Arguably the most famous concept car of all time was driven around Monaco GP circuit by none other than Prince Albert of Monaco during the 2018 Historic Grand Prix

The legendary 1967 Lamborghini Marzal concept car returned to the Monaco Grand Prix track this weekend – the first time in 51 years it has been driven in public.

It was driven by his Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco, accompanied by his nephew Andrea Casiraghi, ahead of each session of the 1966-1972 Formula 1 qualifying and races at the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique – echoing the only previous public drive of the Marzal, by His Serene Highness Prince Rainier III of Monaco and his wife Princess Grace on 7 May 1967.

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The one-off Marzal was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1967. It was tradition that Prince Rainier did a lap of honour on the track just before the start of the Monaco Grand Prix. However, his choice of the Marzal – which Ferruccio Lamborghini had brought to Monte Carlo to show during the GP weekend – came as a surprise to all present.

Lamborghini Marzal driven in public for first time since 1967

That outing was to remain not just the first, but indeed the only time the car appeared, in action, at a public event.

Now the Marzal has been restored, and made only its second public driving appearance in 51 years. It went out twice on the Monaco circuit on each of the three days of the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique.

Lamborghini Marzal driven in public for first time since 1967

It was joined by a Lamborghini-owned Espada (chassis 9090), fresh out of restoration at the Polo Storico workshop in Sant’Agata Bolognese. Thought to have been a company test car, this Espada was never registered and has some unusual details. Its outing was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Espada, which was launched at Geneva in 1968.

Lamborghini Marzal driven in public for first time since 1967

In many ways the Espada owes its existence to the Marzal, although Ferruccio Lamborghini had already been planning both a cheaper model than the Miura (which became the Urraco) and a four-seater (the front-engined Espada, as it turned out). These were to follow on from the success of the Miura, which had been launched the previous year at Geneva.

It was coachbuilder Bertone that instigated the Marzal, again wanting a car that would follow the incredible reaction that the Miura had received – and there's no doubt that the styling of the Espada was influenced by the Marzal.

Lamborghini Marzal driven in public for first time since 1967

Marcello Gandini, head of Bertone, had wanted something that would become the star of the 1967 Geneva show, and decided early on that he wanted ‘a four-seater, with a lot of glass, gullwing doors – perfect opening for a four-seater – and a lot of scenic effect’. He consulted Lamborghini engineer Paolo Stanzani, and decided that in order to allow room for four passengers what was needed was half a Miura engine – the V12 chopped in half and transversely mounted behind the passenger compartment.

A 2-litre six-cylinder engine block was created – still the only six-cylinder ever produced by Lamborghini. The Miura also had a transversely mounted engine, but to make the Marzal’s layout work, the engine had to be turned 180 degrees. This left the gearbox pattern back to front, first ratio sitting far away from the driver (remember, the Marzal is left-hand drive). The engine also had to be modified to turn in the opposite direction from the Miura’s.

Lamborghini Marzal driven in public for first time since 1967

The car was based on a lengthened Miura chassis, modified at either end, with the front section of a Miura chassis used back-to-front at the rear. It was given a new designation: Type P200 Marzal chassis 10001. The glass area, around four-and-a-half square metres of it, was created by the Belgian company Glaverbel, while the huge gullwing doors were made at Bertone. Cannibalising steering rack parts, these were operated using springs, pulley and steel cables.

The new car was shown at Geneva in early 1967, and as was hoped, created a storm. The Marzal – named after a fighting bull, incidentally – then made the trip to Monaco, where Ferruccio managed the incredible coup of persuading the Prince to drive it around the circuit.

Lamborghini Marzal driven in public for first time since 1967

From Monaco the car returned to the Lamborghini factory for evaluation, where legendary test driver and engineer Bob Wallace spent some time setting it up. Gandini got the chance to drive it around the surrounding areas, too. But it still felt long and ungainly to drive, and the six-cylinder engine wasn’t deemed appropriate for Lamborghini.

Still, it was shown on Bertone’s stand at the October 1967 Earls Court London Motor Show, as well as in Brussels, Belgium the following January – its last public appearance. It should then have been shipped to the US, but instead it was impounded at the docks in Genoa following problems with paperwork and a missing tax payment.

Lamborghini Marzal driven in public for first time since 1967

Criminally, it sat in the open air at the harbour for a year. Remember, this was a show car, never intended to be rainproof, and it filled with water. Its problems were compounded by the salty sea air. Finally it was moved to a warehouse, where it stayed for several years before Bertone decided to freshen it up to appear in the company museum. It was repainted and received a new steering wheel and gearknob, but it otherwise remained almost unchanged.

And that’s how it stayed until Carrozzeria Bertone was declared bankrupt and its cars were sold off to recover debts. In 2011 the Marzal was sold along with other prototypes at the RM Auctions sale in Villa Erba, Como. It was bought by a European collector.

Lamborghini Marzal driven in public for first time since 1967

By this point the steel lower half of the Marzal was seriously corroded (only the bonnet/hood is aluminium). While the silver leather upholstery had at some point been recovered, the mechanical parts had been left untouched for around 30 years. The car was delivered to Lamborghini for complete restoration.

The restorers managed to find traces of original paint and leather, which helped to recreate the Marzal as close to its original specification as possible. The bumpers, consisting of many tiny pieces of rubber and leatherette glued and screwed to the metal structures, provided one of the biggest challenges, but there were some wins, too – including the discovery of unused Marchal lights to replace the corroded originals.

Lamborghini Marzal driven in public for first time since 1967

It was completed last year, and went straight to the Lamborghini Concours in Neuchatel, Switzerland, where it won the Best of the Best Trophy, and was also exhibited at the March 2018 Geneva show. Now it has returned to Monaco, for its first public drive in 51 years.