Milestones

Happy birthday! The Lamborghini Countach LP 500 turns 50 this year

The Lamborghini Countach LP 500 was the star of the Geneva Motor Show 50 years ago.

Photo courtesy of Lamborghini Automobili

Under the spotlights of the 1971 Geneva Auto Show, with actual film cameras with flash bulbs capturing every moment, the Lamborghini Countach LP 500 struck a post for the first time, dressed in yellow, inside the Carrozzeria Bertone event space just down from the debut of the Lamborghini Miura SV.

It was just 10 o'clock in the morning in Switzerland when the cover came off, but the enthusiasm surrounding the prototype's appearance was so high, the Italian sports car company knew what they had to do. They needed to get some to customers. And quick.

In the weeks after its arrival, the Countach LP 500 was featured in all the international automotive magazines. The Countach project, codenamed LP112, was headed up by engineer Paolo Stanzani, who had been with Lamborghini since 1963, and in 1968 was named General Manager and Technical Director, responsible for the mechanical part of the Countach.

Lamborghini Countach LP 500

Lamborghini Countach LP 500

Photo courtesy of Lamborghini

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The body of the car was styled by Marcello Gandini, Design Director of Carrozzeria Bertone. At the time, scissor doors were a hallmark of Lamborghini's 12-cylinder models so it was decided to use them on the Countach as well.

However, the LP 500 was substantially different than the Countach that would go into production in 1974. The homologated model would have its chassis changed out for one that was easier to fabricate and protect against corrosion.

After Lamborghini's chief test driver Bob Wallace used the car for road testing, it was determined that the 12-cylinder 4971cc power plant. that was in the prototype was no good and that a different engine was required. A 3.9-liter engine was originally sold in the Countach with a 4.8-liter and a 5.2-liter eventually making their way under the hood.

Production or prototype, the car was unique for its time, and certainly a different take on Italian sports car design than the Miura that debuted at the same time.

Lamborghini models are feature unique names with none of the alphanumeric nomenclature that has become so commonplace today. Its origin story begins in the Piedmont region of Italy. The region - located in the center or a triangle from Milan, Italy to Grenoble, Switzerland to Genoa, Italy - is where the car was hidden during its final days of development.

A small shed traditionally used for agricultural machinery on a farm near Grugliasco, Italy was the home of the car. This allowed Lamborghini to avoid any work stoppages related to labor unrest that was happening in the country at the time.

Marcello Gandini, the designer of the Countach, explained the origin of the name in a story for Lamborghini's website entitled "Not Just Bulls: the Creator Tells Us the Story Behind the Name Countach":

"When we made cars for the car shows, we worked at night and we were all tired, so we would joke around to keep our morale up. There was a profiler working with us who made the locks. He was two meters tall with two enormous hands, and he performed all the little jobs. He spoke almost only Piedmontese, didn't even speak Italian. Piedmontese is much different from Italian and sounds like French. One of his most frequent exclamations was 'countach', which literally means plague, contagion, and is actually used more to express amazement or even admiration, like 'goodness'. He had this habit.

"When we were working at night, to keep our morale up, there was a jousting spirit, so I said we could call it Countach, just as a joke, to say an exaggerated quip, without any conviction. There nearby was Bob Wallace, who assembled the mechanics—we always made the cars operational. At that time you could even roll into the car shows with the car running, which was marvelous.

"So jokingly I asked Bob Wallace how it sounded to an Anglo-Saxon ear. He said it in his own way, strangely. It worked. We immediately came up with the writing and stuck it on. But maybe the real suggestion was the idea of one of my co-workers, a young man who said let's call it that. That is how the name was coined. This is the only true story behind this word."

From 1974 to 1990, 1,999 Countachs in five different series were produced, representing a model that, in addition to ending up displayed on the bedroom walls of an entire generation and being used in dozens of films, allowed Lamborghini to survive the most difficult years of its history, setting itself up for the success it has today.

What ever happened to the Countach LP 500? The car's life was cut short. In 1974 it was scrapped.

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This 2020 Ford GT drew over $1 million at the auction.

