Lamborghini Countach Buying Guide

Few cars have the charisma, the soundtrack or the sheer presence of a Countach. Buy carefully, and you’ll have something that will thrill you like nothing else

How much to pay

• Project £150,000-£600,000 • Good £250,000-£900,000 • Concours £300,000-£1,500,000 •

Overview

Practicality
Running costs ★★
Spares ★★★
DIY friendly ★★
Investment ★★★★
Desirability ★★★★

A Countach isn’t so much a car as an event. After the graceful beauty of the Miura, Lamborghini came up with something that was all about shock and awe. Marcello Gandini’s angular styling was first seen at the 1971 Geneva Salon and became a production reality three years later, by which time Ferruccio Lamborghini had been forced to sell his car business to Georges-Henri Rossetti and René Leimer.

The glorious V12 was retained, but rotated 90 degrees and mounted longitudinally – hence LP400, for ‘longitudinale posterior’. The Countach was later upgraded with bigger engines and increasingly outlandish bodywork, and production often slowed to a trickle as the company hit yet more financial problems.

Lamborghini went into receivership in 1978, but emerged in 1980 under the ownership of Patrick and Jean-Claude Mimran. Against all odds, the Countach survived and was in production for more than 15 years.

This is the poster car for a generation of supercar enthusiasts – dramatic and uncompromising. If you don’t buy wisely, however, the dream could very quickly turn into an expensive nightmare.

Your AutoClassics Lamborghini Countach inspection checklist

Engine

During Countach production, the V12 grew from 3929cc to 4754cc and finally 5167cc. The final incarnation boasted four-valve heads, but still ran on carburettors everywhere other than America. US-market QVs had Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection.

It’s a strong engine as long as it’s correctly looked after. Valve clearances need to be checked every 15,000 miles or so, but it’s a very involved job. The carburettors need to come off and the whole process can take a couple of days. Camshaft wear used to be a problem on early cars – with regular shim adjustment being done instead of replacement – but most have now been properly sorted.

The engine holds an awful lot of oil – 16 litres – and while pressure may be low on the gauge at tickover, look for 6bar once you’re on the move. It needs to be changed every 6000 miles, and early Countachs use a paper-element filter. It’s vital that the element’s locating collar is in place to prevent dirty oil getting past it and damaging the engine.

The original Marelli ignition pack on the 4754cc and 5167cc units has been known to cause problems, but modern replacements can solve any spark-related issues.

Coolant temperature should come up to 90 degrees, with the fans cutting in beyond that.

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Gearbox

Changing ratios on a Countach is a physical process at the best of times, which is something to bear in mind when you first drive one. With the gearbox being located ahead of the engine and pretty much between the front seats, the linkage is remarkably direct.

Excessive noise could be down to worn bearings, while second gear can be somewhat belligerent until it’s up to temperature. The clutch and brake fluid should be changed every two years, and slave cylinders can need regular replacement.

Replacing the clutch means taking out the engine, and while a carefully driven car can go 40,000 miles between changes, in reality a clutch won’t last anywhere near that long.

Suspension and brakes

The Countach uses double wishbones at the front, with lower wishbones plus upper and trailing links at the rear. There are also twin coilover dampers on the back. Disc brakes are used all round.

Any untoward noises from the rear are likely to be down to worn rose joints, of which there are ten on each side. Rebuilding it all can be expensive. Anti-roll bar joints can wear and rattle, too. At the front, careless jacking can damage the long tie-rods.

Uprated stub axles are available, because the originals can fracture on cars that are used hard. That said, such has been the rise in values, cars that are used hard are few and far between.

As with all Countach controls, the brakes need a firm push and can feel worryingly inefficient until you do so. The handbrake operates on the rear via separate calipers, which have been known to seize.

Finding Pirelli tyres can be difficult. P7s, as fitted from the LP400S onwards, are no longer available, although there are alternatives, such as the P Zeros that were used on the last-of-the-line Anniversary.

Bodywork

A Countach chassis is a complex tubular spaceframe wearing aluminium panels that were hand-formed around a tubular structure. The headlamp pods and, on later cars, roofs are made from steel.

The chassis tubes can rust, and even the aluminium panels can corrode. Check the rear edge of the front wing and wherever any glassfibre body extensions are attached. Also look for rippled panels and poor fit, which could point towards a car that’s been in an accident.

Although there were only 238 LP400S models built between 1978 and 1982, they were split into three batches. The final Series 3 LP400S had a body that was 3cm taller in order to improve interior space, and this was carried over to subsequent Countachs.

Due to their handbuilt nature, restoring a Countach body is time-consuming and expensive, but panel availability is surprisingly good.

Interior

The interior is every bit as angular as the exterior, with the various gauges arranged in a single pod straight ahead. Smaller drivers won’t have too much trouble getting comfortable; those with big feet might have more problems. The leather-trimmed seats are ‘laid back’ but supportive.

The interior can get very warm very quickly, and only the lower window panel opens – and even then not all the way. It’s therefore vital that the air-conditioning is working. Make sure that all the gauges and switchgear do what they’re supposed to.

History

  • 1971: Countach prototype shown at the Geneva Salon.
  • 1974: LP400 goes into production with 3929cc V12.
  • 1978: LP400S introduced with 345/35 Pirelli P7 rear tyres, revised suspension and rear wheelarch extensions.
  • 1980: Smaller Weber 40DCOE carburettors fitted; power drops from 375bhp to 350bhp.
  • 1982: LP500S arrives with 4754cc V12, 45DCOE carburettors and 375bhp.
  • 1985: 5000 QV goes on sale with 5167cc engine, four-valve heads and 455bhp.
  • 1988: Anniversary model celebrates 25 years of Lamborghini car production. Body gains side skirts and straked air ducts.
  • 1990: Production ends in May.

AutoClassics says…

It’s very difficult to be objective about a Countach. Rear visibility is poor and you can’t really see the corners in any direction – one owner admitted that you drive it ‘by feel’. The steering, brakes and gearchange are heavy, too.

But all of that makes it occasionally awkward rather than bad. There’s a huge amount of feedback through the steering, epic levels of grip from the later models, and the engine is truly a masterpiece. If the Countach’s noise and long-legged thrust fail to move you, we’re not sure what will.

Values vary hugely depending on the particular model. The early ‘Periscopio’ LP400 is the most valuable and the most sought after, but each variant has its supporters. Production totalled only 1997 cars.

There are more sensible choices out there, and a Countach is without doubt a car that you buy with your heart rather than your head. Even so, specialist knowledge and support from the excellent owners’ club will be key, and only consider an example with known history and plenty of paperwork.

Specifications

Countach LP400
  Power 375bhp
  Top speed 175mph
  0-60mph 5.6sec
  Economy 12mpg

Picture courtesy of Lamborghini Media

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