Seventies legend mixed sensational wedge-shaped looks with terrific pace and handling
The Lamborghini Countach was the definitive supercar for a generation of car-obsessed teenagers growing up in the seventies and eighties. Jaw-dropping looks, a thunderous V12 soundtrack and near-200mph
top speed meant posters of the stunning two-seater were a firm fixture on thousands of bedroom walls.
Even today, 40 years after making its debut as the stunning LP500 concept at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show, the Countach still has the ability to stop pedestrians in their tracks. Its wedge-shaped profile, wide stance and angular styling make it look like nothing else on the road.
The car in our pictures is the even more dramatic 5000 Quattrovalvole. Launched in 1985 and known as the QV, it was the fastest-ever Countach and is identified by its wide wheelarch extensions, side skirts and road-scraping front spoiler. There was even a huge rear wing – although the owner of our car has wisely removed this garish addition. While it lacks the design purity of the sleek original,
it’s every inch the bold and brash Italian exotic.
But when you climb aboard through the attention-grabbing scissor doors, it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed. The angular dashboard, rough finish and selection of Fiat-sourced switchgear give the interior a rather low-rent feel. Still, the extremely low-slung driving position and panoramic view out of the steeply raked windscreen let you know you’re behind the wheel of something very special indeed.
Even the process of starting the engine reminds you that this is no ordinary car. There’s no fuel injection or hi-tech engine management system, so before twisting the key in the ignition you have to prime the six Weber carburettors by giving the stiff throttle pedal a hefty shove. Once this is done, the huge 48-valve 5.2-litre V12 turns over for a few seconds before coughing reluctantly into life and settling down to a rumbling idle.
Before setting off, you’d better make sure you’re in good physical shape, because getting the Countach moving requires serious muscle. Unlike the Aventador, which is as effortless to drive as a supermini, the older car will have you sweating profusely before you’ve even got out of first gear thanks to its unassisted steering, weighty clutch and clunky gearshift.
Factor in the appalling rear visibility, breathless air-conditioning and letterbox-sized side windows, and this Lamborghini proves to be an energy-sapping companion on crowded city streets. However, head
out on to the open road and it’s transformed.
Star of the show is the wonderful mid-mounted 455bhp V12 engine. When combined with the car’s low kerbweight – courtesy of a tubular spaceframe chassis and aluminium bodywork – it delivers explosive performance in any gear. What’s more, this stunning straight-line pace is backed by a spine-tingling soundtrack. It rises from a low-speed growl through to a howl at high revs.
This is a gloriously noisy car that makes the Aventador seem muffled and subdued by comparison. Adding to the drama is the five-speed gearbox; it demands precision, but rewards care with a satisfying click-clack noise as you guide the lever through its exposed metal gate.
However, while you’d expect the Countach to be fast and noisy, it’s also surprisingly composed and agile on twisting back roads. The steamroller-wide tyres provide decent grip, while the relatively compact dimensions make the car easy to place on twisty back roads.
Better still, as your speed increases, the extremely heavy steering gets lighter, while feedback through the thick-rimmed wheel is excellent. As a result, it doesn’t take long before you’re attacking corners with the sort of confidence normally reserved for a grippy hot hatch.
And that’s not all, because the Lamborghini also proves to be a remarkably relaxed cruiser, thanks in no small part to a supple suspension set-up that shrugs off bumps and potholes. Only the blare from the car’s four exhausts interrupts the calm of the cabin.
But when you want to come to a halt, the Countach really starts to show its age. Despite an all-disc-brake set-up, slowing the car from high speeds can be a nerve-wracking experience – modern city cars deliver more stopping power. And with no ABS, ESP or traction control to help you out, extreme care needs to be taken in slippery conditions.
But even these significant issues fail to dim the Countach’s immense appeal. Sometimes it can be a mistake to meet your heroes, but this incredible Lamborghini fully deserves its place at the top of the petrolhead’s pin-up podium.