( for the original Countach
engineer Paolo Stanzani might not be as ingenious as his ex-boss Dallara,
but he gained priceless experience in developing racing cars when he was
working for Maserati, then learned a lot from Dallara after joining Lamborghini.
Countach was his first car started from a clean sheet. In particular, the
chassis and drivetrain arrangement were his idea. It was this car that
made his name so famous in the sports car industry, so famous that many
years later when Romano Artioli wanted to create Bugatti EB110, the first
name in his mind was Paolo Stanzani.
the horizontal carburettors
Lamborghini had the best V12 in the industry. Its 3.5-litre V12 employed
double camshafts in each bank of cylinders, not only offering significant
power advantage over Ferrari's single cam V12s, it was also praised for
smoothness and responsiveness. Originally designed by ex-Ferrari engineer
Giotto Bizzarrini, this V12 gained capacity, compression ratio and power
in the following years. While the development of Countach started, the
V12 was already upgraded to 385 hp from 3.9 litres capacity which powered
the last and the fastest Miura, P400SV. What could be better as the starting
point for Countach ?
first Countach (LP400)'s engine
last Countach (Aniversary)'s engine
Stanzani originally wanted
to increase the capacity to 5 litres to provide the power needed for 200
mph top speed. As publicised in the LP500 prototype in the 1971 Geneva
show, the "imagined" V12 displaced 4,971 c.c. and was capable of as much
as 440 hp. However, there were serious development problems (and perhaps
limited by the budget) so that it was soon discarded. Instead, Miura's
3929c.c. unit was adopted, with some modifications of course.
The V12 was extremely "over-square"
to boost power - 82 mm bore versus 62 mm stroke. Aluminium alloy head and
block. Dohc per bank driving 2 valves per cylinder. Compression ratio was
10.5:1. Dry sump lubrication ... all these were the most spectacular specifications
then. The peak power was 375 hp, occurred at sky-high 8,000 rpm if you
believe Lamborghini's claim (usually less trustable). Peak torque was 268
lbft at 5,000 rpm. Don't think it must be very peaky, in fact road testers
praised its good manner. We are going to see that in Chapter VI.
Unlike Miura, the V12 was
positioned in north-south direction for better cooling. The transmission,
now no longer incorporated with the engine sump, was mounted in front of
the engine for better weight distribution.
the most extraordinary part of Countach. Stanzani knew the big V12 would
inevitably made the rear end heavier than the front, thus resulting in
excessive oversteer and difficult handling. To make Countach more balanced,
he created a new idea - placing the gearbox and clutch in front of the
engine, that is, in the wide central tunnel between the driver and the
passenger. There was another advantage: the linkage between shifter and
gearbox was vastly shortened so that gearshift became more precise and
Nevertheless, there were
some drawbacks. The output from the gearbox was transmitted back to the
rear axle via a drive shaft locating underneath the engine, inside the
sump. Inevitably, the engine had to be raised for a few inches to accommodate
the drive shaft. As a result, center of gravity was raised, too.
As the engine sat higher,
to compensate the loss of rear vision, the carburettors were repositioned
to horizontal, hence less ideal breathing and 10 horsepower loss compared
with Miura SV.
Ferrari's boxer engine also
got similar problem. Since the 12 cylinders engine was too long, it simply
gearbox underneath the engine.
As a result, the engine was placed even higher than Countach’s although
it was a flat engine. Other mid-engined 12 cylinders cars chose to install
the gearbox behind the engine and rear axle. This retained low centre of
gravity but couldn’t help balancing front and rear weight distribution.
No matter which layout, there are always some problems exist.
Chassis and body
experience of tubular space frame technology in designing the Maserati
Tipo 61 "Birdcage" race car, Stanzani adopted tubular space frame construction
in Countach. Although it was quite complex and costly, high rigidity and
lightness were guaranteed. The chassis also acted as supports for the body
panels, which were made of hand-beaten light aluminium. On the other hand,
nearly the whole underbody, except the chassis, was made of glass fiber.
At the time when carbon fiber
was not yet invented, Countach undoubtedly did everything to save weight.
In order to enhance stability in high speed cornering, the body was made
wide and low. Wider body did not reflect in cabin room, because the space
frames created a wide sill between the door and the seat. Ultra-low body
was achieved by installing the thin seats directly to the floor, though
I suspect its effectiveness in lowering the overall centre of gravity.
It couldn't help much the drag too, because any reduction in frontal area
was nothing compared with the awful drag coefficient in-excess of 0.40.
As expected for a supercar,
Countach employed unequal-length double wishbones suspensions in all corners.