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Lamborghini Countach buying guide

Lamborghini Countach Lamborghini Countach Lamborghini Countach Anniversary Lamborghini Countach interior Lamborghini Countach engine Lamborghini Countach Lamborghini Countach Lamborghini Countach badge Even though it’s more than 40 years since the Countach design study made its debut, and with a whole raft of supercars appearing in the meantime, nothing has dulled the impact of perhaps the most brutal car design ever. While the Miura before it was lithe and beautiful, and its successors’ lines are somehow softer yet aggressive, the Countach’s styling is unspeakably savage.

If you’re Piedmontese, the name says it all: Countach! is the exclamation of shock, with no direct translation, uttered by Nuccio Bertone when he first saw the prototype for the Miura replacement. Believe it or not, the Lamborghini Countach was even more outlandish in prototype form than in production guise, and his stunned reaction upon seeing this early design study is completely understandable. The Countach didn’t just move the goalposts, it dispensed with them altogether.

It’s not just the aesthetics that are brutal though; the driving experience can be enough to knock you for six too. The Countach was never meant to be a compromising car, but it was astonishingly focused in terms of dynamics. Performance was always key, whether it was acceleration, cornering, braking or handling. Pirelli even came up with its ultimate performance tyre, the P7, so the Countach could become even more extreme.

It’s now more than two decades since the last Countach was built and, for a while, values were surprisingly low. In recent years they’ve started to climb sharply, though, with purchase costs often only the tip of the iceberg. That’s because these cars can prove fragile, while replacement parts are often eye-wateringly costly.

View from a Countach specialist

Mike Pullen has owned his LP400S for 21 years; along the way he’s had most Countach derivatives. He also runs Lamborghini specialist Carrera Sport, which maintains and restores a whole raft of Countaches for owners around the UK. Pullen comments: ‘In recent years the Countach has shed its medallion-man image, with the cars now seen as genuine classics. As a result, few buyers acquire them for regular use, but many examples were previously bought for this purpose. That’s why you need to check a car’s history carefully. Look for evidence of poor crash repairs as well as mechanicals that are worn out through regular thrashing.’

According to Pullen, the various Countach derivatives are all quite different to drive. Earlier cars are lighter, with more free-revving powerplants. These are the Countaches for purists who probably won’t use the car very much. The Countach got heavier and less tactile to drive as time went on; they also got more usable but less reliable as the complexity increased. What Lamborghini didn’t master throughout Countach production was rust prevention – even Anniversary models can corrode spectacularly if used on salty roads, then stored badly.

Where you buy your Countach is also important, according to Pullen. ‘The Countach is highly prized in North America and mainland Europe – especially in Germany. Asking prices for left-hand-drive cars are much higher there, with right-hand-drive examples more affordable as they’re sought after only in the UK. There are few early cars in the UK but these are the ones that are globally the most collectable.

Lamborghini Countach engine problems

The Countach’s V12 is one of the all-time great powerplants, and it’s pretty much bombproof. It looks great, sounds even better and gives the Countach performance to match the looks – but while it will take hard use in its stride, there’s a limit to how much abuse it can take. Poorly maintained engines don’t last long, so look for evidence of servicing over the years.

Some owners skimp on maintenance because even straightforward tasks can take an age, as there’s 12 of everything. For example, the valve clearances should be checked every 15,000 miles, but as it’s a two-day job (the carbs have to be removed) it’s one that’s often overlooked.

The V12 prefers semi-synthetic lubricants at around £30 for four litres. Even though the sump holds 16 litres, oil consumption shouldn’t be high, so once the fluid has been renewed it shouldn’t need to be topped up much between 6000-mile changes.

There are two oil pipes that run from the radiator at the front to the engine behind the cabin, via the sills. These pipes become porous with age, allowing lubricant to leak onto the right-hand sill. Check for an oily sill and/or puddles of lubricant under the car. Replacing the pipes costs £800.

Misfires are common once an engine bay has been allowed to get damp. It’s usually down to the electronic ignition system, with the Marelli module fitted to 4.8- and 5.2-litre cars a particular problem. Many examples have had a modern replacement by now; if you find a car that’s still got the original system fitted, budget for a new one.

