50 years later, the Lamborghini Countach is still our favorite automotive paradox
March 2021 will mark the 50th anniversary of the immortal Countach. If it makes you feel old, it should be. To say the Lamborghini Countach made an impact is like saying that J. Robert Oppenheimer was good at chemicals. The Countach was a design and performance explosion that basically rewrote what a sports car could be and set a new benchmark for what was cool enough to put on a poster.
Is no noise pollution. . .
I think it’s fair to say the Lamborghini was Countach the first supercar. It was more than a sports car, both in terms of performance and especially in terms of design. Before the Countach, even very powerful sports cars looked conventional. Sure, a Ferrari Daytona could be said to be fast, but it was sleek, refined, and conservatively thought out. It was classical music. The Countach was rock and roll.
At first glance, it was all the flashy and flashy lines and “look at me” features like these scissor doors. The reception from apparently everyone was: “You can’t be serious?” But the Lambo crew from Sant’Agata – designers Marcello Gandini (Bertone), Paolo Stanzani and driver engineers Valentino Balboni and Bob Wallace – were as serious as a flying hammer.
Underneath all the flashy Italian wrping was some serious technique. The engine – a blank V12 with six carburetors – was connected directly to a five-speed gearbox and then installed backward in the chassis. Then the drive was sent backwards once again through the differential and from there to the rear wheels. It didn’t make sense, and it made perfect sense.
The Lamborghini Countach was an incredibly low wedge, all angles and slopes. The only curved lines were found on the wheels and tires, and the original design was as minimal, if anything, as radical. It was, to use the term, cool.
Unfortunately, it was all but cool in the thermodynamic sense. The first version, the LP 400, set a benchmark for space age minimalism with slashes and vents. It’s also overheated like a baked potato in an oven. And the handling was nasty. And the ride height was pretty insane. Starting a tradition that lasted for the rest of its history (until Audi bought it and the Germans put an end to that nonsense), Lambo was just crazy about the add-ons to fix half the problems.
Torn dress, face is a mess
The route is not wide enough, which leads to problems when switching off? Expand it! And also put on wider wheels and tires (no, wider!). The new wheels and tires stick out too far? Put on some flared fenders. Does the engine dampen like a Teot? Lose these louvers and put a ball inside.
Still does not work? NACA channels, yeah, they look cool; sl some of those on! Wait, the front end is rather light in terms of speed? Put up an air dam. Tie it in the front torches if you can. Now the whole thing looks unbalanced. Hey, wings are great; Let’s put one of the those on the back side! Nevertheless, the rear wing of the Lamborghini Countach is aerodynamically pointless; They don’t create any downforce and actually take about five mph from top speed, but it does saw cool! So why not just put one on?
Life was good
All this fiddling and repairing afterwards did not go down well with automotive intelligence. They looked down their blue noses and looked at Lamborghini’s Countach. Only two types of people thought the Countach was cool: 15-year-old boys and 25-year-old narcissistic idiots who were emotionally stuck at 15.
It turned out that there were enough (more than enough) narcissistic idiots with too much money required to let the world know how cool they were. And these ladies love They. That they are itInfant! It was as if the collective identity of a declining segment of humanity wanted the Countach launched for itself. “Look, I want a car, no need A car that shows the world what an incredibly cool guy I am. Male! Male! Oozing into sexuality and Sensuality! But Ferraris are too conservative and British cars are worse. “
What should I do? How do the chicks know that I have a huge male chest hair mat in which my zodiac medallion and my golden cola spoon lie in sweet peace? What should I do?! And –Poof– The Lamborghini Countach was born.
The wow factor
The weird thing about all of this, especially in hindsight, is that while the Countach made Lamborghini, it somehow sank them too. The Countach was such a statement, such a high watermark, and so revolutionary; What are you doing as the second act? How do you follow The? How can you be wilder, more radical and more outrageous than a car that is waist-high, has doors like scissors and looks like Mr. Spock’s brutal little brother should drive it? How?
You can not. And you do not. If you look at what Lambo has been doing since the Countach – the Diablo, the Murciélago, the Aventador, etc. – cars have been numerically better, but fewer and fewer Impressive! over time, which in some ways is appropriate. All Lamborghinis were traditionally named after fighting bulls, with one exception. The Countach.
Countach is a Piedmontese word that translates as “wow”. And 50 years later we still say “wow”.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life driving antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in Perback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @ TonyBorroz.
Lamborghini Countach Gallery
Photos & source: Automobili Lamborghini.