Driving my childhood dream car, the Countach, wasn’t what I expected


Welcome to Lamborghini Legends, a series of stories to mark the Italian brand’s 60th anniversary. In each installment, our European correspondent gets behind the wheel of one of Sant’Agata’s all-time greats. Here he lives out a childhood fantasy in the last-ever Countach.

I have dreamed of this moment for 40 years.

Ever since I first hung a picture of a Lamborghini Countach on my bedroom wall, I’ve imagined myself getting behind the wheel of this, the definitive supercar of the 1970s and ’80s. In my mind I’d be storming through the desert at 180 mph, reliving the opening sequence of the Cannonball Run, although perhaps without state troopers in hot pursuit.

The reality looks set to be somewhat slower paced, but my drive does involve a chase, as I’m part of a procession of eight different Lamborghinis, brought together for a 60th anniversary celebratory drive across 150 miles of Italy’s Emilia Romagna region.

It was a be-winged 1979 LP400S that featured both on-screen and on my wall, but the Countach I’m to drive is devoid of the infamous appendage. Originally designed specially for F1 team boss Walter Wolf, the huge spoiler was not homologated and was therefore installed on road-going Countaches in the factory parking lot, making it an aftermarket part. The wing was also purely cosmetic, so it’s not like I’ll be missing any downforce.

This 1990 25th Anniversary edition actually did have a host of aerodynamic advances, courtesy of a young designer named Horacio Pagani, who was tasked by Lamborghini’s corporate parent, Chrysler, to give the Countach a new lease on life. It needed to tide the firm over until the arrival of a successor, the Diablo.

The Countach was the first Lamborghini to use carbon fiber to save weight, with sills and splitter made from the advanced material. Pagani’s design is a little fussier than the Marcello Gandini original, but Horacio succeeded in extending the Countach’s existence by 638 units and brought the grand total to 1999.

Painted in Argento Metallizzato, the car before me is the very last one made and was never sold. It is literally the ultimate Countach. Yet, from the moment the driver’s door scissors upwards, I sense that nothing about this experience is going to be dreamy.


I more or less fall into the driver’s seat in a reverse of Leonardo DiCaprio in that infamous scene from Wolf of Wall Street. Even sober this is a very tricky car to enter or exit. I hunt around for seat adjustments and discover they’re hidden beneath a flap on the driver-side door sill. With slightly sluggish whirrs, the seat slowly inches forward—but not enough. In order to fully depress the clutch, I have to hunker down into the grey leather.

Adapting to the driving position is a strange, spine-contorting experience. The pedals are pushed to the right by the intrusion of the massive wheel arch and they’re packed tightly together to avoid the center tunnel. Even if you’re wearing dainty driving shoes, you face a real danger of mashing all three pedals at once. Bigger-booted Countach drivers have been known to have to go barefoot.

The interior is all hard angles, as if it were designed in Minecraft and wrapped in acres of leather to soften the blow. The view reminds me of a marginally more sumptuous version of my Lotus Esprit’s cabin. I’m not so far off: the column stalks are exactly the same, also sourced from British Leyland.

Firing up the 5.2-liter V-12 takes a fair amount of cranking. No less than six Weber carbs work in unison to feed the internal-combustion beast. Like all iterations of Bizzarrini’s engine, the Countach’s is a quick revving motor with an eager throttle response. To deliver its 455 hp to the rear wheels requires a full 7000 rpm on the tachometer.

In order to make any progress in this vehicle, however, one must first engage gear. Pushing the clutch pedal requires effort typically reserved for leg day at the gym. I narrowly avoid selecting reverse before slotting the open-gated selector into its dog-leg position. The vehicle pulls away. Not stalling feels like a victory, but the rest of the drive will be a multi-bout cage fight.

At slow speed the steering is the heaviest of any car I’ve ever experienced. It does lighten a bit as the pace picks up, but the wheel has an alarming tendency to combat every input with a fierce self-centering action.

Selecting a gear while in motion is a little smoother, but there’s no let-up in the effort required to move the stick or to operate the clutch pedal. At least the weightiness of the brake pedal means the lower body gets an even-sided workout.

Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary 3

Meanwhile, I’m threading this low-slung automotive UFO down back roads. Forward visibility suffers thanks to that minimally adjustable seat, which forces me to slump. The side mirrors mostly display Pagani’s aesthetic add-ons.

Only on the occasional straight section of road do I extend the V-12 towards its upper limit. The Countach flies. In its heyday, this car would reach 60 mph from rest in less than five seconds.

A modern SUV can match that time without its driver breaking a sweat, but in the Countach there’s a very clear correlation between perspiration and propulsion. This is definitely not the dream drive I imagined: Frankly, driving this Lamborghini is exhausting.

When my time is up, I feel the intense relief of a fighter who has survived to the final bell in a contest he’ll never forget.




