The word countach (pronounced [kuŋˈtatʃ]) is an exclamation of astonishment in the local dialect (see Piedmontese language), that means "perbacco" or "accidenti" ("Heavens!").
The prototype was introduced to the world at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show. Most previous and subsequent Lamborghini car names were associated with bulls and bullfighting.
The Countach was styled by Marcello Gandini of the Bertone design studio, the same designer and studio that designed the Miura. 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. Gandini again produced another striking design. The Countach shape was wide and low (1.07 metres or 42.1 inches), but not very long (only 4.1 metres or 163 inches). Its angular and wedge-shaped body was made almost entirely of flat, trapezoidal panels.
The doors, most often credited as a Lamborghini trademark, were a remarkable design feature for the Countach. They first appeared on the Alfa Romeo 33 'Carabo' concept car in 1968, an earlier design accomplishment, also by the talented Gandini. The doors have come to be known as scissor doors: hinged at the front with horizontal hinges, so that they lifted up and tilted forwards. The main reason is the car's tubular spaceframe chassis results in very high and wide door sills. It was also partly for style, and partly because the width of the car made conventional doors impossible to use in even slightly confined space. Care needed to be taken, though, in opening the doors with a low roof overhead. The car's poor rear visibility and wide sills led to drivers adopting a method of reversing the car for parking by opening the door, sitting on the sill, and reversing while looking over the back of the car from outside.
The pure style of the prototype was progressively altered by the evolution of the car to improve its performance, handling, tractability, and ability to meet mandated requirements. This began with the first production model, which included several vents that Lamborghini found necessary to cool the engine adequately. These included the iconic NACA duct on the doors and rear fenders. The car design changes ended with a large engine vent directly behind the driver, reducing the rear view. Later additions—including fender flares, spoilers, carburetor covers, and bumpers—progressively changed the car's aesthetic values.
The Countach's styling and visual impression made it an icon of great design to almost everyone except automotive engineers. The superior performance characteristics of later Lamborghini models (such as the Diablo, or the Murciélago) appealed to performance car drivers and engineers, but they never had the originality or outrageousness that gave the Countach its distinction. The different impressions left by the various Lamborghini models have generated numerous debates and disagreements over what constitutes "classic" or "great" automotive design (elegant looks and style, versus technical and engineering superiority). Despite the impracticality and (required/needed) updating over time, one should note that the basic iconic shape of the first Countach prototype revealed in 1971 remained virtually unchanged over an exceptionally long 19-year lifespan.
The rear wheels were driven by a traditional Lamborghini V12 engine mounted longitudinally with a mid-engined configuration. This contrasted with the Miura with its centrally mounted, transversely-installed engine. For better weight distribution, the engine is pointed "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 L (310 cu in) powerplant, the first production cars used the Lamborghini Miura's 4-liter engine. Later advances increased the displacement to 4754 cc and then (in the "Quattrovalvole" model) 5167 cc with four valves per cylinder.
All Lamborghini Countaches were equipped with six Weber carburetors until the arrival of the 5000QV model, at which time the car became available in America, and used Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection. The European models, however, continued to use the carburetors (producing more power than fuel-injected cars) until the arrival of the Lamborghini Diablo, which replaced the Countach.
The Countach used a skin of aircraft-grade aluminium over a tubular space frame, as in a racing car. Although expensive to build, it is immensely strong and very light; despite its size, the car weighs approximately 1,400 kg (3,100 lb). The underbody tray was fiberglass.
A single prototype was built, the LP500 (the 500 stands for the 5.0 L (310 cu in) engine displacement they intended to use). Painted bright sunflower yellow, the concept car proved to be a stunner at the Geneva Motor Show in 1971. Sporting Gandini's original design concepts, the car's design required extensive modification to qualify for mass-production. The two most notable changes were necessary because air-intake proved insufficient to cool the engine. The prototype had slatted, 'gill-like' intake ducts on the rear shoulders, and these were replaced with massive "air box" scoops that extended out from the vehicle's streamlined body. In addition, NACA style air ducts were cut into the body of the car beneath the B pillar, which required eliminating the prototype's traditional door handles and replacing them with handles of a unique configuration set into the portion of the ducts carved into the scissor doors. Aluminium-honeycomb sheeting, a concept utilized in the prototype design, was also dropped in preparation for production.
The car did not survive; it was sacrificed in a crash test at MIRA facility to gain European type approval, even though its construction method was utterly unlike production vehicles.
