We’re now entering the era when “The Fastest Car(s) In The World” became increasingly common on the covers of R&T, C&D and Motor Trend. It was the news stand click bait of its time. And as we move forward through the years of my huge stack of R&Ts yet to be scanned and uploaded, there’s a concomitant reduction in the testing of ordinary cars. Which explains why I became less and less interested in car magazines as time went on. The lure of cars that could go 200+ mph just didn’t mean a whole lot to me anymore.
But in 1976, the newish Countach was still able to get my juices going. And it did get going. Its projected top speed was 192 mph, @8,000 rpm. R&T didn’t get theirs quite up to that, but they claimed to have seen a brief moment at 7,000rpm, which translates to 163mph. Actually, there’s a discrepancy in the stats, as they show 23.3 mph/1000rpm in 5th gear, but that calculates to 186mph. Oh well, you get the idea. It was really fast, especially for 1976. Oh, and of course, with an 8,000 rpm power peak, this was not exactly a US certified car; the Countach wouldn’t get blessed by the EPA and NHTSA until 1982 or so, thanks to fuel injection and other modern emission control technology.
Like you, I was not under the spell of supercars like this. Even now, this is of a school of Italian design that does not do much for me. The movement beyond the mid 1960s was a challenge for me. I preferred the soft curves of the earlier era to the sharp creases and wide flat planes of the later one.
But you’ve got to give them credit for a mighty fast car.
Well, actually I still was during the Countach’s early years, before they ruined a truly groundbreaking design with the fender flares, spoilers and bumpers. The fact that the Countach wasn’t even sold here until the 80s meant that it was also forbidden fruit, which raised the appeal some.
But a combination of the sudden explosive popular interest in these in the 80s, culminating with every teen having a Countach (and FFM) poster in their bedroom utterly destroyed any hint of interest.
I would certainly have liked to experience 186 mph. I still would. 🙂
Well, can’t say you haven’t been trying, the downhill in Nevada just wasn’t long enough for the Acura…
What amazes me most about the Countach most is how small it actually is. The first time I stood next to one I realized it was about 7/8ths the size I had imagined it to be in all respects. The later Diablo and newer models on the contrary are pretty much what I expected size-wise.
I remember driving home from graveyard shift on a cool Sunday morning in 76…Granville & Georgia…city centre Vancouver, BC. An orange Countach parked. Wow, what a sight back in those days!!
Great road test – I remember reading this back in the day. However, it’s not often that R&T let a typo slip through: “dirstribution”.
Had been reading Motor trend since I was a kid, Had an older brother so it was his late 50s editions with glossy covers and newsprint interior pages. My Brother gave me a Subscription to MT on my 12th Birthday in May of 63 and I kep it up…enjoying every edition each month through to the late 80s…Yes, I noticed the evolution. From a magazine for gearheads that wanted info on the latest cars, but a full range, from low priced to luxury. All the forecasts of “next year’s” cars each summer. And ofcourse the adverts for wheels and mufflers and articles on custom cars and concepts. It evolved out of all this and by the late 80s, was going upmarket. due to competition form the likes of “Automobile” etc. and much more advertising. I dropped the subscription around 1990. It was a good run. But car rags, same as myself, are not what they used to be.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. As a teenager in the mid-’00s, I was getting sick of R&T’s endless “WORLD’S RECORD-BEATING FASTEST CAR”, and I wanted to read about semi-affordable cars I could actually afford in 5 years. I also wanted to hear about aftermarket stuff that wasn’t just puffery for K&N filters (it was the era of F&F mania, after all).
Motor Trend, on the other hand, was just puffery for everyone.
I had the Matchbox version in my collection as kid. Around 1974-75.
Ha, I still have that one somewhere.
I liked the Countach until they started loading it up with wings and spoilers and slices of process cheese.
Dad and I had an R&T subscription in the 80’s until we realized that the only reason we were keeping it was Peter Egan’s writing. Everything else was:
– Advertising (over 50%!)
– Exotics we would never drive
– Sports sedans we could never afford
“– Advertising (over 50%!)”
Your memories are not deceiving you. My R&T collection runs from 1970-95, and the 1980s witnessed an enormous change.
In 1980, there were on average 17 pages of car ads per issue. By 1990, that figure was 41 pages per issue. (I only indexed car ads, not ads for cigarettes, tires, or anything else, but it’s a safe bet those increased at a similar rate).
