What made the Lamborghini Countach so special?
The Lamborghini Countach (Piedmontese for 'wow!' or something similar) grew out of it's exotic predecessor, the Miura. Lamborghini aficionados were eager for something even more striking and amazing, and the Countach certainly fitted the bill! Let us ignore the lift up doors; put there more for show than practicality; and this was possibly the ultimate in futuristic, aggressive sensuality, and an absolute joy to drive; and be seen to drive.
Was it powerful?
The initial V12 4 L engine sent 375 brake horsepower through the five-speed gearbox propelling this dream machine to a claimed 186 mph. It may have got there eventually, but most independent road testers managed to squeeze 160 mph out of their test machines; even at these figures, it was hardly a slouch.
Was it attractive?
Designed by Bertone, with it's sharply raked bonnet and a rear deck that resembled a rocket launcher, it was certainly different! There were those who loved it's styling and those who hated it, but it certainly turned heads.
Was it reliable?
The best description of this is 'so – so'. The car was fiendishly complicated, with just far too many components that could go wrong, it had a tendency to overheat initially, and it could be difficult and lumpy to drive in slow traffic.
Did it handle well?
Initially, the handling was quite forgiving, whether it was driven along long straight roads at high speed, or on fast, winding roads. However, handling deteriorated later in it's development; a rear spoiler not only made it less easy to handle, but also did nothing for the driver's rearview vision either.
Was it comfortable?
Strictly a two seater, it had low bucket style seats that gave the distinct impression of driving a racing car. Rear vision was abysmal so instead of a normal rearview mirror, a complicated prism/periscope system was used to keep an eye on cars from behind. However, most drivers of the Countach had little interest in what was behind them; since very few cars at the time were capable of keeping up with them, let alone overtaking!
Was it developed further?
A bigger 5 L engine pushed up the power to 455 brake horsepower with a claimed top speed of 200 mph, but fatter tyres to handle this extra power meant that unsightly wheel arches had to be added, as well as bigger air ducts to help keep the powerplant cool. These all added weight and detracted from the overall appearance.
Was it successful?
Just over 600 of them were built. It has to be borne in mind however that the era in which it was being sold was a difficult time for supercars, because of fuel shocks and worldwide economic downturns, and this car at least kept Lamborghini ticking over for a while until better days arrived.