The Countach entered production as the LP400 with a 3929 cc engine delivering 375 metric horsepower (276 kW; 370 hp). The first production Countach was delivered to an Australian 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 to keep the car from overheating, 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. The emblems at the rear simply read "Lamborghini" and "Countach", with no engine displacement or valve arrangement markings as is found on later cars. By the end of 1977, the company had produced 158 Countach LP400s.
In recent years the original LP400 has become collectable, and in an auction in June 2014, a 1975 model sold for GB£953,500 at Bonhams' Goodwood Festival of Speed auction.
In 1978, a new LP400 S model was introduced. Though the engine was slightly downgraded from the LP400 model (355 metric horsepower (350 bhp; 261 kW)), the most radical changes were in the exterior, where the tires were replaced with 345/35R15 Pirelli P7 tyres; the widest tyres available on a production car at the time, and fiberglass wheel arch extensions were added, giving the car the fundamental look it kept until the end of its production run. An optional V-shaped spoiler was available over the rear deck, which, while improving high-speed stability, reduced the top speed by at least 16 km/h (10 mph). Most owners ordered the wing. The LP400 S handling was improved by the wider tires, which made the car more stable in cornering. Aesthetically, some prefer the slick lines of the original, while others prefer the more aggressive lines of the later models, beginning with the LP400 S. The standard emblems ("Lamborghini" and "Countach") were kept at the rear, but an angular "S" emblem was added after the "Countach" on the right side.
There are three distinct Countach LP400 S Series:Series one: The first 50 cars delivered with Campagnolo "Bravo" wheels in 1978 and 1979. The very early 1978 cars had the original LP400 steering wheel. Small Stewart Warner gauges, 45 mm (1.8 in) carburettors and a lowered suspension (lowbody) setting is a trademark feature of this celebrated first series. Halfway through 1979's production, bigger gauges were employed. 50 cars were built, and the last one is 1121100*.
Series two: These cars are recognized by their smooth finish dished-concave wheels, and still retain the lowbody setting. 105 cars were built, and the last one is 1121310*.
Series three: It is claimed that from chassis number 1121312 onwards, the cockpit space available was raised by 3 cm (1.2 in). These cars are recognized by their raised suspension setting. 82 cars were built, and the last one is 1121468*.
1982 saw another improvement, this time giving a bigger, more powerful 4754 cc engine. The bodywork was unaltered, however the interior was given a refresh. This version of the car is sometimes called the 5000 S, which may cause confusion with the later 5000 QV (next section). 321 cars were built.
Two prototypes of the 1984 Countach Turbo S were built by Lamborghini, of which one is known to exist. The Turbo S weighed 1,515 kg (3,340 lb), while its 4.8 liter twin-turbo V12 had a claimed maximum power output of 758 PS (558 kW) and a torque output of 876 N·m (646 lb·ft), giving the car an acceleration of 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 335 km/h (208 mph). A turbo adjuster, located beneath the steering wheel, could be used to adjust the boost pressure from 0.7 bar to 1.5 bar at which the engine performed its maximum power output. The Turbo S has 15" wheels with 255/45 tyres on the front and 345/35 on the rear.
In 1985 the engine design evolved again, as it was bored and stroked to 5167 cc and given four valves per cylinder—quattrovalvole in Italian, hence the model's name, Countach 5000 Quattrovalvole or 5000 QV in short. 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. In later versions of the engine, the carburetors were replaced with fuel injection.
Although this change was the most notable on the exterior, the most prominent change under the hood was the introduction of fuel injection, with the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, providing 414 bhp (309 kW; 420 PS), rather than the six Weber carburetors providing 455 bhp (339 kW; 461 PS) used in the previous carbureted models. As for other markets, 1987 and 1988 model Quattrovalvoles received straked sideskirts. 610 cars were built.
Named to honour the company's twenty-fifth anniversary, in 1988, the 25th Anniversary Countach, although mechanically very similar to the 5000QV, sported considerable restyling. Notably, restyling, enlargement and extension of the rear 'air-box' intake-ducts was among other refinements undertaken (extending them to a more gradual incline further in-keeping with aerodynamic-streamlining), while the secondary pair of debossed ducts, originally situated further behind them, were brought forward and relocated directly on top, encompassing refashioned fins now running longitudinally rather than transversely. Additionally, further reconstruction of an already modified engine-bay cover, from a concept consisting of dual-raised sections and tri-ducting, to one that embodies a centre-raised section incorporating dual-ducting become another feature. Various redevelopments to the rear-end were made; most notably the introduction of a rear bumper extending outwardly from the lower-portion.
