Every legend has a beginning.
The Lamborghini Countach is now 50 years old. The legend was born at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show when the scissor-doored, V12-powered supercar made its debut appearance, specifically on March 11. If there had been a live Geneva show this year, Lamborghini probably would have had a grand celebration marking the occasion. Like so many other things in this coronavirus-imposed new normal, the Italian supercar company is commemorating this icon online-only.
The ancestor of today's Lamborghini Aventador S, the Countach LP 500 concept was an instant sensation. A yellow example appeared before the public for the first time at ten o'clock in the morning on show day. Lamborghini immediately had a very good problem: get the concept car ready for production to satisfy the many requests pouring in from wealthy customers.
Debuting alongside the stunning new concept was the Miura SV, which marked the end of its successful five-year production run. One icon was leaving the scene and another was born. In just a few months' time, the new Countach had been featured in nearly every major automotive magazine.
Unlike the Miura's transversely-mounted V12 engine, the Countach had a longitudinally-mounted layout. Its five-speed manual transmission was mounted in the middle between the driver and passenger seats instead of at the rear, resulting in improved weight distribution. Only a V12 engine was considered because founder Ferruccio Lamborghini was insistent on maintaining the company's edge and reputation for being at the forefront of technology, engineering, and style. Even a half-century later, the Countach's design is gorgeous, thanks to the one and only Marcello Gandini.
He was also responsible for the Countach's scissor doors, a feature granted only to the firm's V12-powered models. The LP500 prototype differed from the 1974 production Countach in a number of ways, including its platform frame instead of the tubular setup of the road-going version. The engine air intakes had a shark grille design and the interior had sophisticated electronic instrumentation. The prototype also had a one-of-a-kind 4.9-liter V12; a 3.9-liter was used for production.
The 'Countach' name supposedly originated from a farmer who shouted "Countach" (meaning wonder or amazing in the local dialect) upon seeing the prototype when it was hidden in a farm shed for agricultural machinery near the Turin province of Grugliasco prior to its reveal.
The rest, as they say, is history. A total of 1,999 Countachs were built from 1974 to 1990.