made it clear that it has no intention of selling the brand.
The Anglo-Swiss Quantum Group reportedly made an offer to buy the raging bull from VW for an appetizing €7.5 billion ($9.16 billion USD), including a five-year deal where it would continue sourcing parts from Audi — as there’s basically no way around it without nuking the present lineup. The proposal was made earlier in the month with Volkswagen Group giving the newly established holding company a prompt no.