1974 Lamborghini Countach: The car equivalent of Benjamin Button

1974 Lamborghini Countach: The car equivalent of Benjamin Button

The Lamborghini Countach was a bedroom wall poster for basically everyone my age, we kept our porn hidden under the bed but this went proudly on the wall and I love it so much that it sparked my interest in Lamborghini as a company, it is my dream to own one just one time in my life but I’ll need to write a lot of car articles and live in a box for another while before that can become a reality.

One strange thing about the Lamborghini Countach is that during its 16 year production run, it seemed to age in reverse, more powerful, less functional and it got extra body parts. The Countach is the car equivalent of Benjamin Button and today I want to go into detail about this epic Italian hyper car.

CAN’T BE BOTHERED READING? DON’T FRET, WATCH THE VIDEO.

THE HISTORY

The development of the Countach was initiated to be the follow on from the Miura, the car that really made Lamborghini what it is today, although the Miura was introduced in 1966 and much beloved by all including critics, it was already starting to look outdated in 1970. The reason for this is that Ferrari and other makers had made huge head ways during those years, specifically with cars like the Ferrari Daytona. Design language was changing, the 60’s were the years of classic beautiful and modest design but the 70’s was the beginnings of making a statement with car design and the Daytona really embraced this, it was hideous in my opinion.

In 1970, Ferruccio Lamborghini and Paolo Stanzani began plans for the new LP112 which would become the Countach, the two had agreed that two things were of the utmost importance to this new model it had to be a high performance, aerodynamic, super car and secondly, it had to challenge the industry when it came to design. Paolo Stanzani was the chief engineer who had assembled a team and built the Miura in secret and now Lamborghini trusted him, in this case he needed him, to push the boundaries on that front.

The team would address and build on the problems that they learned from the Miura and the result would be one of the most famous cars in the world. Even it’s name lived up to this, the word Countach is an exclamation of astonishment in Italian.

THE LOOKS

Alfa Romeo Carabo

Given the commercial success of the Miura, it was obvious that the legendary Marcello Gandini would get the contract to design its successor. The designer was now working at Bertone and had been experimenting with a new wedge shape, cars with stark angles that stood out amid the curvy 60’s cars they pass. One example of this is the Alfa Romeo Carabo concept car which Gandini designed in 1968 which bares a remarkable resemblance to the Countach, the Carabo even had scissor doors.

The 1971 Geneva Auto Show prototype featured a lot of the detail that would be put back on the car over its lifetime.

The resulting (P500 prototype) car was lower, shorter and wider than the Miura with stark angles all around, Gandini achieved the steeply sloped front design by including a feature which would become incredibly popular in the 70’s and 80’s, which were of course pop-up headlights. Unusual side vents were placed behind the doors to push air into the engine and keep it cool.

The original interior design of this car also had some interesting features such as an on-board diagnostic system which was way ahead of its time and also a periscope instead of a rear-view mirror because visibility was so poor. The styling in the interior was as bonkers as the exterior and Gandini gave it light and control designs from the aviation industry, which is probably where the VW Group got its idea for the start button’s red switch on the Aventador.

A lot of the madness of the LP500 prototpe would be toned down for the LP400 production model than began selling in 1974 but some of the crazier features of the car starting being added back on throughout the 1980’s and if you look at a 1989 version of the car it is starkly different to the original production model.

One feature that made it in from the start are the iconic scissor doors which to this day are known as Lambo doors even though they were originally used on an Alfa Romeo concept by Gandini himself. This design is still used on the Aventador and to some, this is Lamborghini’s defining feature.

The design was tweaked for the 25th anniversary edition which celebrated 25 years of Lamborghini in 1988, this design was created by non other than Horacio Pagani who you’ve almost certainly heard of if you’re reading this.

THE ENGINE

As I’ve stated in previous videos and articles, the basic design of the V12 in the Miura was used all the way from 1966 until 2010 when it ended its life with the end of the Murcielago. So needless to say, this Countach obviously sported one of the incredible Lamborghini V12 engines. In the Miura, as I explain in the video below, the engine was mounted transversely but the engineers working on the Countach design decided to change this as it had caused poor front/rear weight distribution in the Miura which lead to lift of over-steer. As such the Countach would have a longitudinally mounted V12.

This configuration of V12 was not new, it had been used for a while in Ferrari racing cars but Stanzani wanted to improve on the design and make the weight distribution of the car even better and this lead to a very strange power train layout within the car. Normally on other longitudinally fitted V12 engine cars, the transmission comes out the back and feeds power to the wheels, this meant that they were heavy at the rear. Instead in the Countach, the output shaft goes towards the front of the engine, connecting through the clutch assembly through the 5-speed Porsche-style transmission. Even stranger than this was this is then connected to the driveshaft which ran straight through the engine’s oil sump and connected to a differential at the rear.

Although the team had tried to increase the 3.9 liter V12 from the Miura to 5 liters but due to durability issues this engine wasn’t fitted to the debut version of the car in 1974, instead the original engine was used but performance was increased from 342 bhp to 370 bhp, a fair bit down from the originally planned 440 . In 1982, they managed to increase the engine to 4.8 liter’s of displacement, and finally in 1985 with the LP5000 Quattrovalvole the car had a 5.2 liter engine, with the six Weber carburetors replaced with direct injection to meet new fuel emissions regulations.

PERFORMANCE

In terms of performance it varies, but one thing that it wasn’t even though it my look it was aerodynamic, the air would hit the front of this car like a brick because of its angular design and flat windows all round. That being said the performance figures were not all that bad.

The original LP400, which was released in 1974, with the 3.9 liter V12 managed to hit a top speed of 179 mph and would accellerate from 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds. This wasn’t a slow car but there were much faster cars around at the time.

By the time we hit the last generation, this had obviously improved, the engine was now up to 5.2 liters and a turbo had been added. The LP500S would hit a mental 205 mph in 1988 and would go from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds. Now that is a fast set of figures, especially in the late 1980’s in a car that looked like it was created by the imagination of a 12 year old.

FINAL WORD

If you’ve somehow managed to miss this incredible super car your whole life, I would be astonished, it’s a car that looks utterly incredible and unlike anything else produced before or after it. It made Lamborghini what it is today and is probably the reason that the company was saved on more than three separate occasions by different buyers.

1,983 of these cars were built during its lifetime with over half of those being built in the final five years of its life, which makes sense as this car was the ideal run around for the short sleeved blazer wearing, cocaine sniffing, banker or trader of the era. Gordon Gecko allegedly had one.

I still want one more than I want air and that ladies and gentlemen, is because “Greed is Good”