Featured: The Lamborghini Countach Is A Concept Car Come True

The Lamborghini Countach Is A Concept Car Come True

By Petrolicious Productions
January 6, 2015
12 comments

Photography courtesy of RM Auctions

A couple of weeks ago, we asked you which concept cars should’ve made it to production using the Lancia Stratos Zero as an example of an incredible concept that was watered down in production version. The Lamborghini Countach, however, was not. It went into production much like the concept that debuted at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show.

“Breath-taking” just barely described Marcello Gandini’s design for Bertone, and it was nothing short of spectacular. Angular, low slung, and aggressive, the Countach was the antithesis of the curvaceous automobiles penned in the 1960s. When the production version arrived three years later at the 1974 Geneva Auto Show, the car was clearly more refined and ready for road use. Production was slow at first, with only twenty-three examples being produced that first year, but Lamborghini slowly began to hit its stride in later years, with many more leaving the factory gates as the car’s life went on.

While the styling of the LP400 remained largely unchanged from the original concept, numerous changes were made under the skin to the chassis and drivetrain. The tube-frame chassis was completely redesigned to provide greater strength, and the cooling system saw a similar level of revision, utilizing vertically mounted radiators that were cooled via a pair of scoops and NACA ducts.

Meanwhile, the engine was reduced in size to a more reliable 4.0-litre unit with a smaller bore and stroke than the original 5-litre V-12. Topped with six weber carburetors, the Countach produced 375 hp at 8,000 rpm. Thanks to a total weight of 1,065 kg and its incredibly slick aerodynamic silhouette, the car was capable of a top speed of a hair under 290 km/h, and it was thought that it could soldier on to crack 300 km/h under ideal conditions.

According to the factory records, this Periscopo was completed on June 2nd, 1977 and finished in Rosso with a Tobacco interior. It was ordered through Australian importer Tony de Fina, who organized a factory pick-up (in Sant’Agata Bolognese) for the first Australian owners. This car has a rich and fascinating history file with documentation dating back to November 1976, when the car’s original owners got wind of the imminent release of the LP400S and wanted to cancel their order for the LP400! This did not happen, and the owners collected their new car on the 2 June 1977, immediately got behind the wheel, and proceeded to go on a grand tour of Europe. Two weeks later, the car returned to the factory for a routine service with 3,449 kilometres on the odometer! Its first owners continued to enjoy the car in Europe and the UK for several months, and after a service in June of 1978 in the UK at 16,276 km, the car was shipped to Australia, its home for the next thirty-six years.

Shortly after returning to Australia, the car was converted to LP400S specification by the local New South Wales Lamborghini distributor by flaring the wheel arches and fitting LP400S Bravo style wheels, a front spoiler, and a rear wing. The car’s current and fourth owner purchased the car in September 2005 and immediately commissioned the car to be returned to its original LP400 guise, save for the upgraded rear suspension.

The car was repainted in its correct shade of Rosso, whilst the engine was rebuilt almost two decades ago. However, the car remains in remarkably original condition, retaining what is understood to be its original interior. Today the car presents and drives magnificently, and it would be one of the finest surviving examples of the early Countach. The car is not a trailer queen and has been driven and enjoyed on the road throughout the last 10 years, though its condition would suggest otherwise. Attesting to the car’s quality and condition, it was invited to be part of the Lamborghini 50th Anniversary display at Motorclassica in Melbourne in October 2013, where it was an award winner. The car is accompanied by its tool roll and an extensive history file, including original owner’s manual, warranty card, and delivery documents.

Undoubtedly the most collectable model of the entire Countach family, the LP400 ‘Periscopo’ was a legend in its own time when it was introduced, and it remains amongst the most historically important supercars ever built. It proved that Lamborghini was not just a one-hit wonder after the Miura and could continue to evolve and compete alongside more established sports car manufacturers like Porsche and Ferrari, establishing the company’s place in the market for years to come. Perhaps Ray Hutton of Autocar magazine summed up the brutish charm of the Countach most accurately in his article on the car in 1974: “The people who live in the outskirts of Modena are used to seeing exotic cars ‘on test’. But this one still makes them stop in their tracks, smile and wave in encouragement.”

Boasting known ownership history from new, as well as the provenance of being one of only a handful of right-hand drive LP400 ‘Periscopo’ cars ever built, this is a Countach to be treasured.

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[…] Lamborghini Countach The Lamborghini Countach is a concept car come true […]

Kelly Ashton
Kelly Ashton
5 years ago

It was most probably this car I saw on the Cahill Expressway in Sydney c.1979; it had Black and White Victorian number plates on it and was covered in thick, red outback dust and looked beautifully used. But it was the other Countach around at the time, the yellow one that was featured in the Sydney Motor Show that I single handedly push-started when the Italian owner had a flat battery on a rainy Sunday night at Cromer on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

Jim Levitt
Jim Levitt
6 years ago

I think your dates are off.
I was in the first one in the US which at the time was driven by the importer, Dan Morgan and it was earlier
I had my Mangusta and he passed me on the other side. I did a U turn in the middle of Sunset Blvd (easy to do in a Mangusta, I just let off the gas quickly)! and chased him down!
I guess because of the Mangusta he stopped, we chatted and gave me a ride.
This could not have been much later than 1971!

