Chevrolet Powered: 1970 Lamborghini Espada S1

Fresh from the successful introduction of the Miura, Lamborghini took aim at the market for true four-seaters with a supercar twist, something more family-oriented than his 400 GT. His first effort in this direction was the Marzal, a Bertone-designed concept car penned by the young Marcello Gandini and shown at the 1967 Geneva Motor Show. This exercise, along with the influences of Bertone’s Jaguar-based Pirana (also by Gandini) converged into a production car called the Espada, meaning “sword” in Spanish. The new car debuted in 1968 to an adoring press. Its sensational styling and V12 power, and room for four adults plus luggage provided stiff competition for the likes of Ferrari’s 365 GT 2+2. Over the years, the Espada has not always been beloved by collectors, thanks to its extremely expensive mechanicals. Here on eBay is one owner’s solution to this problem, a 1970 Lamborghini Espada Series 1, with a fuel-injected Chevrolet V8 motor, bid to $42,100, reserve not met. This car is located in Chicago, Illinois.

The seller identifies the transplanted motor as a fuel-injected Chevy 5.0 block of either 5.4-liter or 5.7-liter capacity. The transformation includes headers and a modern Borg Warner five-speed (replaced with a new version in 2022). The original Lamborghini differential was retained. Unfortunately, we are not given performance statistics but the seller includes a driving video; the original V12 displaced 3.9 liters and produced 325 bhp. Notably, the seller says that the car was not altered significantly during this process, which was completed in the 1980s. Not only is the underhood view very tidy, but the motor looks like it belongs there. Details like the quilted underhood insulation and the neat paint job lend credibility to the appearance.

The interior shows only slight wear, with a wrinkled headrest and dirty carpets detracting from the overall quality. The dash retains the original Jaeger gauges. The seller notes that a second restoration commenced around 2011 when the horns, electrical system, and brakes were sorted. Factory stainless mufflers were installed, and a color change from the original pale green to a Toyota blue metallic was performed.

This view shows one of my favorite features of the Espada, the glass window in the trunk panel. Incidentally, that glass hatch lifts up (gently! it can twist easily) on hydraulic cylinders. Those hydraulics are just about unobtainium these days, so look forward to finding an expert rebuilder if they need renewal. Oh, and everything else is expensive too. So this car is the embodiment of a favorite Barn Finders’ comment: “Put an LS in it!” Now that you see it, what do you think? And what do you think it’s worth?

Comments

  1. Kevin

    Looks like a L98 out of a Corvette. The Espada was never a rocket ship, as it was simply too big and heavy, but this engine change will slow it down even more.
    Having said that I understand the change, during this time and even up till some time recently Espada’s weren’t worth anything, particularly if the v12 needed work. Though most likely the motor was yanked to go into something more desirable countach, miura or even a boat.

    Like 8
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      That’s what I was thinking: when the transplant was done, these must have had very little value.

      Like 1
    • 86_Vette_Convertible

      Could be an Vette L98, but if it is it’s either an 85 or early 86 due to not having the aluminum heads on it. Between the alternator relocation and having to figure out a way to wire in the ECU, that had to be a nightmare for whoever did it.
      I would agree it should be shower, HP would be down by about 1/3 without a fair amount of engine work.

  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    We did a full repaint and some repair for a dealer on a green ’72. If you notice the hood hold up rod on the left side, one of the dealer’s mechanics didn’t get the rod firmly planted into the receptacle and the aluminum hood fell forward bending the front of it and the grill below. Not a fun fix. Later, while road testing the paint I noticed the 10,000 rpm tach didn’t have a red line on it. Didn’t test that but did stroke up through the gears to 100 rather easily. Good cruiser. Jay Leno has one he uses as a daily driver.

    Like 11
  3. bill tebbutt

    One of the all-time most beautiful touring cars ever built. They used to be cheap as chips – I looked at a light green one about 10 years ago and though hard about it.

    This car is tough though. Colour change won’t help value (although it looks great in this colour I must say), but the drivetrain swap has killed the value. If it could be bought cheap enough, and returned to original spec, it could be “interesting”, but I suspect the value of a proper engine/gearbox + the sale price of the car makes it s non-starter

    cheers,
    BT

    Like 11
  4. Nick

    Leave it as is and drive the wheels off it!

    Like 11
  5. AnalogMan

    Cars like this greatly appeal to me. A rare exotic but with a practical engine that’s both probably more powerful than the original, and a lot easier to maintain. But would most of the parts other than the motor be unobtanium? Where could you find something like a tailight lens, or any interior pieces?

