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The Lamborghini Countach can be credited with having popularized, if not pioneered, the wedge-shaped, sharply angled look popular in many high performance supercars to this day. The "cabin-forward" design concept, which pushes the passenger compartment forward in order to accommodate a larger engine, was also popularized by the Countach. Designed by Bertone’s Marcello Gandini, the first Countach, dubbed ‘LP500’ appeared on the designer’s stand at the Geneva Show in 1971. Only one was built, equipped with an optimistically 5-litre 440bhp engine and 5-speed transmission.
Inevitable production delays meant, however, that the first consumer-bound Countaches did not get underway until 1974. The production LP 400 Countach was now fitted with the smaller 4-cam, 4-litre, 375 bhp engine. The first production Countach was delivered to an Australian in 1974, one D. Milne, who was a member of the Australian Defence Force Transport Corps. Externally, little had altered from the final form of the prototype except at the rear, where conventional lights replaced the futuristic light clusters of the prototype. Styling had become rather more aggressive than Gandini’s original conception, with the required large air scoops and vents to keep the car from overheating, but the overall shape remained very sleek. The original LP400 rode on quite narrow tires of the time, but their narrowness and the slick styling meant that this version had the lowest drag coefficient of any Countach model and possibly the highest top speed, if not what one today would consider high-speed stability. Regardless, many people like the looks of this clean, fresh original model the most of all the Countach variants, and indeed it is simple, with smooth lines and few decorations. Even the emblems at the rear simply read "lamborghini" and "Countach", with no engine displacement or valve arrangement clutter as is found on more modern cars.
Not unlike serious Le Mans and Formula One racers of the period, production LP400s feature an intricate tubular steel space frame. An immensely strong structure with dozens of steel tubes welded together in such a way that they only have to deal with compression and tension loads, tricky bending and twisting movements are kept at a minimum, even under the challenges of high speed and challenging obstacles. The magnificent V12 engine sits just ahead of the rear wheels, with the gearbox further forward; one actually sits alongside it. The drive is then taken back through the engine’s sump to a differential mounted at the rear. Suspension is by double wishbones with coil-overs (twin at the rear). The ride is firm without undue discomfort and improves with speed. Roll and pitch are low and the chassis feels taut. Of paramount importance therefore are the matching and condition of each suspension component.
On this main chassis, a lightweight steel superstructure supports the handmade aluminum body panels. With the door open and looking into the car you notice that the two seats are very narrow and low between the immense doorsills and broad beamed transmission tunnel. From the driver’s seat you can see forward with the usual limitations of a 3ft 6in high car. Rear vision is by interior mirror only. Originally this gave a narrow field of vision through a recess in the roof, hence the nickname "Periscopio" or "Periscope" in reference to this unique feature.
This rare and early model of the LP400 Periscopio is correct and immaculate in every respect inside and out, the LP400 is the iconic representative of the original breathtaking production supercar that continued to wow young and old for years to come. Properly maintained and fully serviced by its current owner, it is as mechanically sound as it is visually stunning in all respects. Whether your intention is to drive this amazing icon of Italian performance or merely admire it within your collection, there are few finer early Lamborghinis anywhere to rival this immaculate Countach.