If you’re looking at a 24-valve model, ensure the collar that locates the oil filter paper element is in place. Without it, the element won’t sit properly, allowing dirty oil to bypass it, ultimately ensuring the crankshaft journals are damaged. Once this happens you may get away with machining but you might need a new crankshaft at £4500. If a full engine rebuild is needed, including major bottom-end work, the bill could easily top £12,000.

How about the transmission?

Considering what it has to put up with, the transmission is usually amazingly durable. Unless drivers have been particularly harsh or ham-fisted, it should be in rude health – yet there are some areas that can give problems on high-mileage or really hard-driven cars.

The gearbox itself is strong and unlikely to need attention, but listen out for rumbling that implies bearings are on their way out. While no Countach transmission is quiet as such, one that’s about to self-destruct will be obvious. Major whining means the gears have worn, and replacing these, or the bearings, will mean a major gearbox rebuild, which can cost up to £8000.

It’s possible to eke up to 40,000 miles out of a clutch, but this isn’t common. Drive the car as Lamborghini intended and you’ll be doing well to get 20,000 miles out of a clutch, with replacement starting at £1650 depending on how many parts are needed. The engine has to come out for this job and, because the flywheel is supplied balanced with the cover attached, it’s not unusual to need a four-piece clutch kit (plate, cover, bearing and flywheel). Buy the full kit for an early car and it’s £8283; for an LP5000S it’s £6815 and the QV/Anniversary set is £5288. If a fresh clutch is needed or if the engine has to come out for any reason, the clutch slave cylinder will also need renewing. They’re fragile, and accessibility is a problem, but a new one is just £20.

Suspension, steering and brakes

Stub axles can fracture through ageing and hard use. Cars used regularly on track days are most likely to be affected, and especially on the nearside. Such breakages can be disastrous, so replacing them as a matter of course is a good idea if the originals are still fitted. With fresh bearings the job costs around £600 per side. Rear hubs can also break if the wheels have been heavily kerbed, but they can usually be welded up at £500 or so per side.

The suspension is potentially expensive to rebuild – largely because there are eight rose joints on each side at the rear. The handling deteriorates sharply once wear occurs; the wayward feel will be obvious, with a bill of £1650 likely to put it right.

Rattly suspension often points to worn rose joints, but it can be hard working out which end of the car the noises are emanating from. If you’re lucky, it might just be that the anti-roll bar brackets have worn, but it could also be wear in the rose joints for the anti-roll bars. There are two of these on each side of the bar, 
at each end of the car.

Your final suspension check should be that the tie rods aren’t bent or corroded. The car is often strapped down or jacked up using these, but they’re not designed for that. If bent, they can often be straightened.

The rear discs have separate handbrake calipers, which are prone to seizing. Freeing them off is easy enough but it’s worth checking that the car will roll when the handbrake is released.

The Pirelli P7s fitted to everything except the LP400 are now very hard to find, so Yokohamas or Pirelli P Zeros are the best alternative.

Bodywork, electrics and trim

Let’s start with the good news - all panels are available to revive even the most tired Countach so, no matter how dented or corroded the car is, it can be restored. Carrera Sport remanufactures some panels, while the factory offers just about anything you might need.

The bad news is that there’s a good chance some bodywork repairs will be needed, unless the car has been pampered from new or restored already. The earliest cars are the ones most prone to corrosion; later editions were reasonably well rustproofed, even if they weren’t always that well put together.

At the core of the Countach is a spaceframe chassis, over which are fitted hand-beaten alloy panels. The headlamp pods are steel, though, as are the roof panels. Because the Countach was hand-built, no two bodyshells are exactly alike, so fitting replacement panels is a skilled task.

Corrosion can strike anywhere, but the areas most prone to giving problems are the trailing edges of the front wings, where a steel former is incorporated. The glassfibre mouldings on the sills and wheelarches of later cars can hide corrosion, but this is likely only if the car has been used in salty conditions – in which case the rest of the body will also be the worse for wear.

Accident damage is as likely as corrosion, so look for ripples in the panelwork or indications of filler. Shutlines should be tight and even, and if panels don’t line up it’s likely that the car has been shunted at some point.