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    If Catherine Bach actually drove that car at all while filming CR, I really give her immense credit for the effort. Most *men* – manly men, strong and swarthy men with hair on their teeth and lots of gold chains, men who shoot or catch, kill and eat animals in the woods, etc., say much the same thing: It’s a marvel to gaze upon, it’s in the Library of Congress via the Historic Vehicle Register, but it is a beast to drive. I would never let one sit behind me in traffic. The car screams: “Look out, Dude. You aren’t half the man you thought you were.”

    have owned many…..not for the faint hearted…..an old school true man’s car…not for beginners….lightweights need not apply

    Looks better from the outside. Similar to the latest gen Camaro, the GT40, and others, which are not as user-friendly as hoped for.

    I don’t complain about it, I just drive! Proud owner of a LP400S Series Ii. And it is red. Like everybody else I had he poster above my bed, and still have it. I have a Pantera so I am use to pedal placements. There r a lot of other great cars, but there is nothing that comes close to a Countach – yes I am biased, but I felt that way before owning one!

    I will assume that this being the end of the run, it represents the best driving of the entire model series. Too bad it’s not the best looking, because even at its driving best, it’s still not something one would enjoy on a weekend drive. Perhaps we are all best leaving this in our daydreams.

    Had the same drivetrain in my former LM002. What a workout. Drove it in a couple of small parades wherein I feared I would accidentally pop the clutch and take out the crowd

    People like to grab attention by writing ‘hate’ of the beloved Countach. I don’t find mine difficult to drive, except I do need to wear specifically-narrow shoes; also lack of lumbar support. The 25th anniv. car power seats do delete some headroom, I’m told; at 5ft10in I have no problem fitting the 1987 5000 QV. I absolutely love driving the Countach as a time-capsule. I’m transported to the greatest performance of the year. My modern Mclaren is the clear winner for performance and handling, but it’s not at all iconic like the Countach. Viva la Countach!

    I definitely didn’t hate it, and expected to be tricky, but I think I’d just built it up too much in my mind over the last 40 years. Glad to hear you’re enjoying yours!

    I had the opportunity to drive a Ferrari 308. What you describe was my exact experience. but hey it was still fun and I can say I drove one. LOL

    Cars have changed. I drive a 650HP Brabus SL600. It will eat that Countach’s lunch in very category with one arm hanging out the window, the other arm draped over the steering wheel, with the Grateful Dead blasting on the stereo and the a/c on full clip. Good for 500 mile days, no sweat (air conditioned and massaging seats). So…is this good or bad?

    This is 1970’s-1980’s perfection…I don’t want to hear any of this spoiled (2023) whining. If it sucks to drive, you must be doing something wrong…it’s not the car 🙂

    I wouldn’t say it sucks – just was much more demanding than I expected (especially after driving a Miura). I’m a big fan of 70s/80s wedges (I have an Esprit S3) and generally sign up for the “no pain, no gain” idea that driving needs to be a physical connection between car and driver.

    I love the whole experience of these older cars. Have a 72 Vette, manual steering, manual brakes, long clutch, 4 speed with side pipes. Car gets hotter than hell, loud as a stock car. Wife hates the car.

    Fall into her, fire her up, throw her into gear, let her rip. Is an experience like nothing else. To me, actually having to drive the car is all the fun. She loves to be driven….hard. That big ole American V8 just drowns out all you problems of the day.

    Beautiful Saturday in Richmond, VA, think I’ll take her out for a romp now.

    Your experience driving the Lambo can be replicated in any number of older exotics. A Ferrari Testarossa is HUGE on the outside, tiny inside the cockpit with very limited rearward vision. The first couple generations of the Viper were crude brutes that bucked & backfired below 30mph. Not fun. Similar stories abound for many such cars that carry unattainable price tags and promise a lot more than they deliver. Don’t even get me started on maintenance costs. Its why my current ride of choice is a new C8 Corvette with loads of contemporary engineering, driving performance and creature comforts with minimal upkeep expenses. Best of both worlds!

    “Yet, from the moment the driver’s door scissors upwards, I sense that nothing about this experience is going to be dreamy.”
    Literally laughed out loud at this Mr. Berg….it should have been the lead sentence.
    Having owned a number of mid-engine Italian cars from this era – plus being blessed with feet the size of Shaq’s – I can relate to the “interesting” ergonomics of these cars. But here’s the thing: nobody is dailying these cars, so for quick runs on the weekend to “exercise” them or short tours, it’s nothing that you can’t live with. In exchange, you get to experience what real driving was like; before PDK gearboxes, ABS, Stability Control, and functional Air Conditioning…..hahahahahaha.

    Thanks! I really wanted to love it but it was fighting me all the way. Still there’s definitely a masochistic satisfaction in driving one – just not, as you say, on a daily basis.

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