    Like 2
    • SubGothius

      Tail lights are from a Fiat 124 Sport Coupe AC-series, switchgear looks to be Fiat as well, maybe some Alfa in the mix, likely same for any other minor trim hardware and stuff like brake fluid reservoirs, etc.

      • PairsNPaint

        +++ IIRC the Miura used Fiat 850 tail lights. Lots of parts swapping goes on with these boutique manufacturers.

  6. gippy

    The Chevy will give you all the power and reliability you need. The ideal situation would be if the owner still has the original motor, as someday in the future, converting it back to an original numbers matching car will have a lot of value.

    Like 3
  7. douglas hunt

    welp….I am a sucker for the Italian V12’s….but if power is what you want, that LS can easily be made to give more than 325HP …..probably way way cheaper than sourcing the V12 drivetrain…pitty, but if I won the lotto tomorrow I would be a bidder, and have a ton of fun while searching for that V12 drivetrain, I did win the lotto right, lol

    Like 1
  8. Howie

    This is great!! Nice color, i will guess their reserve is about twice of the current bid.

    Like 3
  9. Allen L

    That’s not an LS series engine, as previously mentioned.
    But if you wanted to do the swap, I’d suggest a 6.2 litre L92, the aluminum block and heads version that was in Denali and Escalade SUVs.
    Rated at 403 SAE net hp, and easily upgraded to much more, it would really get this Espada moving. More hp, less weight. Win, win.

    Like 2
    • Michelle Rand Staff

      Right, I didn’t say THIS was an LS, I just said it would appeal to Barn Finders who like to suggest an LS swap – a possibility that comes up pretty often. That, or an LT1….

      Like 11
      • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

        I think most of us understood your meaning, Michelle. It is obviously an LT-1 Besides, no such thing as an LS in the 80’s.

        Thanks for continuously bringing us readers the exotica, along with the educational write-ups!

      • Allen L

        Posting this just to make sure you know I meant no disrespect to you Michelle. I understood your point your article.
        If the buyer doesn’t put a Lambo engine back in it, it might be advisable to do the LS swap, because there is more support for it, than the old TPI specific SBC engines.

  10. RichardinMaine

    I have a Jaguar XJ6C remotored with the Z28 version of the L98. Has plenty of power. Whoever put it in this car threw away as much as half of the value of the car before the color change. Whatever they think it’s going to bring is probably very optimistic. But there may well be someone out there with the correct engine waiting to snap it up.

    Like 4
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      The Chevy small block XJ6 conversions were very popular. I recall my father looking at a couple of very well done ones before settling on a 450SL roadster.

  11. PairsNPaint

    Beautiful car, would be great at a Cars & Coffee. Oh wait….it only has an AM radio. Never mind.

  12. PeterfromOz

    I would think that if the original differential was retained (as stated) the engine would run out of revs and not power.

  13. Mitch

    It looks like its Creators are from the fraction ‘fuel injection
    sucks’ but have no clue in working on such engines. Want
    to keep the car but sold the original engine. Not a good idea!

    A good resto-mod takes into account that the donor motor
    has the same weight as the original one because for the
    driving dynamics also the axle geometry, springs and
    shock absorbers have to be adjusted. (Weight distribution
    and physics!) Otherwise this thing will bounce.
    As a prosecutor i would seize and scrap such cars.

  14. Mitch

    It looks like its creators are from the fraction ‘fuel injection
    sucks’ but have no clue in working on such engines. Want
    to keep the car but sold the original engine. Not a good idea!

    A good resto-mod takes into account that the donor motor
    has the same weight as the original one because for the
    driving dynamics also the axle geometry, springs and
    shock absorbers have to be adjusted. (Weight distribution
    and physics!) Otherwise this thing will bounce.
    As a prosecutor i would seize and scrap such cars.

    • grant

      Yeah we heard you the first time

      Like 1
      • SubGothius

        Relax, comment submission is a bit wonky and doesn’t always show new posts right away, easy to think it didn’t post at all leading to another try, and there’s no way to delete the duplicate once you realize what happened.

  15. Enfield

    I replaced a clutch on one of these around 1976, I also noticed no red line… So, I asked an older Italian mechanic what the red line was, and his response was ” It depends on how big your balls are !!!” with a strong Italian accent… I will never forget that…

    Like 2
    • douglas hunt

      Right up there with Raul Julia’s famous line from the Gumball Rally “The first rule of Italian driving. What’s-a-behind me, does not-a-matter.”

  16. Howie

    Went to $65k, reserve not met. Check out the two videos.

    Like 2
  17. V8roller

    Sold on BaT in August for $113,000.
    https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1970-lamborghini-espada-2/ with 276 comments.
    What makes anyone think they’re going to get more on eBay a few months later….

    Like 1

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