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    Getting off lightly
    CAR: 1970 Lamborghini Espada
    OWNER: Harry Metcalfe

    / #1970-Lamborghini-Espada / #1970 / #Lamborghini-Espada / #Lamborghini

    With the Espada’s engine out and on the bench (see last month’s), it’s time to delve inside and finally discover why it had an unsustainable appetite for coolant and why its crankcase was breathing so heavily.

    First job is to remove the cylinder heads. These have a habit of being sticky on a #Lamborghini-V12 of this vintage but we’re in luck because, when this engine was last rebuilt in the mid-’80s, all the cylinder studs had been liberally wiped in copper grease. So the heads slip off with little effort. It soon becomes clear that both head-gaskets are knackered, which is the cause of all the coolant issues. But instead of coolant leaking into the cylinder, combustion gases were leaking into the coolant passages under compression. That’s why the system was getting overpressurised and coolant was bubbling past the radiator cap. Weirdly, this is good news as it’s an easy fix, but it doesn’t fully explain the low compression readings. So the next job is to remove a couple of pistons. Cylinders nine and ten had the worst leak-down results, so these pistons are removed first. I’m hugely relieved to discover that the big-end shells show little wear, but the less-good news is that as each piston comes clear of the block, the piston’s top compression ring drops to the floor because they are broken in half. The middle oilscraper rings are very worn, too.

    It’s the same story on ten of the twelve pistons: no wonder the engine breather was puffing so heavily at tickover.
    Again, this is actually good news because we have the answers to all of the engine’s ailments and none of the causes are very serious. It looks as though new piston rings were fitted to the old pistons the last time this engine was rebuilt, but either they weren’t matched exactly or the ring grooves in the pistons have worn. Iain Tyrrell measures the top compression rings at 1.55mm thick while the groove in the pistons is 1.66mm, so each ring has been oscillating up and down at high frequency in the piston and eventually breaking up.

    There are no more surprises inside. A bit of wear in the valve guides needs attention, and all the valves had been fitted with rubber valve-guide seals from a Ford Pinto during the last rebuild. These look as if they have been capturing oil and then leaking it down the guide, making oil consumption worse, rather than better as the previous engine builder must have hoped.

    So I’m finding that, far from being the nightmare it could have been, this whole engine-rebuild process is enthralling. The next job is to extract the cylinder liners from the block and send them off for a slight overbore to 88.5mm (88mm is standard). New forged pistons are on order and the beautiful steel crankshaft, milled from a single billet, will be polished and balanced.

    I’ll report back once the rebuild begins but, for now, I’m just happy that the Espada engine is in such good hands. I look forward to its return, probably even better than it was when new way back in 1970.

    From top A big space where the engine used to be; stripdown begins with removal of front-end drives; coolant loss was down to leaking head gaskets but head castings are fine; top piston rings had broken.
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    Diving deep / Running Reports

    CAR #1971-Lamborghini-Espada / #1971 / #Lamborghini-Espada / #Lamborghini

    Harry Metcalfe

    It seems 2019 is my year to do engine rebuilds. First it was the Alfa Duetto that needed open-heart surgery just before its trip to this year’s Mille Miglia ; then my boat’s engine blew up (an 800bhp, 14.9-litre MAN twin-turbo V8 – don’t ask about the bill); and this month it’s the turn of my Espada engine to be stripped.

    An engine rebuild has been on the to-do list for the Espada ever since it developed a serious addiction to coolant on last year’s Espada 50th Anniversary Tour, but then the budget I’d set aside got inadvertently spent on a Lancia Fulvia Sport 1600 – easily done, as I’m sure you’ll understand – so I put the rebuild off until more funds became available.
    But as the months ticked by, I became increasingly concerned that the wait might be causing more internal damage to the engine, as I didn’t really know why it was consuming so much coolant in the first place. There was no give-away steaming exhaust, or emulsion inside the filler cap to indicate that oil and water were mixing. I needed to know more, so decided to get the Espada up to Iain Tyrrell’s amazing workshop on the outskirts of Chester, which is where I bought the Espada from originally, back in 2012.

    Once it arrived, Iain turned detective and performed both a compression and leak-down test on each cylinder, plus a pressure test on the coolant system. The good news was that the pressure test showed the coolant wasn’t leaking anywhere it shouldn’t, but both the compression test and the leak-down test (where each cylinder is pressurised via the spark-plug hole) showed several pots were below par and losing pressure under test quite quickly.

