The Lamborghini Countach (pronounced 'kun-dash') was the first sports car they made since the 400GT that wasn't named after something to do with bullfighting. It was designed by the Italian design house Bertone and for once Ferruccio Lamborghini set them free to be as daring as they wished; and it is said that when the boss of the design team, Nuccio Bertone, saw the initial drawings he let out the exclamation 'countach' whic in Piedmontese is an expression of amazement. And whether this is true or not this is one amazing looking car!
The Miura, which had been in production since 1966, was starting to look long in the tooth, and the financial situation at Lamborghini was looking fraught. The company needed a new and innovative car to hopefully generate some decent profits. The first prototype Countach had been displayed in 1971 and three years later, but this was far from being the finished article; in fact Lamborghini employees had to stop reviewers from looking at the engine; it hadn't been fitted! Yet again the engine compartment was filled with bricks to keep the car in balance. However, in 1974, a production ready model (with a propely fitted engine this time) was launched. It caused a sensation.
It had sharp styling; scissor doors, for the first time on a Lamborghini; acceleration that could snap the neck back. To improve the weight distribution the engine, which was the existing Lamborghini 4 litre V12, was placed longitudinally rather than transversely in a rear mid-engined rearwheel drive configuration (even more complicated than it sounds) with a five-speed manual synchromesh gearbox. This gave excellent handling and road holding.
Between the start of production in 1974 and the end in 1990; during which time Lamborghini itself changed hands several times; just under 2000 of them were built. However towards the end the car was getting more and more bloated, partly as a result of American safety legislation, and a larger 5.2 litre engine made it, at least in 1985, the fastest production car on the road with a top speed of around 185 mph. By then it had gone from being probably the sexiest car on the road to one that was often criticised as being noisy, cumbersome and vulgar.
This is reflected in valuations today; the most popular ones at auction are the rarer earlier ones, which have been fetching the highest prices.