The words ‘instant’ and ‘legend’ can but rarely be combined when it comes to describing a new car’s impact, but are truly justified in the case of the Lambo Countach’s arrival in the world of exotic automobiles. Perhaps the reason was a persistent rumour that this was the fastest production car ever, or maybe it was the fact that this was the ultimate example of stylish Italian supercar design (and to hell with the practicalities).
Crafted by Marcello Gandini of Bertone, the LP500 prototype shown at the Geneva Motor Show in 1971 certainly contributed to the hype surrounding the extended run-up to the Countach’s official launch in 1974. This extraordinary white machine was often pictured from behind and above, to emphasize the fact that it was more like a 23rd-century starfighter than a mere car. It pioneered the extreme wedge shape and cabin-forward approach that would soon become de rigeur for high-performance supercars.
But numerous detail changes were made before the prototype metamorphosed into the first production Countach LP 400, though the overall look and signature upward-opening cabin doors remained much the same. The 400 had the Miura’s 4 litre V12 mounted longitudinally behind the driver, equipped with six Weber carburettors. The Countach had a lightweight aluminium skin over a racing-car style tubular space frame to keep the weight down. In 1978 further tweaking gave the Countach LP 400S a rather more aggressive look with wheel arch extensions.
There was an improved engine and the option of a rear spoiler that many thought ugly, but most buyers chose it anyway. A more powerful engine arrived in 1982, bedded in the LP 500S, shortly before the Countach 5000QV was launched with a 5.2 litre V12. The final evolution came in 1988 with the 25th Anniversary Countach, celebrating Lamborghird’s first quarter century.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Italy
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1974 (until 1989)
ENGINE: 3,929 cc, 4,754 cc or 5,167 cc V12
PERFORMANCE: With 4.0 I engine – top speed of 175 mph (282 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.6 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Ironically for a car that attracted such admiring press coverage when launched, rearward visibility from the Countach’s cabin was virtually nil, the engine tended to overheat, the windows only opened a few inches and the car’s aerodynamics were lousy – and still everyone drooled over it.