These styling changes were unpopular with many—particularly features such as the fin strakes within the primary rear-intake-ducts openings, which appeared to mimic the Ferrari Testarossa, though providing crucial improved engine cooling. Nonetheless it was only outsold by the QV model. It continued to featured 345/35R15 tyres. The Anniversary edition was produced up until 1990 before being superseded by the Lamborghini Diablo.
The 25th Anniversary Edition was the most refined and possibly the fastest edition of the Lamborghini Countach: 0–97 km/h (0–60 mph) in 4.7 seconds and 295 km/h (183 mph) all out.
In 1975, Walter Wolf, a wealthy Canadian businessman and owner of the Wolf F1 Racing team in the 1970s, purchased an LP400; however, he was not satisfied with the LP400's engine and asked Gianpaolo Dallara, the chief engineer of Lamborghini at that time, to create a special high-power version of the Countach. It was the "code No. 1120148" Walter Wolf special with an engine identical to the 5.0 L (310 cu in) engine from the Countach LP500 prototype, which produced 447 horsepower (333 kW) at 7900 rpm and reached a supposed maximum speed of 315 or 323.6 km/h (195.7 or 201.1 mph). This model also featured the upgraded wheels, Pirelli P7 tires, large fender flares, and front and rear spoilers of the LP400 S model. It was painted red with black fender flares, and was designated "LP500 S" like the standard Countach model from the 1980s, and was the stepping stone that led to this later production model.
Two other Wolf Countaches were produced, one painted blue, No. 1120202 (currently in Germany) and one navy blue, No. 1121210. (This machine was owned by Wolf for a long time, but was eventually sold. Currently owned by Japanese businessman Shinji Fukuda). Both of the later Wolf Countaches used the original 5.0 L (310 cu in) engine commissioned by Wolf, transplanted to each car in turn.
The United States is Lamborghini's biggest market and has traditionally been the largest market in the world for expensive automobiles such as exotic sportcars.
In 1985, a US specification model was produced by the factory, with styling changes to allow bumpers to meet US federal safety standards. Many owners however, had those bumpers removed immediately, or never had them installed at all, as the bulky looking addition to the car was said to ruin the otherwise smooth lines of the body. The 1985 US model had a base price close to $100,000. Only two optional extras were available: a $5,500 aerodynamic spoiler and a $7,500 sound system.
The U.S. Government exempts cars older than 25 years from all design, safety, and emission standards legislation, and any such regulations, so Countaches can be freely imported by any private customer and registered for unrestricted road use.
Between 1980 and 1983, Formula One employed the Countach as its Safety Car during the Monaco Grand Prix.
A total of 2,042 cars were built during the Countach's sixteen-year lifetime:
Substantially more than half were built in the final five years of production, as Lamborghini's new corporate owners increased production.
In 1984, Rod Ladret of Ladret Design Studio located in Alberta, Canada, began producing and marketing a replica of the Countach. The form for the kit was sculpted from plaster and then a fiberglass mold was made of the form. The kits and cars Ladret Design Studio built included a tube frame chassis with an American V8 power plant. Ladret Design Studio built 141 of these replicas and the industrial clients who purchased his fiberglass forms have built several thousand over the past two decades. As of 2007 there are still several companies building kits based on Ladret's forms built in 1984. In 1993, Ladret ceased manufacturing the Countach replica and moved on to other projects.
From around 1985 until the late 1990s, several companies replicated the Countach with varying degrees of success. In 1985, Gary Thompson and Pete Jackson rented a real Countach from an up-market Manchester car-rental company and made a glass-fiber mold of it. This mold resulted in a number of UK-based manufacturers producing their own Countach replicas. A few were able to produce remarkably good replicas, including Paul Lawrenson of Prova Cars, Alan Booth of Sienna Cars, Phil Cheetham of Mirage Replicas, and Ken Cook of Brightwheel/Classic Replicas.'Which Kit' said in their March 1988 write-up on the CR6 Stinger; "Brightwheel Replicas CR6 Stinger is unquestionably the best Countach Replica we've driven" Steve Cropley said in "Car" Feb 1989, is said to be the best available and it does set a high standard, this one will really fool them" Many other praises were made about the Stinger during the time it was made (1988–1989)and all but one of the factory cars went to Japan.(Ken Cook. 2015) DC Supercars now has Phil Cheetham moulds and is producing Countach replicas.