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  •   Harry Metcalfe reacted to this post about 12 months ago
    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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  •   Harry Metcalfe reacted to this post about 1 year ago
    Everyday Espada / #1970-Lamborghini-Espada-Series-2 / #1970 / #Lamborghini-Espada-Series-2 / #1970 / #Lamborghini-Espada / #Lamborghini /

    I’ve spent the last few weeks having an affair. The mistress in question is an Italian model who’s a year older than me. To make matters worse, she normally lives with my father. Around three years ago, I was fortunate enough to acquire both a new BMW i8 and an early-1970 #Lamborghini-V12 Espada Series 2. The i8 has been my main car since then and the Espada, after a light restoration – when the car was pictured alongside Mark Dixon’s silver example in Octane Cars [above] – moved into my dad’s garage.

    His affection for the car was marginally greater than mine, since one had been at the top of his ‘wish list’ in the 1970s, and it therefore seemed fitting that she should move in with him.

    The i8 is a truly remarkable car and I honestly can’t think of what I’d replace it with for everyday use. However, the Espada has never been far from my thoughts. When my father announced that he would be spending five weeks out of the country, a thought entered my head: how would the Espada perform as an everyday car in the modern world?

    The first thing that struck me was just how similar the Espada and the i8 are in size. The Espada is only 4cm longer than the i8, but it is a full 10cm lower, and it’s this that gives the impression of length. They both weigh about the same, but it really doesn’t feel that way behind the wheel. The Espada, with unassisted steering, provides a real work-out at parking speeds and still feels very heavy up to around 25mph, after which everything lightens up considerably. The physical effort required to drive it is almost shocking if you’ve just stepped out of a modern car, but you quickly get used to it and it becomes an important part of the overall experience.

    It’s only when you live with a car on a daily basis that you really get to know all of its idiosyncrasies. The magnificent engine is exactly as I’d expected, but it’s the way the Espada covers ground at high speed that really stands out. Genuinely you can feel everything coming together; the car relaxes and that means you can relax too. It’s almost like an aircraft: clumsy on the ground, but entirely at home when it’s in the air.

    Also unexpected were the quality of the ride and the space inside the cabin. The Espada glides over the ground with a smoothness that exceeds that of any of the modern cars I drive – the very tall profile of the Espada’s tyres goes a long way towards explaining this. It also has more rear legroom than many modern saloons, let alone 2+2s, and a boot that will happily swallow a week’s shopping.

    It’s not all sweetness and light, though. The handbook tells you how to start the car when it’s cold and also how to start it when it’s hot. Get it wrong and it’s all too easy to sit there with starter whirring and absolutely nothing happening. When you do get it going, you have to feed-in the throttle carefully below 2500rpm to avoid spluttering progress and you need to rev the engine well beyond this point if you want spirited performance. This is no chore, but it does mean that mpg hovers somewhere in the low double digits. Combine this with an inaccurate fuel gauge and the complexity of filling the twin tanks to capacity and you end up with a real-world range of less than 200 miles – hardly ideal for a grand tourer.

    And yet… after living with it for a few weeks – it’s pictured [above] in my office car park – I’m happy to report that the Espada is entirely useable in the modern world. It can soothe or excite according to your mood and can turn heads like no other. I’m going to miss her a lot when she goes back to my dad’s house. Just don’t tell the #BMW-i8 .
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