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The fact that we now have ‘Lamborghini doors’ originated 50 years ago, these days many tuners offer what they call Lamborghini doors for all kinds of cars, and one thing they all have in common … the door hinges upward instead of sideways.
That was first seen on the Carabo, but was introduced by Lamborghini on their 1971 prototype that was displayed at the Bertone stand during the 1971 Geneva Motor Show, and it would characterize every Lamborghini with a mid-mounted V12 engine since then.
At the time Lamborghini already impressed the automotive world with their sensual looking Miura, probably one of the most beautiful cars ever made, a true piece of automotive art, and by 1971 she was developed into her ultimate version, the SV, or Spinto Veloce … arguably the best model in the range.
Codenamed LP112, the Countach was in development with a Carrozzeria Bertone body designed by Marcello Gandini, built on a platform frame, the Countach LP500 was fitted with a prototype engine having an enlarged displacement of 4,971cc, and Gandini decided on using those trademark doors on this Lamborghini to open up onto a very futuristic interior with digital dials and a rather special steering wheel.
Because the Miura SV was shown on the Lamborghini stand, the bright yellow Countach LP500 was moved to the Bertone stand, as a futuristic show car … but Ferruccio Lamborghini saw how much interest this innovative car drew, so he decided to build the Countach for his customers.
After the Geneva Motor Show, none other than Bob Wallace, Lamborghini’s Chief Test Driver at that time, took the new Countach onto the roads around Sant’Agata … and blew up the engine, which was mainly built from magnesium to keep the weight down.
This new 5-Liter V12 engine soon proved to be unreliable, and it was replaced with a 3,929cc version that would eventually be used in the Countach LP400 production models, the digital displays on the dashboard, and the first attempt at an ‘engine check computer’ got scrapped by Bob Wallace during testing, but that wasn’t the only issue he ran into … a bigger issue was cooling.
The Countach LP500 prototype looked amazing, a very clean, uninterrupted design from front to rear, with a thin front bumper, a recessed front hood, pop-up headlights, a periscope roof for the interior rearview mirror, and beautiful shoulder-mounted air intakes that remind us of the gills on a shark.
But they couldn’t cool down the massive engine just behind the driver and passenger, so the prototype was modified, and rather crudely so, they cut NACA ducts into the doors and part of the rear fender, just rivetted them in, this still wasn’t enough so in came the large ‘box styled intakes behind the side windows, and at the rear, a set of slats on top of the fender would let hot air evacuate.
Today these are all trademark features on the Lamborghini Countach, but in the early Seventies, they didn’t intend to have that many intakes and vents, let alone a large rear wing that became so popular on the later S models.
Lamborghini’s press release states: “The origin of the name of this car lies in the dialect of the Piedmont region. In its final stages of assembly, the car was hidden in a shed for agricultural machinery on a farm near Grugliasco (province of Turin) to avoid possible work stoppages related to labor unrest and was “discovered” by a farmer who exclaimed in amazement and enthusiasm, “Countach!” (a word in Piedmontese dialect expressing wonderment). When Piedmont-born Marcello Gandini became aware of the fact, he thought that this word had a particularly strong communicative force and also convinced Nuccio Bertone, Ferruccio Lamborghini, and his colleague Paolo Stanzani of this.”
Sadly this original 1971 Lamborghini Countach LP500 prototype no longer exists, after years of development, modifications, and road testing, this unique car met its end at the crash test barrier at MIRA in the United Kingdom.
At the 1973 Geneva Motor Show, the first Countach LP400 prototype was shown, finished in bright red over a black suede interior, all the intakes and vents were built-in, and this car had the 4-Liter engine fitted, once again Bob Wallace took this car for the final stages of development. For the 1973 Paris Auto Show Lamborghini arrived with a green Countach LP400 with a brown leather interior, driving lights were fitted into the front bumper and a single windshield wiper was fitted.
But it wasn’t until the 1974 Geneva Motor Show, three years after the introduction of the Countach LP500 prototype, that Lamborghini would be able to show the actual production version, the Countach LP400 … again finished in yellow … but at that time, Ferruccio had already sold Automobili Lamborghini SpA to Georges-Henri Rosetti and Rene Leimer, still, the first real production Countach left the factory on April 11, 1974, and was delivered to a customer in Milan.
Recently, an enthusiast in Japan built a full-size replica of the Lamborghini Countach LP500 prototype to enjoy.