13-15 August 2009
1976 Lamborghini Countach LP400
$350,000 - $400,000
375 bhp, 3,929 cc V12 engine with dual overhead camshafts per cylinder bank, six Weber dual-choke carburetors, five-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with unequal-length A-arms, coil springs and anti-roll bar, independent rear suspension with upper lateral links, lower A-arms, upper and lower trailing arms, dual coil springs and anti-roll bar, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 96.5"
It is not difficult to imagine the disdain with which Enzo Ferrari received the news that local tractor maker Ferruccio Lamborghini intended to build a supercar to rival his own superb Ferrari grand touring cars. But then again, Lamborghini was not a man easily dismissed. A wealthy industrialist, legend has it that he was turned down by Ferrari for a special car and became so incensed that he resolved to build his own. And so he did – his first effort, the 350GT, was a technical tour de force, with a tubular chassis, Superleggera coachwork by Touring of Milan, and a magnificent twin-cam V12 engine, with major design work by Giotto Bizzarrini, one of the Ferrari staff who left after the infamous “palace revolt” at Ferrari. As good as the 350GT and its 2+2 successor the 400GT were, however, their styling was graceful but conventional, and they were not an overwhelming commercial success.
The Miura, first shown as a bare chassis in 1965 at Turin, changed all that. Widely regarded as a landmark design penned by Bertone’s brilliant chief designer Marcello Gandini, the car looked the part of a supercar. Its specifications were no less dramatic, with a mid-mounted transverse V12 engine providing near ideal weight distribution. At the time, only race cars offered such exotic engineering – not surprising, as none other than Paolo Stanzini, chief engineer of the legendary Maserati Tipo 61 “Birdcage” sports racing car, designed the chassis. Deliveries began in 1967 and continued through the final model, the Miura SV, in 1973.
Meanwhile, the future of Lamborghini was unveiled at the 1971 Geneva Auto Show with the first public display of the new Countach, believed to be so named after a loosely translated and rather risqué Piedmontese expression of disbelief. Outrageous and seemingly otherworldly even by today’s jaded standards, the car’s dramatic styling with its trademark scissor doors and low, angular, wedge-shaped body left all onlookers speechless.
The show car was designated the LP500, for Longitudinale Posteriore 5 Litri, or longitudinal-rear five liters, with a mid-mounted engine located in front of the rear axle, the gearbox in front and positioned between the two seats. Cleverly, the final drive passed back through the engine sump, under the crankshaft, to the differential. As a result, the engine was raised, which necessitated the installation of side draft Weber carburetors, to maintain a relatively low rear deck. By virtue of this arrangement, the Countach was shorter in both wheelbase and overall length than its predecessor. However, since the stunning design of the Countach provided virtually no rearward visibility, a periscope-type rear-view mirror was added, lending the name “Periscopo” to the initial Countach series. Unfortunately, just one LP500 was built and it was ultimately destroyed at England’s Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) facility during crash testing.
The production car, designated the LP400 in recognition of its somewhat downsized yet ever potent four-liter V12 powerplant, was presented for public viewing at the 1973 Geneva motor show. While the LP 400 closely resembled the LP500 prototype, there were some differences. At the insistence of development driver and engineer Bob Wallace, the chassis, produced by longtime Lamborghini supplier Marchesi, was redesigned, and the bodywork was now constructed of lightweight aluminum. To achieve further weight reductions, special glass was procured from Belgium’s Gleverbel, and magnesium was substituted for heavier metals as well. To reduce the tendency of the LP500 to overheat, production cars incorporated additional air boxes to feed cooler air to the relocated radiators, while aerospace-type NACA air ducts were added to the sides of the car to further aid cooling.
Other notable changes marked the LP400, including the addition of a pair of small side windows, a revised taillight design, and the use of Stewart-Warner instrumentation to monitor the car’s vital systems. A Fichtel & Sachs aluminum clutch, as used in the mighty Porsche 917 race cars, as well as a pair of six-plug Marelli distributors, were specified for the LP400 as well, rounding out the development of the production Countach. Testing and development work continued, with the 1973 Geneva show car used as the testing “mule”. In the meantime, many orders awaited fulfillment and series production began slowly, with customer deliveries commencing in 1974. However, just 150 examples of the LP400 were built before the introduction of the LP400S in 1978, making these early examples, with their remarkably clean styling and purity of purpose, highly coveted and sought-after by astute collectors and marque enthusiasts today.
The 1976 LP 400 Countach offered here shows fewer than 7,500 miles today and has enjoyed single, knowledgeable ownership for the past 20 years. A two-year, ground-up restoration has just been completed by the oldest Lamborghini dealership in the United States, a facility renowned for the accuracy of its work, in addition to an enviable record of class victories achieved at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. During the restoration process, all areas of the car were attended to including the exterior, interior, engine, transmission, suspension, brakes and air conditioning, with truly spectacular results. Visually, the Countach is startling in its factory original Blu Tahiti (Tahiti Blue) exterior finish, complemented by the interior, which is trimmed in Bianco (White) and Blu (Blue) upholstery. In addition, this LP400 has a pair of rectangular driving lights and a set of sporting Campagnolo alloy wheels, mounted on period correct Michelin XWX VR-rated high-performance radial tires.
During the restoration process, the noted Lamborghini expert Valentino Balboni inspected this LP 400 on two occasions and a letter from him, attesting to the quality and accuracy of the restoration, will accompany the sale of the car. Copies of the paperwork pertaining to the importation of this specific car to the United States in 1978, including confirmation of the release of the EPA import bond, are also included. Extremely rare when new and even more so today in its wonderfully correct and freshly restored condition, this 1976 Lamborghini Countach LP400 represents the clean, initial version of the definitive supercar and wild design statement of the 1970s and ‘80s.
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