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The Lamborghini Countach: History, Generations, Specifications

All things Lamborghini Countach on Automobile.

Rory JurneckaWriterRM Sotheby'sPhotographer

Lamborghini Countach Essential History

Lamborghini Countach Origins

The Lamborghini Countach was one of the last models to be built under the control of eponymous brand founder Ferruccio Lamborghini, in an effort to improve upon the comfort, eye appeal, and performance of the revolutionary Miura. In 1970, Project LP112 was the code name given to what would ultimately become the Countach, the final name chosen after a styling assistant uttered the Piedmontese term "contacc!"—an excited term of awe—upon seeing the final concept slated to debut at Geneva in 1971.

Nevertheless, it would take until 1974 for the production Countach LP400 to finally be ready. By then, Ferruccio Lamborghini's finances were looking dim, having both his tractor business and Lamborghini Automobili as well. He retired to the country to produce wine, while Lamborghini's new owners struggled to make the Countach a sales hit. By 1980, Lamborghini Automobili was in bankruptcy. When new owners came into the picture in 1982, the Countach was finally federalized for U.S. sales—a market that would come to be the automaker's largest.

Lamborghini Countach Evolution

Through the years, the Countach was continually evolved. The earliest 1974 models, known as "Periscopio" for their unique periscope-style rear-view mirror setup, are the purest from a styling standpoint, without the cacophony of scoops, vents, wings, and flares that would come to epitomize the later cars. A Bizzarrini-designed 3.9-liter V-12 engine produced roughly 375 hp in a relatively light tubular space frame chassis designed by Paolo Stanzani. The frame was covered by striking wedge-shaped bodywork with futuristic scissor doors as styled by Marcello Gandini while at Bertone.

In 1978, the Countach LP400 S was introduced. Here we begin to see the styling take on extra flash with wider fender flares, wheels, and tires, and the introduction of the Countach's iconic and gargantuan V-shaped rear wing. Engine capacity was increased in 1982 to 4.8 liters, resulting in another name change to Countach LP5000 S.

Lamborghini Countach Final Years

For 1985, the Countach LP5000 QV was introduced, QV standing for "quattrovalvole," or four-valve in Italian. True to its name, the now-5.2-liter V-12 was given a four-valves-per-cylinder head for increased efficiency, as well as another bump in output to 455 horsepower when equipped with six downdraft Weber carburetors (leading to these being commonly known as "Downdraft" cars), or 415 horsepower with the Bosch fuel injection U.S.-market cars received to meet Federal emissions standards. American-spec cars also got larger, heavier impact bumpers than their European counterparts. Arriving in 1988, the 25th Anniversary Edition Countach received an even more outrageous restyle by Horacio Pagani, who would go on to form his very own supercar company some years later. With an excess of dramatic styling strakes over gaping ducts and airfoils, the 25th Anniversary Edition Countach was often seen as a tribute to 1980s excess as well as a caricature of the earliest Periscopio models. The Countach was finally discontinued to make way for the Diablo in 1990.

Lamborghini Countach Highlights

Although the Lamborghini Countach was unquestionably one of the premiere performance cars and styling sensations of its day, that still wasn't good enough for some elite enthusiasts. When Walter Wolf, owner of Formula 1 racing team Wolf F1 Racing, took delivery of his LP400 in the mid-1970s, he decided the car wasn't up to his expectations. Back it went to Lamborghini where a special 447-horsepower 5.0-liter V-12 went in the mid-mounted engine bay, while special styling modifications—including large fender flares and a rear wing—would foreshadow changes later made to the production Countach.

Additionally, while Ferruccio Lamborghini was famously uninterested in motorsports (costing him the employment of Gian Paolo Dallara as chief engineer), the Countach was used as the official safety car for the 1980-'83 Monaco Grand Prix Formula 1 race weekend.

A Countach Evoluzione prototype was built by Lamborghini around 1987, which essentially served as an engineering exercise ahead of the development of the Countach's successor, the Diablo. This car heavily featured composite materials in its construction, had a unibody chassis which replaced the previous steel tube frame, and incorporated various aerodynamic improvements, some of which would be seen on the 25th Anniversary Edition of 1988-'90. An all-wheel drive powertrain was also tested, a nod to the all-wheel-drive Diablo variants to come. The single Countach Evoluzione that was built is no longer in existence.

Lamborghini Countach Buying Tips

Lamborghini Countach values have swung wildly through the years. They hit rock bottom in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when many examples could be found for well under $100,000, but since then, and particularly in the past decade, values have ramped up yet again. Today, you'll pay the most for the rare, earliest "Periscopio" models for their clean design that best shows the car's original Gandini-penned vision. Conversely, the final 25th Anniversary Edition models have historically not been very desirable with their myriad tacked-on styling functions. The most popular models are typically the 5000 QV cars, which hit a sweet spot in styling, refinement and performance.

Lamborghini Countach Articles on Automobile

All these years later, the Countach is still the stuff of dreams.

The Countach through the years.

Two exotic supercars sold a million posters and are reunited.

The firm that designed the Countach still has some original parts.

See how the Countach ranks in value among its bullish peers.

Lamborghini Countach Recent Auctions

Lamborghini Countach Quick Facts

  • First year of production: 1974
  • Last year of production: 1990
  • Total sold: 1,983
  • Original price (base): $72,200 (1974)
  • Characteristic feature: The seminal supercar, the Lamborghini Countach is as much a dream drive today as it was when first launched nearly 50 years ago.

Lamborghini Countach FAQ

●      Why are Lamborghini Countach so expensive?

It's all about supply and demand. The Countach is a car that transcended car culture, venturing into pop culture. Because of this, the car's wild styling made it popular worldwide, but with under 2,000 built, there are only so many people that can own one. Besides that, the Countach is a special and highly significant supercar—another factor that helps keep values high.

●      How many Lamborghini Countaches are left?

The Countach hails from a time when even advanced supercars didn't have electronic driving nannies to keep them on the road when driver input fails. As a result of this and their relatively high level of performance, you can bet that many were written off, never to be rebuilt. That said, high values mean it takes a lot of damage to total a Countach, meaning many cars have been salvaged into running, driving cars. We suspect that at least 1,500 Countach models still exist.

●      How much is a 1989 Lamborghini Countach?

A 1989 Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary Edition is worth an average of $240,000 according to Hagerty. Early "Periscopio" cars can bring over $1 million, while a good 5000 QV from the mid-1980s is worth an average of $400,000.

1974 Lamborghini Countach LP400 Specifications
ENGINE 3.9L DOHC 24-valve V-12/370 hp @ 7,500 rpm, 266 lb-ft @ 5,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 5-speed manual
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD coupe
L x W x H 163.0 x 74.4 x 42.1 in
WHEELBASE 96.5 in
WEIGHT 2,646 lb
0-60 MPH 5.2 sec
TOP SPEED 162 mph