Why you’d want a Lamborghini Countach
Styled by Gandini for Bertone, the Lamborghini Countach is a lot more than just a stunning design exercise – it is a great car.
Motor said: ‘Extremely well-engineered… Shattering performance allied to excellent handling, roadholding and brakes add up to a formidable package.’
The Countach’s V12 engine was mounted in-line, with the gearbox at the front (giving a very positive gearchange) and the differential in its own compartment at the back of the sump, just behind the engine, with a driveshaft through the (wet) sump between the two.
There’s a surprising amount of luggage room in the tail, plus small spaces in the front and also behind the seats if they’re not right back.
The ‘beetle-wing’ lift-up doors, brilliant in car parks, give reasonable access, though an ungainly ‘backside-first’ entry over the wide sills (each of which contains a 13-gallon fuel tank) can be awkward.
NACA ducts in the sides and scoops on top were added to the svelte design for production, to ensure adequate cooling.
The central roof dip of the prototype was designed for a periscope-style rear-view mirror, but it was removed for the LP400S ‘low body’ in 1978, with the roof then raised for better headroom in 1980.
The 400S also brought wider wheels and tyres, with big wheelarch extensions and a rear wing, though that was always optional; it adds drama, but further restricts rearward vision and increases wind resistance, knocking 10mph off a maximum speed already reduced by the large wheels.
Countach production and upgrades continued despite management and financial crises at Lamborghini, which went through six owners and bankruptcy during the model’s lifetime.
As a result, production figures are a minefield, with claims ranging from 1484 to 2042; we do know that 238 were made in right-hand drive, and that the final model, the 25th Anniversary with a bodykit by Horacio Pagani, was built in the greatest quantity, followed by the quattrovalvole, which is widely regarded as the best to drive, though the early narrow-body cars are more sought-after for their looks and rarity.
The Countach was built around a complex tubular spaceframe, to which glassfibre floors, bulkheads and inner arches were bonded and a steel roof was welded. Aluminium panels were then wrapped around the steel tubes and, later, composite arches and sills were bonded on before painting.
Corrosion, inevitably, can be an issue.
Images: James Mann
Lamborghini Countach: what to look for
See above for what to check when looking at a Lamborghini Countach for sale.
Engine and spaceframe
The Lamborghini quad-cam V12 is a very strong engine that should be capable of 100,000 miles plus if it’s well maintained, though its complexity means that repairs can be costly when required.
Inspection by a marque specialist is vital if there are any signs of a misfire (maybe electrical, maybe not) or oil smoke.
Floors, bulkheads and spare-wheel well were bonded to the spaceframe: check for signs of the steel tubes corroding, or past accident damage.
Suspension joints wear quickly on a Lamborghini Countach, leading to wayward handling, and rear brakes and the handbrake are prone to seizing as a result of infrequent use.
All Countach gearboxes are noisy so don’t rush to rebuild unless there are faults.
Clutch life can be cut by hydraulic issues – it’s engine-out to replace.
Check the air-con works – you will need it (most have it). All 4-litres have an oil cooler at the front, with pipes the length of the car that can perish.
Lamborghini Countach: before you buy
On 4-litre cars, power is noticeably towards the top end but the 500/5000 boasted a wider torque spread – and the V12 is always silky-smooth if set up correctly.
Oil pressure should be 5-6bar at speed, but can be surprisingly low at tickover; the engines are durable and bearing wear is rare.
Expect a very precise gearchange; gearbox noise levels are high, but it should not be growling – if you’re unsure about the noise, have a specialist listen to it.
The suspension and steering should feel taut and well controlled. However, with 20 nylon-lined Rose joints, all of which wear far more rapidly than rubber bushes (but give more precise control), it’s no wonder that many cars have less-than-perfect suspension. Factory replacements don’t last: Mike Pullen at Carrera Sport fits aviation-specification Rose joints.
With such massive forces to manage, the main controls are all heavy – especially the clutch on right-hand-drive models. Some cars have been converted to electric power steering, which costs around £3500 from EZ.
Expect high noise levels inside from the transmission and engine: conversation becomes difficult over 60mph, but it’s a great sound!
The air conditioning should be effective and is separate from the heater, allowing a cool face, warm feet and effective demisting – unusual for supercars of its day.
The wheels were 7½in front, 9in rear at first, of 14in diameter, with 205/70 front and 215/70 rear tyres. For the 400S this leapt to 8½ and 12in wide, 15in diameter, with 205/50 front (225/50 on the qv), 345/35 rear, giving much more grip.