Like the bodyshell, the chassis is complex and repairs can be very involved. Corrosion is common as rustproofing was never these cars’ strong point; any fresh metal that’s been let in shouldn’t be immediately obvious – but it frequently is.

Working air-con is essential if you’re not to fry in hot weather, not least because the windows open just a few inches. The heat generated by the engine and transmission, combined with the effect of the sun through the expansive windscreen, ensure the cabin can take on sauna-like qualities. Replacing the various nylon hoses is £750, while for similar money a modern compressor can be installed as well.

The instrumentation and switchgear are reliable and all available and there isn’t much exterior trim to worry about. Retrimming an interior is easy enough. However, check that the windscreen is intact; they’re prone to cracking and replacements, which can be very costly, aren’t always available.

Should you buy a Lamborghini Countach?

For visual drama, no car can match a Countach, whether it’s the earlier, purer design, or the later, bespoilered edition. There are also few cars that can match the financial drama if major work is needed. Buy badly and you could easily end up forking out much more than the car’s value in mechanical and bodywork rebuild costs. The key is to speak to the main specialists, who will know about the best models out there; these cars are rare enough for individual examples to be well known by those in the trade.

Also, don’t wade in without seeing plenty of evidence of major expenditure over as long a period as possible. You can’t run a Countach cheaply, so insist on seeing all the bills to prove the car has been maintained properly, by someone who knows what they’re doing. There are good and bad examples out there, in equal measure. Find one of the former and you’ll find that the Countach is as good to own as it is to look at.


1971: Countach makes its debut in prototype form at the Geneva Salon, with a 4971cc V12.
1972: Decision is made to put the Countach into production.
1973: Pre-production Countach is shown at the Geneva Salon.
1974: First production-ready Countach is shown, at the Geneva Salon. The first cars are then delivered in the summer. 150 LP400s are built.
1978: LP400S arrives, Pirelli P7 tyres and revised suspension. Periscope roof disappears. 466 are made.
1980: Smaller carbs (40DCOE Webers) to improve driveability. Power is cut to a claimed 353bhp.
1982: LP500S goes on sale, with 4754cc V12 and 45DCOE carbs, raising power back to 375bhp.
1985: Quattrovalvole edition is introduced as LP500S QV. 5167cc powerplant gives 455bhp, with a raised engine cover, wider front tyres and suspension geometry changes. 459 LP500s are made, in various forms.
1988: Anniversary Countach goes on sale, celebrating 25 years of Lamborghini.
1990: Final Countach leaves the line, after 1997 have been made.
Lamborghini Countach Lamborghini Countach Lamborghini Countach Anniversary Lamborghini Countach interior Lamborghini Countach engine Lamborghini Countach Lamborghini Countach Lamborghini Countach badge
Last updated: 4th Dec 2014
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Lamborghini Countach cars for sale

3 Search results
Lamborghini Countach
286000 450000 GBP
  • Delivery Available Financing Available Full Service History

    • Year: 1983

    Last update: 11 Days Old

    • Mileage: 5000 mi

    For sale
  • Tom Hartley
    01283 762762
    see details
  • 1985 Lamborghini Countach 5000S s/n ZA9C00500FLA12740, engine no. 12740 White with Beige Interior There is perhaps no more widely recognizable or iconic car than the Lamborghini Countach. Much has been written about the car, sometimes positive, sometimes negative, but the one thing that is impossible to do is ignore it. Developed as a successor to the remarkable and stunning Miura, the Countach created an equally large, if not larger stir when first introduced. The idea that such a totally futuristic and over the top car could possibly be intended for production was inconceivable, but in Lamborghini’s tradition, the car was readied for production largely unaltered. The car was produced for about 15 years in various forms, with later cars gaining fuel-injection and aesthetically intrusive US bumpers which dulled performance. Although they were ignored by collectors for decades, they have recently emerged as highly collectible cars thanks to their tremendous cultural significance as a genuine 1980s icon. Certainly there are few cars that are more instantly recognizable or have spent as much time on the bedroom walls as the Countach. This particular car was imported to the US many yea

    • Year: 1985

    Last update: 3 Months Old

    • Mileage: 61774 mi

    For sale
  • Fantasy Junction
    +1 510 653 7555
    see details
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