Growing up, I was never a huge fan of the Lamborghini Countach. The impossibly angular V-12-powered supercar made its rise as the ultimate poster car before I was sucked into the world of cars. By the time I fell in love with driving, it was Murcielagos and Aventadors that plastered my desktop wallpapers and bedroom walls. It took getting behind the wheel of a Countach to get what all the fuss is about. It was nothing like I was expecting.
The Countach’s story started in 1971 with the concept’s debut at the Geneva Motor Show. Designed by Marcello Gandini, the production version, revealed in 1974, would come to be known as the LP 400 “Periscopio” thanks to the funky periscopic mirror and window installed in the roof to improve rearward visibility. As production went on, the Countach’s wheel arches grew, and it spawned a gigantic boomerang-shaped wing.
In all, Lamborghini made five original Countach variants. The Giallo Fly yellow-painted 1988.5 model you see here is an LP5000 Quattrovalvole, also known as the QV. Arguably the most desirable of the bunch, it has the boldest design and a 5.2-liter V-12 engine with four valves per cylinder (hence the name). Ultra-flat, ultra-wide, and ultra-cool, it’s the epitome of Eighties excess. The phone dial wheels. The 345 section-width tires. The pop-up headlights. This car has it all. If any Countach can live up to its poster car reputation, it’s this one.
The Countach’s mythicism shows itself as soon as you click the door’s unlatch button, as this is the first Lamborghini to get the iconic swing-up scissor doors. After marveling for a few seconds, you’ll discover getting inside is an exercise in acrobatics. There are a couple of ways to go about getting into the driver’s seat. The first involves stepping into the footwell with one foot, falling into the bucket seat ass-first, then swinging your other foot in. The second method is to sit on the door sill first, swing both legs into the footwell, then lift yourself into the seat. Neither is particularly elegant.
Before turning the key, I’m already far more enamored with the Countach than I was with the Miura I was lucky enough to drive earlier this year. While it’s tougher to get into, the deep Testa di Moro brown-tinted cabin is far more ergonomically appealing. Aside from the tight footwell, there’s plenty of room for my legs, shoulders, and elbows. There’s an airiness to the cabin thanks to the thin A-pillars, and the steering wheel is close enough for me to sit comfortably in the laid-back seat. Dare I say it—the Countach is spacious inside.
Things get better once the Countach comes to life. This particular Quattrovalvole is a fuel-injected model rather than a carbureted example. While that means it’s comparatively down on power, it also means an easy, trouble-free startup every single time, without having to worry about temps or feathering the throttle to get it to fire. There’s a deep, powerful rumble that saturates the cabin, along with a light vibration to remind you of the power that 5.2-liter engine has in store.
Surprising no one, the Countach is nearly impossible to see out of unless you’re looking forward. The side mirrors are slim and show off the side of the car more than the lane next to you, while the windshield-mounted rear-view mirror is obscured by the wing. But while it looks impossibly wide from the outside, it doesn’t actually take up much of the road once you’re behind the wheel. The car’s footprint is deceptively small—at just over 78 inches wide, it’s only a tiny bit wider than a Huracán.
A heavy clutch pedal, hefty shifter, and manual steering don’t do much to help the Countach’s low-speed appeal, but the whine from the gearbox—positioned in front of the engine and between the driver and passenger in a weird, unique drivetrain setup—permeates the cabin in a charming way. Once you get up to speed the steering settles into a wonderful, clear rack that loads up beautifully. The gearbox too lightens up, rewarding quick, decisive shifts. The gearing is long, but not too long as to get you into trouble after a quick 1-2-3 pull. On most twisty roads 2nd and 3rd gear are the sweetspots, with the dogleg-style gated pattern making it easy to switch between the two (so long as you’ve taken your shoes off, as the pedal box is too thin to heel-toe with anything other than bare feet or proper racing shoes).
The LP5000 is quick but not particularly fast in a straight line, though the noises coming from those four exhaust pipes will have you convinced otherwise. The sound is reminiscent of an Eighties Le Mans racer, but somehow also sounds so very Lamborghini. There’s a satisfying shove of torque at about 3500 rpm, but power doesn’t die out until redline, so there’s no excuse not to keep your foot in it through every gear.
The good handling and exotic sound aren’t as exciting as they are expected, considering how the Countach looks. What people don’t tell you about this car is just how pleasant it can be as a leisurely cruiser. You’d think a car that looks like it shares body panels with a Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk would have an overly stiff ride and an edgy powertrain. The reality is different: The Countach is a grade-A touring car disguised as the most outrageous exotic ever. It’s tough to see out of, sure, but the suspension is supple and forgiving, with lots of roll. The seats are comfortable and supportive, allowing drivers of all shapes and sizes to find an optimal seating position. And despite the lack of power steering, the rack is well-tuned enough to allow for small, delicate adjustments at speed. I could see myself doing lots of miles behind the wheel of a Countach and not fret about comfort, so long as there’s enough airflow coming in from the comically small window openings.
For my money I wouldn’t have the Quattrovalvole. My heart will always be stuck to the original narrow-body Gandini design, before all of the mud flaps, fender flares, and aero were added. But even without having worshiped it as the ultimate poster car growing up, it’s hard not to have a soft spot for the LP5000 after driving one. Not only does it live up to its outrageous looks, but it also surprises as a legitimately pleasant grand touring machine.
The best part? You can own this Countach. It’s for sale on Cars & Bids right now through our friends at The Cultivated Collector, a New Canaan, Connecticut dealership specializing in high-grade exotics. So if you’ve always dreamed of stepping behind the wheel of the ultimate poster car, this could be your best chance.
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