The restorers did not go overboard. They even left a few weld dimples in the door shuts to retain an original bit of character

The future of the modern Automobili Lamborghini was revealed 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 utter disbelief. Outrageous and seemingly otherworldly even by today’s 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, while the gearbox was mounted 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, necessitating the installation of side-draft Weber carburetors to maintain a relatively low rear-deck profile.

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 facility during crash testing.

The production car, designated the LP400 in recognition of its somewhat downsized yet ever-potent 4-liter V12 powerplant, was presented for public viewing at the 1973 Geneva Motor Show. To reduce the prior LP500’s tendency to overheat, production cars incorporated additional air boxes to feed cooler air to the relocated radiators, while 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 instruments. A Fichtel & Sachs aluminum clutch, as used in the mighty Porsche 917 race cars, plus a pair of six-plug Marelli distributors, were specified for the LP400 as well, rounding out the development of the production Countach. Just 150 LP400s were built before the introduction of the LP400S in 1978 and the car offered here is the 15th car built, the first right-hand-drive example, and has had just five owners from new.

The second English owner exported 1120026 to Florida’s Palm Beach in the early 1980s, where it was seen still retaining its British registration number HPP 5. It returned to the U.K. in 1987, this time registered JYP 43N. Extremely rare when new and even more so today in such wonderfully correct and carefully maintained condition, this 1975 Lamborghini Countach LP400 represents the clean, initial version of the definitive Italian supercar. It is most certainly the most outrageous automotive design statement of the 1970s and 1980s.

SCM Analysis


Years Produced:1974-1976
Number Produced:150
Original List Price:$52,000
SCM Valuation:$300,000-$400,000
Tune Up Cost:$2,000-$3,000
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on trailing edge frame in the engine bay and on an ID plate next to the coils
Engine Number Location:Between cylinder heads
Club Info:Lamborghini Club America, P.O. Box 649, Orinda, CA 94563
Alternatives:1968 Ford GT40 MkIII, 1973-76 Ferrari 365BB, 1978-1980 BMW M1

This car, Lot 173, sold for $306,250 at RM Auctions’ Automobiles of London sale on October 27, 2010.

These early Lamborghini Countach cars are very different than their later brethren, any number of which are on the market in the U.K. for between $110k and $160k. Uncluttered with spoilers, strakes, flares and wings and other addenda that served to increase drag and reduce top speed, the original slash-cut profile of the rear wheelarches remains boldly visible—as Marcello Gandini intended.

Whatever the age or model, though, vision rearward of the Countach’s door pillars is virtually nil, and, although it’s a cliché, it really is easier to open the door and sit on the wide sill to back one up. Riding a Countach sidesaddle will get you looks, but if you’re sensitive to this kind of thing you shouldn’t be bidding on one.

Originally orange and then red, this car was repainted yellow and retrimmed sometime after 2006—long after its return to the U.K. The next owner decided that, even with its low mileage, it wasn’t up to scratch mechanically, so it was sent off for restoration at Lamborghini Wycombe Service (which proudly features this car on its “About” page).

The refurb was a good one, and the restorers did not go overboard. They even left a few weld dimples in the door shuts to retain an original bit of character. Mechanically it has been completely gone through, with the engine out and suspension completely rebuilt, with photographs to prove, resulting in a near concours-quality—and leak-free—engine bay, and, according to the owner, proper Countach levels of performance.

When the engine was out, attention was also given to the cosmetics, ensuring the car was refinished and detailed with all the correct Lamborghini parts as it would have come out of the factory in 1975. The alloy rims show no scuffs or marks, and the car rides on correct tall 70-profile Michelin XWXs. The brown leather still looks new, and the carpets remain frizzy with newness—although it smelled very petrolly inside.

Today’s market

I thought I’d seen this car advertised pre-restoration for ever-dwindling amounts around six years ago.

But noted Lamborghini authority Joe Sackey said: “I cannot recall any LP400 in any condition going for anything less than $250k in the last four years. This car brought ‘only’ $310k at the RM auction because none of the LP400 buyers wanted a right-hand-drive car, or else it would have easily fetched $400k-plus.

“One of my clients would have paid that much, and in fact, bought another left-hand-drive car for exactly that latter sum. This car was restored to non-original colors and that too hurts its value. The highest I have sold is the ex-Silvera LP400 ‘1120056’ for $500k.”

Whatever the low spot might have been for the Countach, remember that the Ferrari Daytona hit the doldrums too, and more lately so did Ferrari Boxers, which are only just beginning to inch out of their trough.

Countach values have roughly mirrored the rise of that other barking concept that made it through production almost unscathed, the Lancia Stratos, which in the past decade dropped to as low as $60k in the U.K. before suddenly bounding up to around $300k over the past two or three years.

Seller keeps his shirt

One could speculate that a full restoration on a Countach could easily swallow $200k, but given this car’s low mileage and the likelihood that it would not have been excessively rusty, we are more likely looking at a mechanical rebuild, retrim and repaint for somewhat less. Given what the car probably sold for pre-restoration, it looks likely that the vendor might have come out just about even, certainly still with his shirt, although if that’s the case it looks an odd time to sell.

We said in the March 2010 SCM (p. 64) of a $330k LP400 sold in the U.S.: “Prices for the LP400 have slipped 10%-15% from their highest point, and the $330k realized here is near the top of the market right now. Well bought and sold, as they will recover eventually.”

So, at this money, the buyer seems to have gotten an honest car with no needs at the right price and—crucially—with all the project management done. With that in mind I’d say he’s the winner by a whisker here, especially as the car was sold right about 10% under low estimate, although nearly all these figures at this sale could be said to be on the high side of the market.

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