Viva Italia: Lamborghini Countach LP400S

Matthew Phenix
Brian Tietz

Gracefully getting behind the wheel of a Countach requires a degree of yogic pliancy I don't possess. The car is an exercise in horizontality. It stands a scant 42 inches at its tallest, and the windshield is raked within a few degrees of the angle at which internal refractions render laminated glass opaque. Even with my coif flattened against the headliner, forward visibility calls for a genuine leap of faith. And driving in reverse requires the driver to open the door and pilot the car while sitting on the sill.

The V-12 takes eighteen quarts of oil, so it's a good ten minutes of low-rider-style cruising before it's warm enough to play. By modern supercar standards, 375 hp is puny, but perhaps because I'm bouncing off my emotional rev limiter, it feels like much more. The engine is happy only above 4000 rpm, which works out well because that's where I'm happiest, too. Ierardi tells me that in an ideal state of tune and on an unpoliced stretch of road, an LP400S might see 180 mph; those old, unsubstantiated reports of a 200-mph top speed are just part of the car's mythology. Ierardi's claim of a 5.5-second blast to 60 mph, on the other hand, seems cautious. Fed by six carburetors, the engine howls beyond 7000 rpm, and as you stand on the clutch, shove the gated shifter around the dogleg into second, declutch, and push the throttle to the floor, the 2700-pound Countach hurtles forward with the urgency of a modern supercar.

By the time I wheel back into Ierardi's garage, I'm ready to jump up and down on Oprah's couch. I'm in love all over again. As a kid, I memorized mechanical minutiae about earthly cars like Mustangs and Supras, but I fastidiously avoided the Lamborghini's particulars, for fear I'd discover my imaginary lover was less than I'd imagined. But the Countach, the last Lamborghini created while founder Ferruccio still owned the company, is for real after all.

Lamborghini Countach LP400S

PRICE: $102,500 (1981)

ENGINE: 3.9L V-12
HORSEPOWER: 375 hp @ 8000 rpm
TORQUE: 268 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
DRIVE: Rear-wheel
WEIGHT: 2700 lb
0-60 MPH: 5.5 sec (per owner)
TOP SPEED: 180 mph (per owner)

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This has got to be one most favorite cars of all time. Loved ever since I was a kid.
Aaah, it all comes rushing back. Check out the 60 minutes piece from 1985.

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