At the sub-$40,000 price, this car is cheap sculpture, a conversation piece in the garage, something fun for the kids so they can play "let's pretend we're Valentino Balboni"


Offered for sale direct from the museum to which it was donated in 1999, this Lamborghini LP400 Countach is somewhat of a sad and confusing example that fell victim to the 1980s. Between 1980 and 1983, Bob Wallace Cars Inc., of Phoenix, AZ, was commissioned to carry out some extensive modifications, including fitting the engine with twin turbochargers and appropriate ancillaries to cope with the increased power output.
In keeping with the engine number that is clearly stamped on the cylinder head, the paperwork file relates to the chassis also sharing this same number. As such, it would attribute the car to the first year of production, when it is reputed that just 23 examples were made. However, at the time of cataloging, we have been unable to locate the chassis number elsewhere on the vehicle.
Condition of this car is such that we are regarding this Countach as a restoration project. While the engine has been run and we have no doubt that with some recommissioning the car could be used in current guise, it must be infinitely more attractive as an early LP400. Viewing both the car and its history file is deemed essential with this lot and buyers should be wholly satisfied with their own findings prior to the sale.

SCM Analysis


This 1974 Lamborghini LP400 Countach sold for $39,950, including buyer’s premium, at the Christie’s Monterey auction held on Aug 12, 2004.
For years, we have been hammering home our position on buying cars at auction: Buy the best you can and pass on the lesser cars that need help. Avoid projects, as they make little sense if finished cars can be had for less than the cost of a restoration. Steer clear of cars that are “okay” except for the little problems like a salvage title, a custom gold crushed velvet interior, or other issues.
By this reasoning, if the auction company itself found necessary such a series of disclaimers as above, if the best praise it could conjure for this Countach was “sad and confusing” (words you are unlikely to find in another auction catalog for the rest of your days here on earth), you might expect us to suggest that prospective buyers run away from this car screaming. Indeed, when I inquired about the car with Christie’s, I was told, “We’re hoping to sell it to a Lamborghini specialist.” Which translates to something like, “We hope like hell that no novice walks out of here with this one.”
But like Superman’s Bizarro World, where everything is backwards and Super himself is the bad guy, I am now going to praise the contrarian’s point of view. Indulge me for a minute, while I suggest that Everything You Know Is Wrong. This might have been the buy of the Monterey weekend, if the owner has a very clear perspective about why he bought this sad-sack car, and what his plans for it are.
But before we address what the smart future decisions would be, first some traditional “long-term investment” blather. To wit: Someone with a long-term view towards supercar ownership, someone who already has a few quills in his quiver, someone who’s not going to get emotionally involved in a train wreck of a car-someone like this can certainly justify ownership of a cheap Countach. This shrewd buyer knows that early models, the so-called “periscope” cars (because of their rear viewing mechanism in the driver’s cabin and cutout in the roof panel) are coming into their own among collectors, increasing in value by nearly 20 percent last year, according to the SCM Price Guide. He knows that by buying this car and putting it away in time-capsule storage, he might “sacrifice” the use of his car, but will still benefit from its appreciation.
Of course, he will also save considerable sums compared to the typical Countach owner, who only drives his car a few hundred miles a year yet still must deal with the expensive and extensive services like $10k clutch jobs. To a collector who’s not going to care that this thing will never leave the garage, there’s simply not much of a sacrifice here, and one day, when these cars are worth enough to justify righting all of this car’s wrongs. Well, that’s the theory, anyway.
Okay, enough of that. Here’s the real scoop on this car: Despite the extensive warnings that were thankfully and rightfully issued by Christie’s before this LP400 Countach crossed the block, it managed to impress quite a few in attendance with more than just its low estimate of $30,000-$50,000. Yes, it was tacky, but it wasn’t horrible. It didn’t appear that dogs had ever lived in it, or that it was eleven cars cut up and glued together to make one.
Yes, it garnered its share of critics
-considerable discussion among auction-goers speculated that the LP400 might be down on horsepower, or that the aftermarket twin turbos were not functioning. I even overheard one wag say the car would not make it up the ramp under its own power. All of this speculation proved to be unfounded, and before its appearance on stage the car sat idling for at least 20 minutes with no visible expulsion of fluids or setting fire to itself, something that cannot often be said of supercars marked down to bargain basement prices. Obviously, seeing a car run and drive is a real plus.
At this particular point in time, the best reason for owning a Lamborghini Countach is to mark it off of your list. For trophy hunters, the Countach is still a top prize, though this is hardly because of its usability. Had I bought this cheapie Countach, I would be lobbying right now to cut a hole in our living room wall so that I could just park it there and admire it. Given that convincing my wife on this point has an even slimmer chance than my fitting in the car, and that Countachs are about the perfect height for a boardroom table, perhaps I’d be better off putting one of these under glass in my office. It would definitely be a better conversation starter than that signed picture of me with Editor Martin and the SCM FIAT.
At the sub-$40,000 price, this Lamborghini LP400 is cheap sculpture, a conversation piece in the garage, something fun for the kids so they can play “let’s pretend we’re Valentino Balboni,” maybe even an aquarium on wheels if you could seal up the interior well enough so that your damsel fish could stay wet. All of the above uses would get you far more attention than driving a Countach, and cost you far less as well.
The only downside to this Countach would be if its new owner, heaven forbid, actually attempts to keep the car on the road or restore it. The plunge over Niagara Falls would seem mild compared to the fiscal immolation awaiting someone who actually wants to turn this Lambo back into a car.
What the buyer received here was a highly modified LP400 that is probably among the oldest still around. No, it’s not a good example. But it is the real thing, bought for less than the turn-key cost of a Fiero-based replica. May the new owner view it as an entertaining piece of sculpture, and let the market rise so that in a decade or so, he is proven to be a wise contrarian, breaking all the rules by buying a fright pig at auction, and making money on it at the end of the day.
(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)u

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