Franco Martinengo
Franco Martinengo
6 years ago

I bet you don’t have a clue of what Countach means!
Well, even here in italy, most people do not!
It is actually a, very mild, swear word in Piemontese dialect, akin to “cripes” in english.
The legend says that a worker uttered so seing the car first time, and the word stood!

LeTam
LeTam
7 years ago

oh men ! so very sexy , i have been saw another one in [url=”http://vbet79.net/”]ty le ca cuoc[/url] page but it’s black

Frank Anigbo
Frank Anigbo
7 years ago

Wonderfully said and all so true. Today I own desirable examples from Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati – each providing a kind of excitement, but I am yet to find the sheer joy I always felt at the time the best I could manage was a $1,000 fiat spider colored white and rust. And the girl I married, tomboy to the core and as lovely as the day is long, might not have caught my attention when I was much younger and knew nothing of inner beauty.

Frank Anigbo
Frank Anigbo
7 years ago

I never thought I’ll say this but I really want an early Countach. Great article with great photos. Thank you.

Todd Cox
Todd Cox
7 years ago

The Countach. Even to utter the name evokes a mysterious, unattainable, nearly mythical automotive apparition. It shared wall space with several fantastic images from Michael Wheelen (a favorite artistic muse to my blossoming inner nerd) and a photo of the girl I loved at the time, who did not love me back. This was the wall of the fantastic, the desirable; even in brilliance of a young man approaching the zenith of his teen years, accompanied by all the optimism that follows suit, I knew it was the wall of the unattainable. The Countach was nothing short of the automotive equivalent of sex to a 17 year old kid. I wasn’t sure whether the car or the girl was more dangerous, but I had my suspicions they were both deadly in unnervingly delightful ways.
I studied that gleaming white spectral form almost every of my high school career as it graced my bedroom wall. It always looked sharp and hungry hanging the length of my bed. I used to wonder what it would be like to pilot such a car; surely it would be more exciting than my asthmatic ’78 VW Dasher. But even then I knew there was no way to transport my bike, and getting the girlfriend’s backpack in the car was impossible. Gas an insurance? It was almost impossible to keep up with those demands on my plebeian Dasher; I just didn’t see the wages afforded by working at Small’s Formal Wear in the mall making a dent in something like that. And so began rooted my lust for the unattainable Countach.
Oddly, it is one of those cars that I never managed to cross paths with in reality. There were no shortage of them on TV and in film, but to me, it was about as real as getting a date with my high school heartthrob; in fact, she was quite a bit more attainable. At least I could see her; I knew she existed in reality. Yet, the years continued down that highway that all our misspent years travel, and I found myself a few decades older, but no less of an enthusiast of the automotive form. To me, cars (some to a much greater degree than others) are dynamic sculpture; as delicate as sandcastles on the beach but best appreciated in their natural motion. It isn’t any surprise that when I happened on a car show that I’d forgotten about that I dropped my plans and went wandering around the sea of unusual autos.
I was delighted to have my sons with me; budding automotive enthusiasts in their own right. I’d occasionally stop at one car or another and relay what history of the car, and the car’s innovation or unusual attributes. I tried to relay why some cars, some seemingly very dull in today’s automotive design company, were absolutely mind-blowing departures when they first appeared on our streets. They seemed to enjoy it, and I was equally interested to hear their remarks on the cars. Since the designs were new to them, they simply said what came to their minds. They didn’t understand the implied authority of a Ferrari Daytona or its rarity, nor did they particularly care; they simply stated what was brewing between their ears. I suspect that more than a few automotive giants would have gone home with bruised egos that day, and to be honest, I had to agree with quite a few of their points.
As we continued strafing the rows of cars I rounded a corner and lo and behold there it sat. The very first Lamborghini Countach I’d ever seen in the flesh. It sat, black and squatting in the hot TX sun. And I Looked. The boys were trailing behind, looking at another car as I inched closer to this mythical machine. I sized up the car, and realized for the first time how diminutive it is. Closer. The car had a bit of wear, and I respected the owner for actually driving the machine. It did not seem to lead an exceptionally pampered life, if I’m being quite honest about it. I inched closer yet; close enough, in fact, to squat down at its side and peer into the opened door. I think that’s when it happened. That, maybe, was the moment when my dream died.
Like the dreams of marrying my high school crush, the idea of her was much more attractive than the reality, and when she showed me her beautiful flawed, crazy, and delightful side, I realized that being her friend from a distance was far more attractive than having her by my side. Much the same, my years on this earth had sullied the appreciation I once had for this magnificent machine. The interior looked a bit cobbled together, and not very well at that. I later checked to make sure this was a true representation of an original Countach, and much to my horror I discovered it was actually quite a good example. It was blocky and looked like most of it was tacked up with Velcro for how poorly it all fit. It looked terribly, ridiculously uncomfortable for even the shortest trip with absolutely nothing but blind spots. Leaving it out of eyeshot for even a moment would invariably cause panic attacks, and let’s not forget my old haunts of insurance; gas has been replaced by tire expenses and routine maintenance. I think I did two things that day: I died just a little bit, and I also evolved.
