The Lamborghini Countach Is A Concept Car Come True
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.