It’s nothing to do with age; contemporary factory and press images from the 60s and 70s are the same. I think it’s everything to do with the ‘hand made’ nature of the cars, part of their charm perhaps. Anyway, not long after I bought the car in 2003 I had a bit of a blitz on ebay hunting for Espada stuff. A couple of star finds amongst my swag were new front indicator lenses (about £20) and rear light lenses (about £45) that I set aside for “Sunday best”.
I finally decided to fit the lenses and attempt to straighten the face of my car for a photo shoot with Gary K Sims. It’s amazing what a difference a small detail like mint, perfect lenses can make and after a bit of twisting, standing back, poking and standing back I got the front of my car to look a lot straighter. Me and spanners? We are as one.
The main aim of the photo shoot was to get some fresh tracking shots of the car for auto-journals (and, of course, for the family album). Where? In my favourite environment: lanes. This might seem odd given that the Espada’s natural habitat is autostradas but in the congested South East, lanes are where I can set my own pace. I really relish the challenge of driving the Espada well on roads that demand lots of gear changing. Its fat, compliant tyres and soft springs soak up the bumps and it is exceedingly satisfying to, erm, make progress. So Gary – better known as “Focused” on Pistonheads.com – captured some lane action for posterity as only Gary can.
The big news about May 2006 was the Lamborghini Supercar Celebration. The itinerary was an anti-socially early start, made slightly less anti-social thanks to staying overnight in “my suite” at Chairman Yu’s residence a few miles from the first rendezvous at Brooklands.
Despite the ungodly hour, there were Lamborghinis everywhere. The full set was in attendance too – right the way from the first production model, the 350GT, to the very latest, the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, driven by legendary Lamborghini test pilot Valentino Balboni. And the Lamborghinis just kept on coming after I arrived.
We eventually headed off in convoy to Brighton: over 100 Lamborghinis in a convoy! It really was an extraordinary experience and I snapped away with my camera – photos of a black 350GT and a black 400GT 2+2 driving together are amongst my favourites. Arriving in Brighton, I was near the front of the pack and pedestrians with their backs to us would raise an arm and point at the first Lamborghini to pass …then raise their arm more quickly for the second …then spin round, jaw dropping open to stare at Lamborghinis of all types and colours as far as they could see.
As is de rigeur for all major car meetings at Brighton, we made our way to Madeira Drive to park up. My Espada has had a tendency to run hot and it burped out some water when I finally got to park. The weather was dreadful, probably the only bad weekend we had last summer. Nevertheless, despite my general rain-avoidance policy, I would not have missed this event.
In the afternoon we all made our way to the Grand Hotel to get ready for the evening party and: the supercar car park. The hotel had cleared out the car parks for Lamborghinis and invited hypercars only… I was in the basement with 38 other Lamborghinis, a Pagani Zonda F and a Jaguar XJ220. Very Sultan of Brunei. There were even more on the floor above! It was in the garage that I noticed the film of sea spray on the cars so I prayed for a downpour on the way home the following day to rinse it all off …and duly got a proper monsoon that stopped about 40 miles from home for the remainder of the journey to blow the car dry. Perfect.
June was a month of chickens coming home to roost. In Journal 3 I mentioned a question mark over my car’s history, specifically that the Lamborghini Registry had a brown Espada RUU 533R/800 SYD “parked” in the space for my chassis 9704. I have a bit of a penchant for interesting number plates and while I was proud of the Espada wearing an end-of-the-line “R” plate (because hardly any were being made by 1977), I did think that if I saw a worthy plate, I’d go for it. Well I found one: 12 POT. And it was the process of transferring it that caused the provenance questions to surface. With the help of Lamborghini historian Paul Clemence to seek out the location of the chassis number for the DVLA, it was confirmed that my car was indeed originally brown and registered as RUU 533R; then 800 SYD; then suffered an engine fire, which had triggered the start of its re-manufacture after which it became blue. UPP 506R was the age-related plate issued after it was rebuilt. Of course, you can imagine how these vagaries challenged the DVLA’s simplistic systems. A few rounds of increasingly heated correspondence and a couple of comical inspections by inspectors who weren’t sure what they were looking for or where to find it eventually had the happy ending of my Espada receiving its 12 POT number plate. What better registration number for a car equipped with the world’s finest V12? I still get people ask “Is it a V8?” though…
It took an entire day for my friend Nick Pelosi and I to clean and detail the car after the Brighton gig for its first outing as 12 POT – Goodwood Breakfast Club followed by a Lamborghini Club meeting at Borde Hill Gardens. It was a blistering hot day and heralded the return of the second chicken: the overheating. Espadas don’t overheat as a rule so, clearly, something was amiss with mine. However the radiator and engine had been given a clean bill of health (see Journal 4) and the fans worked. The thermostat and pump appeared to work too. There were no leaks and pressure and compression checks again showed the engine to be in remarkably fine fettle. Mystified, Jim the Bentley removed the thermostat to see if that would make a difference.
It didn’t. I don’t know what came over me but I lost my temper returning from Borde Hill as it blew its water out for a second time in traffic. When in doubt, more gas. I decided I’d got million dollar synthetic oil in it and if I could keep the oil temperature under control with air flow I’d just drive the damned thing until the problem exposed itself. I drove like the clappers, overtaking everything, stopping for nothing. By the time I got home there was steam and smoke coming out of the water pump. “Gotcha you bastard!” I thought, triumphantly.
I phoned Jim on the Monday to proudly explain that I had identified our problem: “It’s the water pump.” I filled the car up with water and, as it’s not far to Jim’s, I drove it to his workshop. Later that day he called to describe the shrapnel he recovered that had formerly been my water pump. Like the Six Million Dollar Man, “gentlemen, we can rebuild it” and, more to the point, better than ever with good-for-9,000rpm, high-flow steel powerboat internals. Then there was the matter of welding the shrapnel back together and making it look as good as new.
With my hotrod water pump installed I set off on my next outing to a sunny Brize Norton for the RAF Family Day without a care in the world. But as I got caught in traffic in Witney, to my dismay the temperature made a bid for the right of the gauge. I switched on the auxiliary fan and, as before, it made it worse. Cue man in old classic car banging head on steering wheel. I pulled over for it to cool down a bit before setting off again to Brize Norton where I had a lovely day pondering the most traffic-free route home.
Jim and I had a brainstorming session about it, going through each part of the cooling system parts methodically and pondering possible malfunctions. Everything seemed to work – it made no sense. A couple of weeks later Jim had an idea and observed the fans were blowing the wrong way. At some point in their life the armatures in the fan motors had slipped round to effectively reverse the polarity. [very Doctor Who- ed] So instead of cooling the engine, the fans cooked it!
This had to be the answer. It had to be the answer because there was nothing else left. And it had to be the answer because I was going to Belgium in the Espada to race my friend’s Cobra at Spa Francorchamps in the classic Six Hours meeting. Was it though?