I realized that the swooping steel and aluminum shapes that formed the roadsters of the ‘50s and ‘60s were my true passion. Sophisticated lines with clearly restrained styling and large glass cockpits were far more delightful to me. Gone was the bravado and in-your-face love affair that I once had for the Countach and cars like it. Oddly, I still love it, but I came to a very disturbing conclusion; I loved it because of how horrible it was. It’s an awful design; I’ve seen children replicate it in grade school without ever having seen the car. For all its glory, it is an ugly car, which makes it no less special or stunning in the automotive world. But if I’m going to be seen in something (and this part truly liberated me) I realized that I’d much rather be seen in my ’96 Miata with the hardtop fitted as its Chaste White paint gleams cheerfully, and happily in the midday sun. While I know any self-respecting, self-appointed serious car guy will roll his eyes at this, I have also realized that of the two, the Miata is simply the cooler car to have. It is the tomboy next door, who is always happy to see you, and who snuck you that first kiss because when you were out fishing. The tomboy is truly beautiful in her cutoff shorts, hiking boots, and t-shirt than the prom queen is in all her homecoming court ribaldry. Occasionally you find that mythical blending of the two, and perhaps the Miata goes a step further in that direction because it’s a performer as well, but the point is the Miata isn’t screaming about how hard it is trying or how good it is. It simply is, and it makes no excuses. When I park it, children come and see it, the elderly recount delightful memories to me, and women seem to nod with a very approving smile. We aren’t trying hard, we’re simply being.
But, I had to ask my sons who were ripe for the age of catching automotive fever; what did they think of this black beast of a car that was somehow looking down its overly-sculpted nose at me? Did they identify with the same young man’s bravado that I had when I saw this car so many years ago? I had to know. As I called them over, they looked at me and I waved a hand at this amazing bit of automotive sculpture standing before us. Do you know what they did?
They laughed.
My heart broke again. My children were laughing at a Lamborghini! And it wasn’t just any Lamborghini, it was arguably the ultimate representation of the pinnacle of Lamborghini design for the entire decade of the ‘80s and into the ‘90s! It was iconic! And yet, they laughed. So, I asked the more difficult question, which was why they were laughing.
“Just look at it.” they said “it looks weird. How do you go from something like this to cars like that?” my oldest son asked as he sweeps his gaze from a ’65 Mustang, to a ’54 Chevy, over a 40’s era Pierce Arrow and come to rest on the Countach and the Daytona sitting a few cars down the row. “It looks like a kit car. Like someone built it in their garage. What is it?” I died a little more inside. They never saw their favorite action heroes crawl out of one on their way to save the day. They never saw the posters of the car, carefully lit and photographed at the most attractive angles. They never saw the odd proportions our how huge the average driver would look wedged into the machine. All they saw was what stood before them, and at once I had to admit that it was a nonsensical, bonkers, absolutely insane version of Italian masculinity incarnate, in all of its cartoonish glory. It is sort of the idea of masculinity for those who have no idea what that truly is; it is a skinny, insecure 17 year old guy’s musings of what a real man drives. And I’m delighted that it exists. It tells me a lot about myself. It reminds me that I can’t trade in my Miata on a fully restored Mercedes Gullwing or a ’57 Corvette. I know I’ll probably never have that ’65 Austin Healey 3000 MKII, or a Triumph TR-4 but I also know that I can enjoy my family and adore my car precisely because it isn’t one of those. Had my car worn a more traditionally classic nameplate, like Lotus, it would have been profoundly desirable and lauded, yet there’s a beauty in the mass-production of the Mazda. I can eat inside with the car left alone. I can drive it in foul weather and put cheap gas in it. I can be creative with it and remake it as a classic (which it rightfully has become). I suppose, that with enough desire, I could even make it into a Countach of sorts, but why in the world would I? To do so would be to steal the pure joy of carefree motoring. The Countach is the antithesis of and easy day on the road, playfully exploring the corners with the world in your cockpit. Sorry Lamborghini, but you got what you were aiming for, in all its glory. It is amazing, tragic, and just a little sad. But you know what? I’ll always love it. Does anyone know where to get a five foot poster?

Andrew Salt
Andrew Salt
7 years ago
Reply to  Todd Cox

Very interesting and entertaining Todd. Thank you!

I too have lusted after the Countach.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
7 years ago
Reply to  Todd Cox

Great read.

Dishan Marikar
Dishan Marikar
7 years ago
Reply to  Todd Cox

Hi Todd,

Thanks for the great read! If you’re after a 5′ poster, hit me up… I took the 2 action shots depicted in this article.
dishan(at)dmarikar(dot)com

Cheers, Dishan 🙂

Ae Neuman
Ae Neuman
7 years ago

beautiful.
elegant even compared to the brutal later versions festooned with fat tyres and big willy compensators.
🙂