50 years young – Happy birthday Lamborghini Countach LP 500

1971 Lamborghini Countach LP 500 yellow (2)

It is now an incredible 50 years to the day since a new automotive star was unveiled at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show: the Lamborghini Countach LP 500 in yellow.

It was 10:00 in the morning when the prototype first saw the light of day at Carrozzeria Bertone. The success surprised even Lamborghini, so a race against time began to fulfil all customer requests and turn the show car into a production vehicle.

The decision to present the Lamborghini Countach LP 500 at Bertone’s premises was motivated by the fact that Lamborghini was currently exhibiting the latest offspring of the brand with the bull: the Miura SV, perfected after five years of production. With this double presentation, Lamborghini showed both the traditional and the innovative face.

The Countach project, internally coded LP112, where LP stands for the rear longitudinal arrangement of the 12-cylinder engine, was born out of founder Ferruccio Lamborghini’s desire to combine innovative design and modern technology.

The mastermind behind this mammoth task was engineer Paolo Stanzani, who had been with Lamborghini since 1963 and general manager and technical director since 1968, and who was responsible for the Countach’s mechanics.

1971 Lamborghini Countach LP 500 yellow (3)

Marcello Gandini as designer and namesake of the Lamborghini Countach LP 500

Even after 50 years, the aesthetically pleasing, clear and forward-looking lines of the Countach are the work of Marcello Gandini, design director of Carrozzeria Bertone. He was also responsible for the scissor doors that would characterise Lamborghini’s 12-cylinder models from that point on.

The Lamborghini Countach LP 500 differs significantly from the standard Countach, which went into production in 1974: a chassis made of sheet steel instead of the tubular steel frame, the 12-cylinder engine has a displacement of 4,971 cc, the engine’s air intakes are reminiscent of a shark’s gills and the interior features sophisticated electronic instruments.

1971 Lamborghini Countach LP 500 yellow (5)

The name of the vehicle comes from a Piedmontese dialect expression. During final assembly, the vehicle was hidden in the agricultural machinery shed of a farm near Grugliasco (Turin) to prevent possible interruptions in production linked to the labour unrest of the time. When it was finally “discovered” by a farmer, he exclaimed with amazement and enthusiasm: “Countach!”.

When the Piedmontese Marcello Gandini heard about it, he recognised the name of the car in this word and also convinced Nuccio Bertone, Ferruccio Lamborghini and his colleague Paolo Stanzani.

1971 Lamborghini Countach LP 500 yellow (4)

Into the future with the Lamborghini Countach LP 500

After the success in Geneva, Lamborghini’s chief test driver Bob Wallace began to put the LP 500, now equipped with a more reliable 4-litre engine, through its paces. The story of this extraordinary car ends in early 1974 with the crash tests required for production car registration, during which it is destroyed.

From 1974 to 1990, 1999 examples of the Countach were produced in five different series. The model not only graced the bedroom walls of an entire generation and became the star of numerous films, but also enabled Lamborghini to survive the most difficult years of its history and reposition itself for the future.

1971 Lamborghini Countach LP 500 yellow (6)


Photos Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.

Author: Paolo Ollig

As editor-in-chief Paolo regularly writes about all the big and small stories related to classic cars and motorbikes. Classic dreams: Lamborghini Countach and Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.

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