1979 Lamborghini LP400S Countach
This is a 1979 Lamborghini LP400S “Series 1” Countach, SN 112.1094. This car was nearly the last of the so-called Series 1 cars made. These cars were hand made at Sant’Agata, a village in northern Italy. The car was finished in September, 1979 and is a “low body” model (40.9 in high). 10 of these ” Series 1″ cars were made in 1978 and another 40-41 were made in 1979. This model is the rarest of all the Countach models made, 1974 – 1989.
The design was done by Marcello Gandini, then working for Bertone, the famous Italian design firm. Gandini had designed the unbelievable Muira in 1966 and that began Lamborghini’s special place in the exotic car world. He designed the fabulous Carabo prototype in 1968. The Carabo lead to the prototype Countach shown in 1971.Nearly all Lamborghinis are named in some way after the bull (Lamborghini was a Tarus). The Countach carried no name during the time the prototype was being finished (except code number 112). The story goes that the show car was emerging from a paint booth in 1971 when an Italian delivery worker saw it and was astonished, finally uttering a (probably very crude) Italian slang word – COUNTACH. The politically correct translations are wow, or sacre blu, or surprise. The name stuck and is totally appropriate for a car featuring such a stunningly original design. The Countach defines the exotic super car of the 1970s and 1980s.
Lamborghini’s first super car was the fabulous Miura, shown here with Bertone’s Marcello Gandini. Gandini designed the Muira, Carabo, Countach, Espada, Diablo, and many other world class cars. The Miura had the V12 sideways, just behind the driver. These cars were also fast, noisy, untamed, and raw – early Lamborghinis.
People gather when this car is out in the wild; nearly everyone asks the same general questions, How fast does it go? How much did it cost? How long have you had it? Where did you get it? Is it new? Virtually everyone assumes it is a nearly new car. Relatively few Countaches were black – most were red, yellow, or white.
The body is made of a thin gauge aluminum. The interior is leather and there is relatively little room once inside. There is a luggage space in the front and a larger area in behind the engine. The “paper cutter” or “scissor” doors are pneumatically operated and are quite practical as the car is very wide.
These are small cars at 163 inches in length; they are about 11 inches shorter and 10 inches lower than a 2005 911 Carrera S Porsche. The wheel base is short at 96.5 inches. Nearly everything on the car is light and strong; the factory claimed a total weight of 2,640 pounds (the actual dry weight is more like 2,900 pounds). Lamborghini felt that “weight is where the slow demon lurks” and everything was designed to avoid weight. A very complex, light weight space frame serves as the chassis for these mid-engine cars. Except the air conditioner, nothing is on the car that does not make it go fast, stop quickly and corner very well. Thus, no power steering, power brakes, or creature comforts (e.g., cup holder or window visors). The windows wind down only about 2 inches. Huge 12 inch ventilated disk brakes stop the car very quickly: you can feel your ears flop forward when braking hard.
The engine is a high performance, all-alloy V-12, with 4 cams and 375 hp at 8,000 rpm. The engine has six 45DCOE Weber carburetors, 2 coils, 2 distributors, and 10.5:1 compression. Valve overlap is severe, thus low end torque is poor. These engines are for high rpm use and gas mileage is very poor. There is 95.4 hp/litre or 1.59 hp/ci — in the same league as other racing engines. The transmission is a 5-speed that protrudes into the cabin such that the gear change is direct into the transmission. Then a special drive shaft goes back through the engine sump to power the rear wheels.
The LP400S Countach cars had ultra-light magnesium Bravo-style wheels. The rear wheels are 12 inches wide and carry a Pirelli 345/35/15 P-zero system tire that is 13.5 inches wide. The front wheels are 8 inches wide and carry 205/50/15 tires. The cornering power of these cars is superb, with virtually no lean on very high speed corners. Twin radiators lie toward the rear of the car above the rear wheel and are feed by 2 side air ducts and an NACA duct on each side of the car through electric fans. The car has 2 large fuel tanks (holding 31.5 gallons) and 2 electric fuel pumps.
The car was sold originally through the Hubert Hahne dealership in Dusseldorf, Germany. The car was brought into the USA in 1984 as an “exempt” car; thus it has no bumpers, no smog or air pump, no restrictions on the gas filler caps, no catalytic converters – nothing. The car is as sold in Europe and I have all the government paperwork (EPA, DOT, U. S. Customs) to prove its legality in the United States. Very few Countach models are actually totally legal in the USA.
If you want to read more about Lamborghini cars, go to http://www.lambocars.com/aut/books.htm
I have owned the car since April 1995 and it has been a great car. These cars were incredibly expensive and very well designed and constructed. My longest trip was 3,100 miles to Monterey, California for the Concourso Italiano, Leguna Seca Historic Races and the Pebble Beach Concours. In the first 10 years of ownership I have driven this car about 21,000 miles.
Very high speed driving is the forte of a Lamborghini Countach. The car is very fast (the factory claimed 175-185 mph). It is fun to drive at any speed. These early cars are untamed, wild, and should occasionally be feared (for the car’s personality, think of a lightenly fast white rhino, hungry and in a bad mood). While the cars were made to a high standard, they are not at all “”refined”” by today’s standards. These early cars (the Miura, the LP400 Countach and the early LP400S models) are real Lamborghinis! — uncompromised, free of spirit, and screaming.
