The Lamborghini Countach represented the backbone of the Lamborghini legend. Sure, the Miura came first and wowed crowds, but it was the Countach that took the brand to an entire new level. Once again, designer Marcello Gandini managed to draw a fascinating, unconventional car that left everyone speechless. Lamborghini wanted to build the most spectacular supercar ever made, one would be far more advanced than its time, one would bring even bigger impact than Miura did, one would become the dreamcar of every schoolboy in the following many years. When the Lamborghini Countach prototype was first shown at the 1971 Geneva motor show, there was a broad expression of wonder and excitement.
The Lamborghini Countach conceptualized sharp angles and sleek lines. Designed by Marcello Gandini, this visionary blueprint was originally introduced as the design for the Lancia Stratos Zero concept Car. Equipped with scissor doors, a cab-forward layout and a powerful V12 engine, the Lamborghini Countach was produced until 1990. With a total production number of almost 2000 units, the Countach remained in high demand for nearly two decades. In that time it got many upgrades and improvements all the way to the final Anniversary Edition car that ran from 1988 to 1990.
Below we take an in depth look at one of the most iconic supercars ever made, the Lamborghini Countach.
In 1970, Project LP112 was the code name given to what would ultimately become the Countach. The Countach name came from a styling assistant who said the Piedmontese term "contacc!"—an excited term of awe—upon seeing the final concept. The concept shown in 1971 was a huge hit and it took till 1974 before we saw the first production Countach.
The first Countach generation was named LP 400. The bodywork was made of aluminum alloy bonded on a lightweight tubular spaceframe chassis designed by Paolo Stanzani. Suspension was double-wishbones all around, coupled with strong ventilated disc brakes. The engine was originally planned to be a 5-liter V12 good for 440hp, but overheating and reliability problems halted the development and forced Lamborghini to settle on its proven Bizzarrini-designed 3929cc V12. The engine was mounted longitudinally with the gearbox and clutch located in front of the engine. The gearbox was a 5-speed manual. Power transferred back to the rear wheels by a driveshaft running inside the dry engine sump. This arrangement improved front-rear weight distribution leading to better handling and it shortened gear linkage thus made gearchanges more precise.
The innovations in engine and transmission placement worked, with the first-generation Countach making 325 bhp @ 7,500 rpm and 260 ft lbs @ 5,500 rpm, leading to a very quick 0 to 60 mph in around 5.9 seconds and top speed of 181 mph.
Through the years, the Countach continually evolved. The earliest 1974 models, known as "Periscopio" for their unique periscope-style rear-view mirror setup, are the purest from a styling standpoint, without the big scoops, vents, wings, and flares that would come to epitomize the later cars.
By 1980, Lamborghini Automobili was in bankruptcy. When new owners came into the picture in 1982, the Countach was finally federalized for U.S. sales—a market that would come to be the automaker's largest. In 1982, the V12 was enlarged to 4754cc, hence a new designation LP500 (also known as LP5000S in the United States). Tougher emission standard called for reducing compression ratio from 10.5:1 to 9.2:1. Still, the larger engine produced 375 hp and 302 lbft of torque to restore the performance of LP400, despite the additional weight. Performance was not very different although many said the car felt sportier. Other areas were basically unchanged from the previous car.
For 1985, the Countach LP5000 QV was introduced, QV standing for "quattrovalvole," or four-valve in Italian. True to its name, the now-5.2-liter V-12 was given a four-valves-per-cylinder head for increased efficiency, as well as another bump in output to 455 horsepower when equipped with six downdraft Weber carburetors (leading to these being commonly known as "Downdraft" cars), or 415 horsepower with the Bosch fuel injection U.S.-market cars received to meet Federal emissions standards. American-spec cars also got larger, heavier impact bumpers than their European counterparts and different engine fuel system because of stricter emission requirement.
Arriving in 1988, the 25th Anniversary Edition Countach received an even more outrageous restyle by Horacio Pagani (yes, that Horatio Pagani). The 25th Anniversary Edition Countach was often seen as a tribute to 1980s excess as well as a caricature of the earliest Periscopio models. Mechanically, it was nearly identical to the 5000QV, except that several changes were made to solve well known Countach issues. More ventilation holes were opened in the air dam, side skirts and engine lid in order to better cool the brakes and engine. The air box intakes were also enlarged.
The Lamborghini Countach was the defining supercar of the late 1970s and 1980 before it was finally discontinued to make way for the Diablo in 1990.