At Lamborghini, all roads lead back to the Countach. There were, of course, Lambo models before the early-Seventies legend, including, one of the brightest stars in the sports-car firmament, the Miura.
But nothing defines the brand quite like Marcello Gandini’s radically low and wedgy mid-engine masterwork. Without the Countach there is no Diablo or Murcielago or Aventador. There are no scissor-action “Lambo doors.” Without the Countach, there is almost certainly no Lamborghini at all. Lamborghini would be one more name on the trash heap of Italian automotive history along with Bizzarrini, OSCA, and Siata.
That it took the company until 2021 to revive the Countach, 30 years after the last of them went out of production, at least in name, is pretty stunning. But the truth is that the fundamental elements of the Countach concept never went away; they had just evolved through the decades. Through various owners, both beneficial and tragic, there was always the descendants of the Countach. They simply had new names. For a long while it was the only Lamborghini.
“The Countach defined our design language,” says Mitja Borkert, Lamborghini’s head of design. “Our DNA is Countach.”
When Borkert arrived at Lamborghini six years ago from Porsche, he says he came with “two or three big ideas.” Naturally, one was a re-birth of the Countach. Borkert’s idea (although he was surely not alone in daydreaming about recreating the Countach) was to create what he calls “the Countach for the 21stCentury.” He claims to have had no interest in fashioning a retro design. The company had previously dabbled in retro-futurism with the 2006 Miura concept car, which never made it beyond the auto show stage.
He paid a visit to Gandini. “I felt like a child when I met him in Turin,” says Borkert, a man with 20 years of design experience. While Gandini was no part of the creation of the new Countach LP 800-4 (Borkert didn’t even tell him about the new car, initially), Lamborghini eventually gave the 82-year-old supercar godfather a preview of the new car. Borkert says Gandini approved. This sentiment is not shared by all those who love the original cars, as our resident Countach owner, Matt Farah, can attest to.
Part of the original Countach’s appeal was its outlandishness – the name comes from slang that translates roughly to “Holy Shit!” The original car was seared into the world consciousness half a century ago and so the likelihood that Borkert’s version would have anything like the impact of the original, while being recognizable as a Countach, was pretty much zero.
And the car, which will cost around $2.6 million, is a pastiche of past versions of the Countach. Borkert was inspired by the original LP500 concept’s purity of form, the early production LP400 “Periscopica” roof, and the brawn of the flared LP5000 QV model. In the end, the modern Countach looks like a collection of characteristic Countach design cues applied to a modern descendant of the original. The original’s flank-mounted NACA ducts has morphed into a larger almost triangular intake. The original’s roof, which bore an arrowhead- shaped contour to accommodate the novel periscope rear-view arrangement is mimicked on the new car by a roof that mixes solid body panels and an electrochromatic glass panel. The new car’s broad, flat nose recaptures a bit of the first Countach’s wedge and its tortured wheelwell openings are meant to suggest those of the angular original.
The overall effect is more “tribute” than “reimagining.”
Lamborghini’s chief technology officer Maurizio Reggiani has a somewhat different view of the Countach, old and new. For the affable Reggiani, this new model is not a celebration of Countach, the car. It is, instead, a celebration of what he calls “revolution 1.0.” It’s a celebration of the technical concept of the Countach, which forever changed the super sports car.
“The radiators moved to the side to make the very low front-end possible,” says Reggiani. To allow for the original Countach’s extreme power in a world without traction control, the longitudinal V-12 engine is pushed forward for better weight distribution and traction at the driven rear wheels. The transmission, mounted forward of the engine, allowed for more centralized mass and improved the shifting precision and speed. The driver was also pushed forward. It was the technical package that defined the proportions of the Countach. And it’s pretty much the same basic technical concept that lives underneath today’s Aventador.
And so, for Reggiani’s team, the creation of a modern-day Countach was pretty straightforward. The restyled body would rest on the Aventador’s carbon-fiber and aluminum structure with some modifications to the doors and roof to accommodate the standard partial-glass roof. Naturally the new Countach is motivated by a V-12, in this case one that makes 769 hp. This is supplemented by a 33-hp electric motor mounted in the transmission. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Countach’s powertrain is the same arrangement as found in the limited-edition Sián. The Countach’s small increase in horsepower compared to the Sián is thanks to a freer-flowing exhaust system. The rest of the powertrain is familiar from other versions of the big Lambo as well, including the Haldex four-wheel-drive system and 7-speed automated manual transmission.
The final road that led to the creation of the new Lamborghini Countach LP 800-4 is the one paved about 15 years ago by Lamborghini President and CEO Stephan Winkelmann, he of the trim suits and aristocratic demeanor.
Near the beginning of his first stint as the head of Lambo in 2005, Winkelmann promised that little old Lambo would unveil a new vehicle at every major auto show on the calendar for the foreseeable future. It was a preposterous claim. The company had only two model lines at the time. Surely, Winkelmann was playing fast and loose with the definition of new vehicle, went the thinking. He must have been planning to unveil novel paint colors and call them new vehicles, right? Wrong.
Starting with the Reventón of 2007, Lamborghini went on a tear of unique limited-edition models, all rebodied versions of its V-12-powered flagship. The 2012 Veneno took the Reventón’s stealth-fighter look to absurd new extremes. The 2016 Centenario dialed back the outlandishness to something nearing elegance. And the 2019 Sián brought the supercapacitor-powered supplemental electric motor seen in the Countach. Each time, buyers lined up for the honor of being permitted to buy one of the special models. And this list doesn’t include the one-off concepts, special commissions, and fever dreams Lambo unveiled during the period.
“Once we see that it is possible, then we will do more,” says Reggiani.
It’s not a new concept, but it’s one that Lamborghini has made into a regular feature of its successful business plan.
You’ll not be surprised then that the company claims all 112 Countach LP800-4 have been spoken for.