I live at 5,200 feet above sea level and the car handles perfectly on the mountain roads – I live at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and often take summer trips over Trail Ridge Road (the highest paved road in North America – over 2.5 miles above sea level). I drive the car often on nice days and I love it.
The car is an aggressive, menacing mystery – an enigma. It is wide, low, fast, exotic and outrageous. It is one of the most impressive, impractical and futuristic cars ever produced. It is a combination of sculpture, art, and therapy.
Early fall shows off SN 112.1094. These early cars are only 40.9 inches high. The wheels are sand cast magnesium and made in Italy by Compagnolo. The lines of the car are like no other. The tail lights are provocative and the whole car seems extreme and without compromise.
October, 2005 showing off the new Collector Car plate; this means the car need not be checked again for emissions as it is 25 years old and has passed once (barely). The rear tires are 13.5 inches wide and show in this photo. While the car is short and low, it still holds 31.5 gallons of premium fuel (in two tanks) and the engine holds over 18 quarts of 20W50 racing oil. The gas tanks are filled through openings in the NACA ducts on the side of the car.
These cars are wide at nearly 79 inches; thus the paper cutter doors are a distinct advantage when parking in a narrow garage. All the vents and ducts on these cars are fully functional. Views directly behind are quite good; it is the rear quarter views that are nonexistent. When backing up in tight quarters one merely opens the door, sits on the sill, looks back over the roof of the car, while carefully working the clutch, accelerator, and steering wheel. Twelve cars stopped to view the Countach during the brief time that I took these photos (and two of the people that stopped to look took their own photos via their cell phones).
Installing the park/turn lights low on the front fenders gave the appearance that the car is even lower than it actually is. This is one of Marcello Gandini’s design triumphs. The headlight covers can barely be seen in this shot; the fog lights are set very low in the front spoiler. Note the huge air ducts just behind the side windows. The lower window panel rolls down about 2 inches.
When the door, engine lid, and rear trunk are open, the car resembles a fighter jet. Ground clearance is about 4.9 inches, but looks even lower when the car is on grass. No power doors, seats, windows, steering, etc. – these cars are close to being race cars and offer few creature comforts such as cup holders and window visors!
Only 40-41 cars were made by Lamborghini in 1979; this car was finished in September, 1979 and is one of the last cars made that year (112.1100 was perhaps the last). These cars were made by hand of very thin gauge aluminum. Large aluminum sheets were heated and beaten by skilled Italian craftsmen over a wooden buck or form. No two cars are exactly alike due to the fact that each car was made by hand. Gaps around the doors and various trunks and covers are all virtually perfect because the craftsman would continue pounding and fitting until he was satisfied with the final fit.
The “naturale” leather interior is in near perfect condition after 26 years. New carpets were installed in late 2004 and the leather was reconditioned at the same time. Interior room is limited but the seats are very comfortable. Rear visibility is good. No room is available for a coat or small attaché case; such things must be stored in the front or rear trunks. The 5 speed transmission occupies the center section of the cabin. The shift level is direct into the transmission, allowing for fast, positive shifts (essential when shifting fast at nearly 8,000 rpm). The small steering wheel can be seen. The gauges are small and hard to read; still one shifts by the sound of the engine, not by looking at the tachometer. Jaeger instruments are used in this car. These early Lamborghinis are “raw;” for example the gear box whines loudly at certain rpm ranges, the sound of the engine protrudes into the cabin even when accelerating at a mild rate, and steering requires a hefty arm at low speeds. Note the dead peddle on the left in the bottom image.
The rear trunk is relatively large and extends both left and right to the edge of the body. Two sets of golf clubs could be stored in this space. Newly carpeted. The front trunk is best for soft-sided luggage and also holds a space-saver tire on the magnesium wheel. The Weber carbs, air boxes, and cold air ducting can be seen above the trunk in this image.
The heart of a Lamborghini is the V12 engine. In this case it is a very high reving 4 camshaft motor with six 45DCOE Weber carbs, 2 distributors, 2 coils, and no emission equipment. Maximum horsepower is 375 and comes in at 8,000 rpm. These cars burn gas; the Italian philosophy at the time was to let the engine operate at very high rpms and dump in lots of high test gas. The alternator, AC unit, and oil filter can be seen to the rear of the engine (lowest parts of the photo) and allow easy access. The radiators and their fans can be seen to the side of the motor. Five inch ducting brings in cold air from the ducts on the side of the car to the carbs via large air cleaners.
Compagnolo sand cast the magnesium wheels for high strength and very light weight. These are works of art and allow the brake disks to be air cooled. The 12 inch disks can be seen through the “telephone dial” wheels. Each wheel cost about $2,000 in 1978 money and were discontinued in early 1980 (by about serial number 112.1104); The Series 2 cars had magnesium wheels of a different design. The less expensive aluminum wheels were fitted thereafter. The rear rims measure 12 inches wide. Six Koni shocks are used with very stiff suspension settings; there is virtually no lean even during very high speed cornering. The low profile tires on the rear (left photo) are 345s, still the widest tire ever made for a production (i.e., non-race) car.
SN 112.1094 in front of a vintage gas station near my home. The restored gas station is 1950 vintage, but somehow a fitting backdrop for a vintage Countach. Who remembers S&H Green Stamps you got at gas stations and grocery stores during the late 1950s?