In the 50th year of Lamborghini’s first venture into the supercar business, 2013 has been a period where the company has celebrated with pompous designs and massive horsepower. How else should an exotic car manufacturer ring in a golden anniversary? The ultra limited Veneno and now the super radical Egoista concept car make clear Lamborghini is still charting a future packed with buzz-worthy exotic rides.
While Ferruccio Lamborghini’s Italian automaker was developing a reputation for building likable performance machines through the 1960s, cars like the Espada and even the ground-breaking Miura were outshined by cars coming from national rival Ferrari. Creating their newest vehicles in the lessons learned from the mid-engined Miura, Lamborghini contacted the Bertone design house and designer Marcello Gandini in the execution of a new futuristic supercar. First displayed as a concept car at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show under the name LP 500, the Lamborghini Countach was forged. Produced between 1974 and 1990, the Countach has resided on many bedroom walls of as the premier choice of all car posters.
The Lamborghini Countach’s shape grew from a sketchpad to become an icon. The wedged-shaped aluminum body was all the rage in the early 1970s. Straightening the curves associated with sports cars of the 1950s and 1960s, the principle behind the wedged-shaped vehicle design was honed for stability at high speeds. Ferrari BB512, Lotus Espirt and the De Tomaso Pantera were a few sports car builders working on a similar aerodynamic premise. For the Countach, the result was a supercar achieving a drag coefficient of 0.42. Unimpressive by today’s standards of advanced aerodynamic mechanics, the Lamborghini Countach’s airflow was noteworthy for its time. For entry by a driver and passenger, the scissor-opening door on the Countach became a trademark for future Lamborghini design. The body is based on tubular steel frame giving the Countach race car-like handling and driving performance.
Despite the Countach’s shape and structure remaining intact, the supercar went through upgrades. Over a 16-year production run, alterations to the Countach saw wider tires, a front spoiler and the bulky, unattractive but necessary front bumper. On later versions, a large rear wing would be infamously available on the Countach. Appearing functional, the option rear wing was actually a performance hindrance that resulted in a lower top speed.
Powered by a mid-mounted V-12 engine, the Lamborghini Countach was first a carbureted powerplant with a 3.929-liter displacement. Generating 375 horsepower, the 1974 Countach’s V-12 was considered quite a powerhouse. The engine power was enough to propel the first cars past 175 miles per hour. On the LP5000 version of the Countach released in 1982, the engine was enlarged to 4.8 liters allowing the supercar to offer more torque. Peak performance came in 1985 when Lamborghini introduced the Countach LP5000S Quattrovalvole model. Upgrading the engine size once again to a 5.2-liter displacement, the LP5000S Quattrovalvole gave the Countach’s powerplant a four-valve per cylinder layout. In Europe, the later model Countach motored with 455 horsepower and 369 pounds-feet of torque. With 0 to 60-mile per hour acceleration in around five seconds, the European Lamborghini Countach could achieve a 183-mile per hour top speed. American bound Countachs alternatively produced 420 horsepower due a fuel injection system replacing the carburetor setup.
Entering the marketplace on similar timing as the first Porsche 911 Turbo, the Lamborghini Countach lifted an Italian automaker to the peak of motorized envy. The release of the Countach corresponded in the aftermath of the oil crisis and economic imbalance. The 1974 model year was a humbling experience for the car, as only 23 cars were sold. Similar to the beginning of the Chevrolet Corvette, success in the performance car world took time for the Countach. Originally, the Lamborghini Countach had to be privately imported into the United States due to emission rules. Wealthy, supercar-crazed motorists needed to source their ride through an automotive grey market. It was not until 1982 when the Countach was officially available in the country. Yes, cabin space was limited, fuel economy was poor and the price crossed the six-figure level after the mid-1980s but elite motorists desperately wanted it. Over 2,000 examples of the Lamborghini Countach were produced for worldwide demand.
Production of the Countach officially ended on July 4th of 1990. Making way for the Lamborghini Diablo, the Countach was a massive leap for supercar design many have attempted (mostly in vain,) to replicate.
Information and photo source: Automobili Lamborghini Holding S.p.A., Chris Nagy