    The diagnosis was possible headgasket failure and maybe worn piston rings as well. There was nothing for it but to remove the engine for a full strip to find out. This generation of Lamborghini engine is magnificent to behold, with its quad cam-covers, tubular manifolds, all-alloy construction and delicately finned aluminium sump. It’s also a bitch to extract from the engine bay because a) the front oil pump housing hits the front chassis member, and b) the gearbox needs to stay attached, and that includes the chromed gear-lever that constantly gets fouled on the transmission tunnel. Fortunately, Iain has been doing this for over 35 years and makes it look relatively easy. About three hours later he had the engine out, on the bench and ready to strip. Next month, I’ll let you know what we found.

    From top Harry’s Espada rests up during the 50th Anniversary tour in 2018; at speed, in between top-ups with coolant; engine out for stripdown at Iain Tyrrell’s workshop.
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    CAR LAMBORGHINI ISLERO

    SAFETY FIRST FOR RAGING BULL

    RUN BY Dougal Macdonald
    OWNED SINCE October 2004
    PREVIOUS REPORT April

    / #Lamborghini-Islero / #Lamborghini / #Lamborghini-V12

    Since my previous update, I have managed to sort a few problems with the car. I took it back to Colin Clarke Engineering to try to find out why the headlights wouldn’t raise or work beyond high beam. I had removed the centre console panel, where the window and headlight switches kept disappearing because their mounting brackets had broken. Some new ones are on order, but a consequence of their repeatedly being pushed into the dash was that I had inadvertently knocked the earth cable off the back of the switch. Not very clever.

    The headlights’ refusal to rise caused the motor to overheat, so we have now bypassed it and I can slowly raise them manually. The early Islero has only one motor, putting it under huge pressure because it also has to lift a cross-bar for the offside light. So do I add a second, as per the Islero S, or does that make the car non-original?

    On the recommendations of several members of the team, I took the car to Quickfit SBS in Stanmore to have the seatbelts in the front changed to inertia reels, and to have belts put in the rear for my children. Stuart Quick and his team did an amazing job: I love the neat chrome slits in the parcel shelf, and the front reels are hidden behind the B-pillar trim panels. I can now release the handbrake on a hill start without having to slip the belt off my shoulder, and can have the seat further forward and more upright to give a better driving position. Unfortunately, it wasn’t ready in time for the Festival of Speed, but it meant I took the train for once and saw the Red Arrows flying to Goodwood over Arundel Castle. On collecting the Islero from Quickfit, I drove to Biggin Hill to see Larini Systems. Now I love my car, and I love driving it, despite the fact that the engine produces enough footwell heat to remind me of driving my Land-Rover 90 in east Africa. However, the M25 on a Friday afternoon is frankly scary: I’m endlessly being cut up by thoughtless moderns, and the brakes pull sharply to the right under heavy braking. I think I need to have them looked at during my next visit to Colin Clarke.

    Haroon Ali and David Clark at Larini Systems were the first people I went to after I bought the car, although nowadays they focus on more modern cars such as Aston DB7-9s, Ferraris 550s and the like. Back then they were just doing classics, and they handmade me the most beautiful exhaust with a straight-through back box. If I had the choice today I’d probably have a quieter system, but at 6000rpm the V12 does sound amazing. I always promised that once the car was finished I’d bring it back for some photos. It might be 12 years on, but better late than never!

    It was 4pm by the time we were finished and I took the back-road from Biggin Hill to the motorway – well worth a blast if you find yourself with the choice. I think by the time I reached my brother’s home in Hampshire, where the car is kept, I had covered about three-quarters of the M25 in one day.

    I was delighted to get an email from Iain Macfarlane (Letters, September), who owns the Islero featured in the 2001 C&SC article I mentioned in my previous report. That story was the reason I bought a Lambo, and my hope is that we can get the two cars together soon.

    From top: Islero pauses with the aircraft at Biggin Hill after a hair-raising M25 run; superbly neat seatbelt installation, with new rear belts; front reels are concealed; interior looks unaltered.
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    / #Lamborghini-Islero / #Lamborghini

    In March I to the car up to Colin Clarke Engineering for the guys to have a look at a problem with the headlights. It turned out to be the wiring to the switch, and this led to the discovery that the headlight motor was overheating; early Isleros only have one motor, later cars two.
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