Mecum

The world may be going through some tough times right now, but you'd never know it looking at auto auction results. One of the largest, Mecum, just reported sales from the auctions it held in Arizona last week, and the results are astonishing. Mecum says it took in $66.3 million in sales, which is a big increase over the previous year's auctions. Attendance was also up, and the event was packed with high-dollar, desirable vehicles.

Mecum Arizona AuctionHow about a 1967 Ferrari for a little over $3 million?Mecum

Mecum says that private collection sales generated $20 million of the $66.3 million, as some brought dozens of vehicles to participate in the auction. The Hooked on Vettes Collection, for example, brought 13 cars and sold every one of them. It even sold a load of neon signs for well over a million dollars.

The top ten vehicles sold at auction drew big dollars. A few include:

  • 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4: $3,025,000
  • 1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy Convertible Coupe: $2,365,000
  • 2005 Porsche Carrera GT: $2,200,000
  • 2020 Ford GT: $1,100,000
  • 2017 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 Roadster: $698,500

Mecum Arizona AuctionThere was even a Duesenberg, which sold for almost $2.4 million.Mecum

If you've got money to burn and you're sad to have missed out on the Arizona auction, your next shot will be at the end of this month when Mecum hits Houston with 1,100 vehicles. The flagship Mecum auction in Indianapolis takes place in mid-May, and will feature 3,000 cars.

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What was your best car-related experience this year?

Chris Teague

This year has been a lot of things, but it hasn't been boring. Even if we focus only on the car world, there's plenty to talk about, from microchip-related new vehicle shortages to the wave of new electric vehicles hitting the market. That leaves us with a question for all of you: What was the best or most memorable car moment for you in 2021? I'll get the conversation started.

Porsche Cayenne GTSMy SoCal Cayenne śaw snow for the first time in its nearly 200k-mile life last week.Chris Teague

I'd spent a good portion of 2021 wanting a new-old car to drive when I wasn't testing a new vehicle. That's harder than you'd think for someone who thinks, talks, and writes about cars all day, because there are so many interesting, risky, and downright funky options out there in every price range. The added headache for me was that I'd chosen to shop for a "fun" car in one of the most volatile car markets ever seen. Even the extremely high-mileage "untouchable" European cars I wanted to buy were commanding ridiculous prices.

After a solid few months of waffling between various rattletrap Mercedes-AMG, BMW M, and Audi S/RS cars, I landed on an option that had escaped me before: The Porsche Cayenne. First-generation Cayennes are a real bargain now, but the 955/957 (Porsche's internal code for the SUVs) can experience major problems that occur with or without regular maintenance and care. I was determined to buy one, and wasn't overly concerned about mileage, as long as I could count the number of owners on one hand. There was a beautiful 2009 Cayenne GTS with 90,000 miles but nine owners, a gorgeous 2004 Cayenne Turbo with a concerning engine tick, and many more just like them. Finally, I decided to risky-click a 196,000-mile Cayenne GTS in Southern California. It had one owner and one dealer-owner for a month or two prior to sale, its condition looked decent in photos, and I was able to negotiate a reasonable enough price that shipping it from San Diego to Maine wasn't a huge problem.

Porsche Cayenne GTSThe pics look great, but hands-on tells another story.Chris Teague

I had two traveling Euro mechanics check the car out, and both confirmed that it was well-worn but mechanically sound, so I jumped. Ten days later, on a snowy, icy, dark Maine afternoon, the Cayenne arrived. Cosmetically, there were a few things the dealer and mechanics failed to mention, but overall, it looked good. The SUV passed Maine safety and emissions testing without problem, got a new set of Michelins, and I was on my way.

Porsche Cayenne GTSI'm in danger, but thankfully this should be a reasonable fix.Chris Teague

A few days of driving revealed what I was really in for. A check engine light revealed a camshaft position sensor error and the Cayenne displayed a nasty vibration at idle. A new sensor and motor mounts, and I'm on my way. I'll update you as more things break or miraculously work, but I want to hear your memories from 2021.

Email me at chris@automotivemap.com, and I will compile the best and most interesting stories for a story on New Year's Day. May you all have a wonderful 2022.

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