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Lamborghini Countach

The Lamborgini Countach was a supercar produced by Lamborghini in Italy. The first prototypes emerged in 1971, and production lasted until 1990. It did not pioneer but did popularise the wedge-shaped, sharply angled look popular in many high performance cars since.

The word Countach is an expletive of astonishment in the local Italian dialect, and somehow the name stuck. All previous Lamborghini names were associated with bullfighting (Ferruccio Lamborghini being an aficionado of the sport).

Table of contents
1 Styling
2 Engine
3 Construction
4 Prototype LP500
5 Production LP400
6 LP400S
7 LP500S
8 LP500QV
9 Countach Anniversary
10 Production Figures


The styling was by Marcello Gandini of the Bertone design studio. Gandini was then a young, inexperienced designer - not very experienced in the practical, ergonomic aspects of automobile design, but at the same time unhindered by them. He produced a quite striking design. The Countach shape was long and wide and low (42.1 inches), angular and wedge-shaped, and made almost entirely of flat, trapezoidal panels. There were curves, notably the smoothly coke-bottle wing line, but the overall appearance was sharp.

The doors, a Countach trademark, were of a 'scissors' fashion -- hinged at the front with horizontal hinges, so that the doors lifted up and tilted forwards. This was partly for style, but just as much because the width of the car made conventional doors impossible to use in an even slightly confined space. Care needed to be taken, though, in opening the doors with a roof overhead.

Drag, however, was quite poor for such a sleek-looking car - but looking fast was more important to Lamborghini.


Power was by a Lamborghini designed and built 60° DOHC V12 engine mounted longitudinally in a mid-engined configuration. For better weight distribution, the engine is actually 'backwards' - the output shaft is at the front, and the gearbox is in front of the engine, the driveshaft running back through the engine's sump to a differential at the rear. Although originally planned as a 5 litre powerplant, the fist production cars used the Lamborghini Miura's 4 litre engine. Later advances increased the displacement to 5 litres and then (in the Quattrovalvole model) 5.2 litres and four valves per cylinder.


The Countach utilised a skin of aircraft-grade aluminum over a tubular space-frame, as in a racing car. This is expensive to build but is immensely strong and very light. The underbody tray was fiberglass.

Prototype LP500

A single prototype was built, the LP500 (the 500 standing for the 5 litre displacement of the test car). Painted bright sunflower yellow, the car was a stunner at the Paris auto show in 1971. Sporting Gandini's original design concepts, the car's design needed extensive modification for production. In particular, the small air intake ducts on the car's rear shoulders proved insufficient to cool the engine, and large 'air box' scoops were added in that position. Large NACA ducts were added on the sides to give additional air. The experimental car was also constructed of aluminum honeycomb sheeting among other things, which was dropped for production.

The car no longer survives; it was sacrificed in a crash test to gain European type approval, even though its construction method was utterly unlike production vehicles.

Production LP400

The 4-litre production car was first delivered to a customer in 1974. Externally, little had altered from the final form of the prototype except at the rear, where conventional lights replaced the futuristic light clusters of the prototype. The styling had become rather more aggressive than Gandini's original conception, with the required large air scoops and vents, but the overall shape was still very sleek. The original LP400 rode on the quite narrow tires of the time, but their narrowness and the slick styling meant that this version had the lowest drag coefficient of any Countach model and possibly the highest top speed.


In 1978 a new LP400S model was introduced. This car had wider tires with glass-fiber wheel arch extensions, which gave the car the fundamental look it kept until the end. An optional V-shaped spoiler was available over the rear deck, which improved high-speed stability at the cost of at least 10 mph of top speed. Most owners ordered the wing. Dynamically, the LP400S was a better car, the wider tires giving it more surety in corners. Aesthetically, some prefer the slick lines of the original while some prefer the more aggressive lines of the later vehicles.


1982 saw another improvement, this time giving a bigger, more powerful 5 litre engine, which improved performance to be more in line with Lamborghini's somewhat exaggerated claims. The bodywork was unaltered.


In 1985 the engine was improved again, bored and stroked to 5.2 litres and given four valves per cylinder (quattro-valvole, in Italian. The carburetors were moved from the sides to the top of the engine for better breathing - unfortunately this created a hump on the engine deck, reducing the already poor rear visibility to almost nothing. Some body panels were also replaced by Kevlar.

For the first time, a US specification model was produced by the factory, with styling changes to allow bumpers to Federal standards.

Countach Anniversary

Named to honor the company's 25 year anniversary in 1988, this was mechanically very similar to the LP500QV but sported much changed styling. The rear 'air boxes' were restyled and enlarged, and a new air dam and side skirting, both with air intakes, were fitted. The styling changes were unpopular with many, but did improve the cooling. The Anniversary was produced through 1990 when it gave way to the Lamborghini Diablo.

Production Figures

1 prototype, 157 LP400, 237 LP400S, 321 LP500S, 676 LP500QV and 650 Anniversary models were built, for a final total of 2042 cars built over the production lifetime of sixteen years. Substantially more than half were built in the final five years of production, as Lamborghini's new corporate owners cranked up production.