1981 Lamborghini Countach LP400S Coupé

1981 Lamborghini Countach LP400S Coupé

The legendary Miura was always going to be a hard act to follow, so the extent to which its successor eclipsed the greatest of 1960s supercars came as something of a shock to all. The sensation of the 1971 Geneva Salon, the Countach was styled, like its predecessor, by Carrozzeria Bertone's Marcello Gandini. Looking aggressive from every angle, the Countach was nothing less than spectacular, suggesting it had been conceived on another planet. As Motor magazine observed: "few people gazing at the original Bertone Countach at Geneva in 1971 could have regarded it as anything but a 'show' car. There were those fold-up doors for a start and the space-age cockpit with its abysmal rear visibility not to mention the strange engine/transmission configuration." Happily, Lamborghini disregarded criticism of the car's supposed lack of practicality, and the Countach entered production changed in detail only. As it happened, the production version would not be seen for another two years, with deliveries commencing in 1974.

The running gear was largely carried over from the Miura, although it had been recognised that the latter's shortcomings in terms of handling and stability would not be tolerable in the Countach. At the same time, cabin heat and noise had to be reduced, and a more user-friendly gear change devised. The Miura's four-cam V12 was retained for the Countach, though this time installed longitudinally and equipped with side-draught Weber carburettors. To achieve optimum weight distribution, designer Paolo Stanzani placed the five-speed gearbox ahead of the engine between the seats, and the differential - driven by a shaft passing through the sump - at the rear. The result was a delightful gear change and a better-balanced car than the Miura.

When production began in 1974, the Countach sported an improved spaceframe chassis, replacing the prototype's rather untidy semi-monocoque, while the bodywork was made of aluminium. One of the Countach's most striking features was the doors, which opened vertically and were supported by hydraulic struts, pivoting at their most forward point. The production Countach came with the standard 4.0-litre - instead of the prototype's 5.0-litre - engine. Even with the smaller engine producing 'only' 375bhp, the aerodynamically efficient Countach could attain 170mph (274km/h) and, naturally, came with racetrack roadholding to match. Designated 'LP400' by the factory (LP = Longitudinale Posteriore, describing the engine placement), the first Countach is commonly known as the 'periscopio', after its central periscope, faired into the roof, which provided rearward vision.

A ground-breaking design that set new standards for aspiring supercar manufacturers, the Lamborghini Countach is one of the most iconic sports cars of the 20th Century, and all the more enjoyable in its up-rated LP400S form.

Descriptions and pictures by bonhams

Production Start 1981
Country of origin Italy