This Lamborghini model name is a bit hard to translate from Italian to English; because it’s something you say when you’re amazed like “OMG! Check out that car!” Still, this expression naturally transcends all language barriers, for it was exactly the reaction that people had when Lamborghini showcased their prototype of the Countach at the Geneva Motor Show of 1971.
And that reaction is exactly what Lamborghini aimed for, by developing a supercar like there never was before! A car so advanced that it appeared ahead of its time; one to be more impactful than the Miura ever would be, and to become the dream car for all age groups – from envious schoolboys to retired seniors.
Design from outer space
Of course, the Countach didn’t come out of nowhere, for its lead designer Marcello Gandini had already proved himself with the 1966 Lamborghini Miura. Riding on his immediate success, Gandini took the Countach’s design to a whole new level, for never before had there been a production car with such sharp wedge-like forms!
With a vision of a space-age looking supercar, the Countach sports a monospace body flanked by scissor doors and windows facing the sky. Add to that a fast-looking windscreen, a sharp yet flowing waistline, a purposefully recessed engine lid, and a spaceship-like tail and you’ve got yourself a car that looks like it could lift off from the ground at any moment.
Materials and powertrain
The chassis was a tubular spaceframe bonded to an aluminum alloy bodywork – a design by Chief Engineer Paulo Stanzani, successor of the esteemed Giampaola Dallara. All-round double wishbones made up the suspension, which were combined with ventilated disc brakes to facilitate powerful handling.
The initial vision was to power the Countach through a 440 horsepower producing V12 engine with a displacement of 5000cc. However, after countless overheating issues, Lamborghini returned to their more reliable 3299cc V12 engine. Though this engine was less powerful and designed 10 years before the Countach, Bizzarrini’s masterful work was able to stand the test of time.
In order to retain the little rearview vision there was left the carburetors were mounted horizontally, regardless of the horsepower loss that it caused. The engine was placed along the length of the car, with the clutch and gearbox placed in the wide transmission tunnel in front of it. In effect, the rear wheels get their power transferred via a driveshaft that runs inside the dry engine sump. In effect, this setup has 2 advantages. First, it improves the handling of the car by distributing the weight more evenly. Second, it enables the gear linkage to remain short, and hence make shifting gears more precise.
From statistics to reality
Lamborghini released the first model, the Countach LP400, with a top speed of 300km/h on the description pad. However, in truth this statement was a deliberate exaggeration aimed at crushing their Italian competitor – the Ferrari Daytona.
In reality, the Countach was capable of going up to 280 km/h, and doing 0-100 in 5,6 seconds. While this was far from a bad performance at the time, the Daytona with its engine mounted in front was in fact slightly faster. Nonetheless, looks can be deceiving, and so it was with the Countach – its hyperreal spacey look caused many people to believe that it was indeed the fastest car in the whole wide world!
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