During the same period, the number of actual car articles (road tests, comparisons or other features) increased from 7 to 9… an increase, but not nearly in keeping with the amount of ads. And like you said, the content was drifting towards exotics and other high-dollar cars I couldn’t care less about.
Peter Egan’s writing alone kept me as a subscriber for many more years than I otherwise would have done.
On backs of old MT’s and C&D’s are cigarette ads with some mustached male model. Essentially saying “If you want to be a hit with ladies, then smoke”.
Agree 100% on all points. My friends in grade school would talk excitedly about the Countach being their dream car. And I couldn’t share an ounce of their enthusiasm. lol
The garish colour scheme on the Matchbox version didn’t help at encouraging an early interest.
I had that one too. It’s probably at my mom’s house currently waiting for service. As I recall, the engine cover lifted up. One of the few Matchbox’s of the era where the tires are probably at the correct scale width-wise.
Get one at Hyman Ltd.
But check with your bank first!!
All the big rags were deep into exotic car gushing when I was a little kid, and by the time I was maybe 12 those kinds of cars simply lost all their appeal to me. The last truly interesting cars in this category, in my lifetime, were from the very edge of the beginning of my lifetime – the Ferrari F40 and the Porsche 959 – every exotic since those two has been a copy or a blend of the formulas of them, incremental statistical improvements in technology simply don’t interest me, and styling since then has concurrently been less and less artful and expressive and more and more scientific and clinical. That’s a direct result of these kinds of magazine headlines as far as I’m concerned.
I liked the flared spoiler clad early 80s era Countach when I was a kid, a product of watching my Dad’s VHS copies of the Cannonball Run movies over and over, but now as I’ve matured I much prefer the original “plain” 74. It’s a much more of a daring work of automotive art, and that’s really the only point of this level of car when you try thinking about them rationally, stats don’t matter one bit. I look at this car, and I could envision it as a high speed transportation pod on a colonized moon, without a single change. It literally became a bit too earthbound when they added flares and wings to it.
I was a big fan of the original Countach. It was a mind bender when it first arrived in 1971 or so. I loved it, and continued to like it until it was ruined, and then became available in the US and a pop culture icon. Yukk.
In its defense the ruin was gradual for me. I think the earliest form with the wide wheels and flares, the 400s I believe, looked decent, no less tasteful in execution than a Porsche 930 Turbo at least, but unlike the Porsche you could get it without the wing(like the one I see you posted below). That was my favorite version when I was a little kid, which is also the model you see in the cannonball run movies. When they became something like 5000QV as the 80s progressed and had the LEGO block bumpers, rocker extensions with Testarosa side stakes, and weird blocky treatment covering the whole taillight panel is where they really got truly ruined…
Don’t forget the US front bumper, which to be fair was due to the federal standards for the day, but in any case was truly hideous.
Apparently the bumper was easy to remove and once removed there was no evidence that it had ever been there in the first place. Which is why you may have never seen one before.
I didn’t forget, those are the LEGO block bumpers I was referring to. And I have seen them before, in fact I am reasonably certain the Countach I posted is a different view of the exact same Countach in the exact same spot you posted LOL
With or without the bumpers, they don’t fix those god awful staked rocker panel and taillight cover extensions that would be too cheesy even for a kit car of a Countach.
Then you’d recognize this car.
The high quality Cannonball Run I intro video (PolarBear’s clip of above) was removed from the internet. All that remains is a poorly recorded version.
Below is one from Cannonball Run II (same music) only the winged (and de-spoilered) Countach is white… wait, no red.
Back then, I thought all Countachs looked like this and I loved the look. I also wore flared jeans, wide lapel suits, and cowboy boots in NYC, so take that into consideration.
Thanks for the link! Good times.
*I was wearing boot cut Wranglers and Boots back then. Come to think of it, some things never change.
I’ve watched those movies maybe 3 times, but I watched those intro scenes more times than I can count. Don’t forget Speed Zone either! The engine sound is the best part, you can tell that’s a genuine Lamborghini V12 they used, which is kind of rare in Hollywood who often has some egregiously bad dubbing of engine sounds.
To me, the Euro Supercar articles are to appeal to what I call “casual car fans”. And meant to target an “upwardly mobile” audience for advertisers. i.e. the “if I won the lottery…” or “want to impress potential boss/spouse/club” types.
