The Classic | Lamborghini Countach

In the summer of 1970, Ferruccio Lamborghini pushed his engineers to develop a revolutionary car that could succeed in the not-so-easy task of replacing the iconic Miura.

The new car had to be technically advanced and faster. And it had to be a Lamborghini sports car symbolising the 1970s.

Like its predecessor, the new car would feature a 12-cylinder engine. But its displacement was increased from 4.0- to 5.0-litres, and its position in the car changed: from rear transversal to rear longitudinal.

To be able to achieve this while avoiding the limitations of a rear overhanging transmission, Lamborghini technical manager, Paolo Stanzani, invented a new solution, with the transmission placed in front of the engine, practically behind the driver and passenger seats, and the propeller shaft passing inside the engine block.

 

From the stylistic viewpoint, Marcello Gandini, head of style at Carrozzeria Bertone, decided to abandon the rounded shapes that had distinguished the 1960s, instead penning a very low and wide car featuring sharp edges. He conjured up an extraordinary shape.

Gandini also decided to use scissor doors, not only to fulfil a technical requirement resulting from the height of the side portion of the chassis, but also to gain a few centimetres in width to make it easier to climb into the car.

 

It was while working on the execution of this first prototype, called LP 500, which had to be ready for the Geneva Motor Show in March 1971, that the word “Countach” made its first appearance. It is an exclamation of the Italian Piedmontese dialect that indicates astonishment and admiration for something.

Upon its unveiling, the Countach LP 500 was an instant hit. However, the Countach was not ready. It was an “idea car” designed to test people’s reactions. When development was finally green-lit, it was put into production as soon as possible. Roughly two years of intensive work stretching over long days on the road – and driven by legendary Kiwi test driver Bob Wallace – were needed for the Countach LP 500 prototype to become a production car.

 

The Countach LP 400 made its official debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1973. Considered by many to be the purest version of Marcello Gandini’s design, the LP 400, with 152 series units produced up until 1977, is today the most sought-after version by collectors.

 

But the Countach was set to evolve beyond the decade that it so mesmerizingly symbolised.

 

The LP 400 was replaced by the Countach LP 400 S in 1978, sporting new Pirelli P7 tyres with magnesium rims, and wheel arch extensions necessary to contain the larger rubber, an ultra-low front spoiler and – as an outrageous option – a rear wing that was also to become one of the most distinctive features of the Countach in the following years. To this day, the LP 400 S – the star of a million 1980s-bedroom wall posters – is still considered the perfect example of the DNA of the Countach and Lamborghini, and speaks of sportiness, alluring design, and futuristic technology.

 

The Countach LP 5000 S was introduced in 1982, and the Countach LP 5000 Quattrovalvole three years later, with production finally ending in 1990. But through the lineage of the Countach, the preceding two decades had showcased everything brilliant and bullish about Lamborghini.

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