Lamborghini Countach price guide
- LP400 £700,000/900,000+
- LP400S low-body £450,000/650,000
- 5000 quattrovalvole £400,000/600,000
- LP400S S3, LP500S £300,000/500,000
- 25th Anniversary £250,000/400,000
Prices correct at date of original publication
Lamborghini Countach history
1971 Mar LP500 concept shown at Geneva
1974 Countach LP400 periscopio on sale
1978 LP400S: flat roof, flared arches, Pirelli P7s, revised brakes/suspension, optional wing
1979 S2 LP400S: new wheels, dampers
1980 S3: raised roof, Weber 40s replace 45s
1982 LP500S: 4754cc, 45DCOEs
1985 5000 quattrovalvole: 5167cc, Kevlar front/rear lids, downdraught carbs
1986 US-spec qv: 5mph bumpers, Bosch KE-Jetronic injection, 420bhp
1988 25th Anniversary: carbonfibre air dam, bumpers, sills, intakes; three-piece wheels
1990 Countach replaced by Diablo
The owner’s view
Jai Sharma added this Countach to his collection of Italian cars recently, after a year of searching.
“I looked worldwide and bid on an LP400S and a 5000S,” he says, “finally buying this right-hand-drive quattrovalvole privately.
“Mike Pullen at Carrera Sport had rebuilt the top of the engine and the suspension, and replaced the clutch; Grimaldi inspected it for me and rebuilt the carbs. The interior is all original, even the three-part Alpine stereo.
“Growing up, it was the car I lusted after. I had an Espada when I was 25 and wish I’d pushed the boat out to get a Countach earlier.
“I’m so happy with how it drives – having raced my Ferrari 308, I didn’t expect to be so impressed by the handling. And the attention it gets is incredible – I’ve never known anything like it. The shape is 51 years old, but it still looks like a car of the future.”
DE TOMASO PANTERA
Brutal but effective, with a range of Ford V8 engines. The all-steel monocoque is prone to rust, but this is otherwise an inexpensive supercar to own and not too much slower than a Countach.
Sold 1971-’92 • No. built 7082 • Price now £40-200,000*
The Berlinetta Boxer’s mid-mounted flat-12 was a radical change for Ferrari and made it a head-on rival to the Countach, if not quite as fast or as dramatic. Costly to run, but values are likely to soar.
Sold 1973-’84 • No. built 2323 • Price now £200-400,000*
*Prices correct at date of original publication
Lamborghini Countach: the Classic & Sports Car verdict
The ultimate supercar in looks, performance, handling and usability, the Lamborghini Countach has been undervalued in the past, but not any more.
Prices are rising sharply and there aren’t enough cars to go around so, if you want one, be prepared to settle for a model or specification that’s available but may not be your ideal choice.
Buy now – but buy wisely, because a neglected car can be a bottomless pit to restore.
- Turns heads like no other
- The Countach is well supported by specialists
- If well maintained, it will beat many other supercars for reliability
- When things do go wrong, it helps to have deep pockets
- Mechanical parts are available but trim is not, so beware of incomplete projects
Lamborghini Countach specifications
- Sold/number built 1974-’90/c2000
- Construction steel spaceframe chassis with steel/aluminium/composite body panels
- Engine all-alloy, dohc-per-bank 3929/4754/5167cc V12, six twin-choke Weber carbs or fuel injection
- Max power 375bhp @ 8000rpm to 449bhp @ 7000rpm
- Max torque 268lb ft @ 5000rpm to 369lb ft @ 5200rpm
- Transmission five-speed manual, RWD
- Suspension independent, by adjustable wishbones, coils, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar f/r; twin spring/dampers from 1978 rear twin lower transverse links, single upper transverse link, upper/lower trailing links
- Steering rack and pinion
- Brakes 10½in (267mm) vented discs, with servo; 11¾in (300mm) front, 11in (282mm) rear from ’78
- Length 13ft 7in (4140mm)
- Width 6ft 2½-6¾in (1890-2000mm)
- Height 3ft 6-7in (1070-1100mm)
- Wheelbase 8ft ½-2½in (2450/2500mm)
- Weight 2646-3293lb (1200-1497kg)
- 0-60mph 5.6-4.2 secs
- Top speed 165-190mph
- Mpg 10-15
- Price new £69,565 (1986)