Design

Lamborghini Countach: Pure Matter of Form

In automotive design, there is a time before and after the Lamborghini Countach - which says everything about its significance. Last year, Lamborghini showed us a time-travelling shape-shifter: the Countach LPI 800-4. And we? We follow it naturally through design history.

  • Text, Pictures & Video
    Marko Knab · ramp.pictures

Every car brand has its founding myth, including Lamborghini, of course. And it is - of obvious necessity - just as spectacular as the vehicles they build in Sant'Agata Bolognese. But from the very beginning: Industrialist and tractor builder Ferruccio Lamborghini has been a fan of sports cars all his life and drives a Ferrari himself. At least that's what he wants, because his car from Maranello is often said to have had technical problems with the gearbox. Which is why one day he seeks a personal conversation. With Enzo Ferrari - sometimes respectfully referred to as "il Commendatore" (an Italian title), sometimes more submissively as "il drago" ("the dragon"). On that day, Ferruccio Lamborghini met "the dragon". And he makes an announcement to him:

"You may know how to build a tractor, but you'll never know how to drive a Ferrari!"
Enzo Ferrari to Ferruccio Lamborghini

What follows: Ferruccio's decision to build fast and above all reliable sports cars in addition to tractors. And to create a kind of second founding myth. In short: the Countach. The indomitability brought into shape and the last vehicle developed under Ferruccio Lamborghini's leadership by "Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A" before he sold the majority of the shares in his company. Presented as the successor to the 350GT and the also already highly acclaimed Miura, the Countach stunned the press in 1971. The shape created by Marcello Gandini for Bertone was something unprecedented.


Self-assured. Loud. Brutal. Reduced to the maximum - and to this day a fixed star for the Lamborghini brand. Also for Mitja Borkert, head designer in Sant'Agata since 2016. The German classifies: "For me, the Countach is pure sculpture, the undiluted essence of what makes a Lamborghini." To this day, the German derives his "Gandini Line" from it. Starting from the front, outer corner of the car, it unfolds a sharp wedge shape and with it Lamborghini's identity. This is also the case with the Countach LPI 800-4 - its shape from Mitja Borkert's pen fuses hypermodern technology with classic notes. And us? Dismantle the car, incidentally the only one in the orange shade "Arancio Bruciato". But don't worry, only visually.

The front:

The look of the LPI800-4 is more aggressive than the original model. The folding headlights typical of the 1970s and 1980s? open up into clear-glass lights, and the turn signals, which used to look like a face, concentrate into a linear daytime running light with dual function. Together with the defined line on the wheel arches, the angular air intakes and the name-giving lettering on the front right-hand side of the car, this makes it clear who the observer is dealing with. Not that this was unclear. One is inclined to say: here, one figure emerges from the previous one. The philosopher-superfather Hegel would have been pleased. What we have here is design dialectics. In perfection.

Here, one figure emerges from the preceding one. Philosopher-superfather Hegel would have been pleased. What we have here is design dialectics. In perfection.

The side:

The profile of the Countach can be summed up in one sentence: Thunderbolt in classic Bertone style, created by the Gandini line and the signature of Mitja Borkert. Put in more detail, it sounds like this: the look of the LPI800-4 is tried and tested, but open to new ideas. Especially with a view to the now gigantic air intakes in the door and wings that cool the hybrid V12. They mirror the NACA vents retrofitted to the standard Countach into the present - and become supporting design elements themselves. A shoulder forms above them, starting from the wheel arch and supporting the entire centre section of the car, while the air intakes undercut.


The profile of the Countach can be summed up in one sentence: Thunderbolt in classic Bertone style, created by the Gandini line and the signature of Mitja Borkert.

Almost unchanged, on the other hand: The gill-like slits behind the side window, which also direct air into the engine compartment. Present on the prototype, they receded into the background in the later series, only to reappear on the successor model "Diablo". And here too. Supported by a contoured shoulder, they are followed by another air scoop, which was also only added to the production version of the original. The wheel arches, for their part, travel back in time through the family tree of Countach derivatives: at the rear they quote the original LP500 prototype, at the front the variants from the LP400S series onwards. But without using a widebody kit like the ancestors.

The back:

Wide. Wider. Countach LPI 800-4. We see a powerful back that is in no way inferior to the original and is also distinguished by two times three rear lights. From the strong shoulders of the V12 engine and the air scoops, a delta forms that pays homage to the first Periscopio models with a slight offset. Above the engine and divided into three sections, the glass construction unfolds, ending just before after the drive. The style-defining triple rear lights in hexagon shape are also found in its extension: As already seen on the Sián, they are individually framed, their 3D structures set in plastic with Y embossing. Along with the framing wedge shape and the hexagon, they are one of the absolute basic shapes that Mitja Borkert defined for the brand. And: in contrast to the 1970s and 1980s, the Countach is now also equipped ex works with an aerodynamically effective (and adjustable) rear wing. Louder than the design language at the proverbial end is only the cleverly placed exhaust, which sits housed in a carbon black rump.

The only question that remains is: why a "new" Countach at all? Borkert explains the vehicle that brings "Project 112" into the present:

"I've wanted to implement this design language since I started at Lamborghini, but the time hadn't come yet, and I'm always very respectful of a brand's forms." He states the aspiration a little more precisely: "The Countach LPI 800-4 takes the essence of the original and beautifully translates the form of the 1970s with the technical challenges of today." Not a retro design, but a modern interpretation.
What remains to be said: Countach! (pronounced "kungtasch"). Northern Italians like to express joy and amazement with this exclamation.
Goal achieved.
Marko Knab

Marko Knab

Journalist & Photographer
Life writes the best stories - and Marko Knab tells them in text and picture form. His focus: people & their very own stories and cars, motorsports and travel stories. He already worked for Motorsport-Total.com while completing his Bachelor's degree in German Language, followed by a brief stint at a local daily newspaper and a Master's degree in literature and cultural theory - and ramp.

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