Developing a replacement for the ground-breaking Miura was bound to be a challenge, even for Lamborghini’s young and profoundly talented engineering team. The Miura had caused a sensation with its breathtakingly beautiful lines courtesy of the genius Marcello Gandini at Bertone. It was also an engineering masterpiece, with the world’s first mid-mounted transverse engine that cleverly incorporated the gearbox for efficient packaging. The Miura was the world’s fastest car upon debut, credited with being the father of the modern supercar. However, the competition from Ferrari was fierce, and in the early 1970s time came to design a suitable replacement.
Lamborghini’s brilliant chassis engineer Paolo Stanzani’s first order of business was to give the new car – codenamed “Project 112” – more predictable handling. The Miura had storming performance, but it was also quite tricky to handle at high speeds, the transverse layout caused rapid weight transfer which could unstick the rear, causing many a Miura to careen off the road tail-first. Stanzani solved this by placing the engine longitudinally, with a forward-facing gearbox driving the rear wheels via an encased driveshaft. The layout required a new block and sump design for the 4.0 liter V12, but the improvements to handling and shift quality were well worth the effort. A robust tubular steel chassis was developed to accommodate the new running gear, and Lamborghini again turned to Bertone to design a body worthy of the exotic new underpinnings.
As before, Gandini delivered a stunning, futuristic design. The LP500 (Longitudinal-Posteriore, 5-liters) was the antithesis of the curvaceous Miura. Edgy, sharp and aggressive, the wedge shape was impossibly low, with a broad, flat windscreen, trapezoidal shapes, and body sides punctuated with distinct slash-cut wheel arches. The unique scissor doors were the final flourish on a truly ground-breaking design. When one of the factory workers first saw the prototype, he exclaimed “Countach!” - An expression of astonishment in the local Piedmontese dialect. After extensive development, the body was revised to allow for better cooling, and the fragile 5-liter engine dropped in favor of the proven 4-liter unit. Development stretched out over three years, but once the final production LP400 Countach debuted, it lost little of its shock value. Through multiple guises and sixteen years of production, the Countach has long been the archetypal supercar. While there have been faster, more extreme versions, it is the pure, uncluttered LP400 that has captured the attention of collectors in recent years.
This breathtaking 1975 Lamborghini LP400 Countach is the 45th car produced and one of just 150 total early-style “Periscopio” models. According to the previous owner, this car was completed on April 11th, 1975 and delivered new via the distributor AGECO of Beirut, Lebanon to Prince Bandar Bin Saud of Saudi Arabia, optioned with sports exhaust and adjustable Koni suspension. It remained with the Royal Family for several years before being gifted to their American personal physician, Dr. Terry Bennett. It saw very limited use with both owners, amassing fewer than 8,600 miles from new. At some point, it was repainted from its original black to Amaranto, and it joined a California-based collection. In the hands of its most recent owner, it has been treated to a bare-metal respray and restoration. It was previously believed that the car was originally red, however, factory records indicate was black over a white interior. It is now presented in striking Tahitian Blue over tan/blue interior and shows with fine quality paintwork and excellent panel fit. Detailing is sharp, and none of the original drama has been lost in the restoration.
The interior was subsequently restored to a very high standard, using correct-type leather, carpets, and soft trim. Seats, console, and sills are trimmed in beautiful tan leather which shows virtually no use since completion. Blue Wilton carpets provide a pleasing contrast to the hides, and the dash is covered in the correct brownish “mouse hair” suede. Original Stewart-Warner gauges feature in the space-age dash, with the unusual vertical odometer showing a touch over 13,800 kilometers. This car is equipped with factory air conditioning (a necessity in the Saudi desert), and it retains a period correct radio, original switchgear, and even the original Britax seatbelts.
Lamborghini’s legendary 4-liter V12 runs beautifully, thanks to an engine-out rebuild by John Whittington of Woodstock, Virginia. As part of the rebuild, the heads were sent to Bob Wallace, Lamborghini’s famed development engineer and a key player in seeing the LP400 through to production. A bespoke run-in stand was built so the engine could be appropriately sorted and tuned before going back in the car where access is limited. The Ansa sports exhaust was restored and re-fitted. Numerous receipts for both the engine and body restoration are included. Lamborghini made extensive use of magnesium in the chassis and drivetrain so these early LP400s are significantly lighter than their later siblings, giving them surprisingly deft handling.
In recent years, the Lamborghini Countach LP400 has captured the hearts of collectors. The pure form, devoid of the spoilers and flares of later cars, reflects the brilliance of Gandini’s original concept. We are pleased to offer this beautiful example, benefitting from limited use and an extensive recent restoration. It has had limited public outings, with its only show appearance coming at the inaugural Greenbrier Concours d’Elegance in 2018. It is a beautifully presented LP400, ready to wow onlookers in a show or to enjoy on tours and rallies worldwide.
Jan 30, 2015