So, lots of dreamy writing and fantasies of “being in an exotic locale, going through the twisties”, [no traffic or worries], etc, etc, etc…..
The car rag mantra of “no boring cars”, to me, is boring.
I’ve always wondered why superexpensive cars MUST have doors that open upward. You’re not going to park a million-dollar car in a crowded parking lot anyway. You’re only going to park in a climate-controlled garage, which has a ceiling. Whoopsie! Can’t get out! Now what?
Another insightful question/observation. Maybe because the open door height was obviously designed to be well below a garage ceiling? The height of the opened door is 6’8″. Do you know of any garage ceilings that are lower than that?
I think in the Countach’s case it was a matter of not really being able to hinge those doors the normal way due to the shape being dictated by how far forward the leading edge of the windshield is in relation to the front wheels, and reconfiguring to have a perfectly vertical leading edge would result in an unacceptably small door and a then-unthinkable fixed side window ahead of the door.
Either that or a lower door hinge that would stick out from the body by a couple inches or so.
I used to love Peter Egan’s work for both Cycle World and R&T. The very last R&T I bought was the 50th anniversary edition, which I still cherish, along with Motor Trends 100 years of the automobile. Gordon Jennings tech articles in Cycle, were also amazing. The Countach? Not so much. And I never had a FFM poster.
My best (more or less only) friend in 4th grade had a poster of this car above his bed. He pronounced it “CON-tash”.
Psssshh, every kid in my neighborhood knew it was properly pronounced “Kown-Tack” 🙂
When I was a kid I got my mouth washed with soap for the way I originally thought it was pronounced…
That’s pretty feckless… 🙂
I first encountered one of these crossing a humpback bridge on a country road near Harrogate in Yorkshire sometime in 1974, I think. The bloke driving it had a long flowing beard. Yes, it was L J K Setright of Car magazine fame.
I still have a copy of a magazine that showed all the cars of the 1973 Earls Court motor show, in it was the original Countach, it looked so much nicer than the later models with horrid wheel arch extensions and the most stupid looking spoiler.
I also find supercars to be a bit childish and prefer a genuine GT car with elegant lines, with the exception of the Miura which I would vote for as the most beautiful car ever, makes the lovely E type look positively old fashioned.
In my dream stable of fast cars there would be a Miura, Iso Griffo, Jensen Interceptor, 300SL Gullwing, XK120 and E type coupe, anyone would look good stepping out of one of those. Have no desire for modern super or hyper cars, would feel such a berk driving one
Probably I’m in the minority who prefer the Countach (in its original “periscopa” guise seen here) over the Muira. It astounds me that such diametrically different designs came out of the same mind, and only a few years apart. Whereas the Muira is organic, fluid, lovely, the Countach is synthetic, brutal, outrageous. Even its (allegedly) Piedmontese slang-derived name reflects the reactions people had to the car when it was new, and still have today.
Love it or loathe it, the Countach set the template for exotic super cars that remains in place almost 45 years after it debuted. That’s impact.
Anyway, great post, brings back a flood of teenage car-lust memories. Still have my copy of that issue of R&T. Pulled it out last night, in fact, and re-read (for the 1,000th time, 999 of them being back in the day) the Countach review.
I would actually count myself in that minority. To me the Countach cemented Lamborghini’s place in the automotive world, standing firmly on their own, no longer under the shadow of Ferrari. And also there were many engineering dead ends and odd compromises the Miura had, both in primitive chassis construction and the transverse integral crankcase/gearbox engine layout, that the Countach fully did away with. And not to diminish the design, but the Miura’s core shape took noticeable inspiration from the Ford GT40. The Countach on the other hand seems completely uninfluenced by anything, it was a true out of this world original in its early form.
Mind you, I admire the Miura quite a lot too, but while it was a major hit for Lamborghini, its impact on the industry was even greater in that it brought the racetrack proven, but racetrack only, midengine V12 drivetrain configuration to a street purpose car, before any of the big players dared to unless in minute numbers for homologation purposes, in very rough and tumble racecar form no less. The style of modern exotics may pay more homage to the Countach, but they may not even exist today if not for the Miura.
I Googled this because I woke up remembering this road test. 40+ years later some of the article forever burned into my long-term memory. “Errant hand pressure dimple the bodywork.”
So thanks. I was able to be 15 again, if even for just a minute.