Dec 132012
 
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When all think alike, then no one is thinking – Walter Lippman

Every vehicle that made my list of Most Beautiful Cars was a milestone in the development of the automobile.  Each of them changed the way cars were designed, and advanced automotive technology in a way that no other cars had done before.  In the process they became icons of the automotive world, cars that shook the public’s concept of what a car could be.  Today’s selection took that to a whole new level, and was essentially a paradigm shift for automotive designers.  Some believe the Bugatti Veyron is a “Concorde” moment, where car design took a quantum leap forward.  Today’s car is just as important.  It is an SR71 Spy Plane in a world of Cessna 172’s.  It is the Lamborghini Countach.

At first sight, the natural reaction is to catch your breath and just try to comprehend the angles and wedge shape.  The Countach is a collection of trapezoidal panels and air scoops, squatting so low to the ground that it is almost unrecognizable as an automobile.  If someone told you it was a grounded stealth drone, you could accept its shape more readily.  Even the name is astonishment.  Countach roughly translates to “holy shit!”

The Countach was such a radical and fundamental shift that it remained an icon from 1974 until its demise in 1990.  This is an amazing feat in a world where supercar fashion changed almost daily.  Born as a violent slash across the drawing pad of Marcello Gandini for Bertone, it was the successor to his other creation, the legendary Miura.  In fact, Gandini penned not only the Miura, but also the iconic wedge shape of the Lancia Stratos, as well as the Pantera, the Dino, the Lamborghini Diablo and what we know in the US as the Renault Le Car.

The original design was as clean and subtle as it was radical and angular.  The LP400 originally had a coke-bottle shape, and was devoid of the scoops and vents of later models.  Almost immediately the car morphed into a jet fighter, with a huge stabilizer wing sprouting from the rear deck, and more ducts and air boxes than a F117.  US models also developed a “moustache” front wing, which allowed it to comply with the height restrictions of the new federal mandates.

By the time the Countach was retired from service, it looked more like a Transformer than a motorcar, with obscene bulges and deep cuts in the duct work.  What began as an icon, ended life as a synonym for cocaine.

The Countach was THE car to own for those that could afford it, and for every boy who had a poster on his bedroom wall.  There was nothing that epitomized the excess, the power or the avant garde nature of the supercar better than the Lamborghini Countach.  Its shape and overall zeitgeist will never be improved upon.  Just as important was the sound bellowing from the Lamborghini V12, which only improved with age.

How was the Countach when compared to other cars?  In a word, it was atrocious.  The Countach was great at being an icon, but rather dismal at being a car.  The interior was cramped and hot, with no ventilation and a roll down window barely big enough for your hand.  The clutch was unbearably heavy, there was no place for your feet, no rearward visibility, and the US front wing meant the car would gain flight at high speeds.  It was fast in a straight line, but otherwise drove like one of Ferruccio’s tractors.  The car was so abysmal; the only way to reverse a Countach properly is to leave the car by sitting on the sill with the door up.  To drive a Lamborghini Countach is to kill a dream.

Fortunately, most of us never get the chance to truly experience a Lamborghini Countach.  We will never have our dreams crushed.   The first time I saw one in person was in Boston.  I was crossing the street near the Copley Plaza hotel, and heard this evil V12 screaming.  When I turned, I saw lime green fog lights, and then a second later it passed by my knees.  It was a black 5000QV, and I remember the huge wing passing me like a shark fin.  That experience stayed with me to this day.

My next encounter was with a LP400S, owed by a dealer in Weymouth.  Through a friend I was able to take a ride, and snap some photos.  My memory is mainly of the sound of the V12, the fact that I literally could not move inside the cockpit, and that it seemed like everything in the world stopped when you drove by.

The Lamborghini Countach is still an icon.  Sure, it lost some of its luster by being associated with the 1980’s, yuppies and power ties, but not even the new Reventon can compare with its radical design.  The Lamborghini Countach is still the ultimate supercar.

Article Courtesy of Chris Raymond

Photos Courtesy of netcarshow.com, autowallpapers.net, conceptcarz.com, finallyhip.com, covercars.com, boldride.com, militarytuners.com, Jamie Wynder

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