Lamborhgini sells Countaches at a special discount to Grand Prix drivers, and that's one reason why Pierluigi Martini has one. Keke Rosberg's pearl white car with big tail wing is at the factory for a service. Martini's car does not have the wing : neither he nor Lamborghini approves of it.
Firing up the Countach from cold calls for a sequence of actions which almost form a ritual. Switch on the ignition and wait for the ticking of the fuel pumps to fade away. Turn the key further and you will know that the engine has started even if you are deaf, from all the opening windows and the birds flying from the trees. That ferocious, hungry growl, which you get only with multiple carburetters on a multi-cylinder engine settles into a deep rumble. It is necessary to wait a little longer for the various fluids to flow properly, particularly in the gearbox, which initially feels as if it has seized.
Although maximum torque seems high up the range at 5,200 rpm, our acceleration figures in top and fourth show that the curve must be a very flat one with, as we had decided subjectively, with plenty from 3,000 rpm onwards, which means that this engine has an unusually wide useable rev band, even for a big V12. Indeed, the response to flooring the throttle at only 1,500rpm in top (about 36mph) is simply instant, smooth, turbine-like acceleration, and the figures from 40mph onwards are outstanding.
... The ratios are well spaced that pushing the throttle to the floor in any gear at almost any speed produces the sort of acceleration that really does force your neck backwards.
If nobody told you that the brakes were servo-assisted, you'd probably not suspect it: here's another useful muscle-toning device ...
You then arrive at your first bend in the Countach, and its response to your actions are so precise, and predictable, that you instantly feel that the car is working for you, whereas in some rivals you feel that you are sitting on the back of a wild animal, trying desperately to maintain the illusion of control.
The first surprise is that the unassisted steering, rack and pinion, naturally, is light in the straight ahead position even at very low speeds.... Turn into a bend, the weight (steering) builds up. Always you can feel very easily where the front wheels are pointing, and usually only a small amount of lock is required. It is unnecessary to fight the steering.
With an overall rubber contact patch unequalled by any other road car (the rear tyres are 345/35VR15 on 12in rims, and the fronts are 225/50VR15 on 8.5in rims), it is hardly surprising that dry road grip is outstanding. But roadholding is one thing and overall handling another, and the more impressive aspects of Countach are how well balanced it feels, how much true feel of the surface is fed to the driver via the wheel and through the chassis, and how progressively and predictably it responds to suggestions that it should change direction. Again, it is working with the driver rather than against him.
No doubt a Porsche 959 would leave a Countach floundering on a twisty route in poor conditions, but that would not be so in the dry. The combination of more than 450 horsepower and race-car-sized tyres demands a certain level of skill, but that admitted, there are many cars with engines of lower output which are more difficult to drive. (Note: say, a Porsche 911 Turbo)
In a tight bend, it is possible to punch the tail out with a brutal and sustained stamp on the throttle pedal. It isn't really necessary to indulge in such hooliganism, and the joy of Countach is the way it can be made to flow through a series of curves, with scarcely any perceptible roll.
Surprisingly, the space inside the car is not too bad, and it is considerably less cramped than an Esprit (Lotus), for example; nor does it give the same claustrophobic feeling. Even for tall drivers, there is about sufficient headroom, though it is necessary to drive with knees bent ... the trimming is competently executed, though it does not give that air of plush luxury that you find in an Aston Martin or the crisp, modern and efficient environment of the latest Ferraris.
The seats are of a true "bucket" design ... They offer good lateral location and acceptably comfortable for journeys of moderate length ... The carpeted boot, though by no means large, is not too bad for this type of car. The front lid conceals a get-you-hom-if-you -aren't-arrested spare tyre, the battery, the brake servo, and not much else.
Its forward vision is acceptable when you get used to looking through that huge pane of glass set in a shallow incline: ahead of you, it is just possible to see the highest peaks of the front wheel arches, but you must guess where the nose might be. At each side, there is a pattern of four small panes of glass. One of these can be lowered - by a manual winder - and the theory is that you can use it for paying autostrada tolls.
It is a crazy vision made into reality. It costs a fortune. It is totally impractical. There is no way that buying it could be justified by any rational argument, but if you are a true car enthusiast and immensely wealthy, you will feel obligued to ignore all those sensible, puritanical, 'realistic' mumblings from one side of your brain, and listen to the other side shouting 'Countach!'
There never has been anything quite like it, and probably there never will be again. Perhaps the Germans make the best cars in the world, but the Italians make the most exciting, most outrageous and most marvellous one, and this is it. Countach !
" This engine has an unusually wide useable rev band, even for a big V12. Indeed, the response to flooring the throttle at only 1,500rpm in top is simply instant, smooth, turbine-like acceleration." - Fast Lane.
" However, you then arrive at your first bend in the Countach, and its responses to your actions are so precise, and predictable, that you instantly feel that the car is working for you." - Fast Lane
" But what told most was its superb capability over high speed bumps and its marvellous handling balance. It turned best,, it stayed flat under serious provocation, it braked without dive and it steered quickly and with precision. It behaved as many of the people who take pure track cars there would one day like their machinery to behave." - CAR
" The Fichtel and Sachs clutch is very heavy" - Fast Lane
" Its heavy steering, gearchange and pedal efforts - and its compact driving position - suited the extreme loads of hard driving." - CAR
" If no body told you that the brakes were servo-assisted, you'd probably not suspect it" - Fast Lane.
" The split door glass rolls down only enough to slip a Wendy's single through" - Car and Driver
" Getting in and out of the Countach requires a special technique." - Fast Lane
" Don't look back !" - Road & Track commentating the rearward vision.