Avoidable Contact #114: A Countach owner calls for more junk on the trunk, but is he right?
“1 The world is all that is the case.”
Recognize that, perhaps with a shudder? Why, it’s the opening proposition of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus! Your humble author decided he would use the flight out to “Monterey Car Week” as a chance to catch back up on ol’ Ludwig W. for the first time in about … oh, 25 years. Somewhere in the section on “atomic facts” I decided I would take a break and play chess against my Amazon Kindle for a while. The Kindle beat me six games to three, assigning me a USCF Class D, which is just as bad as it sounds. Nothing makes one feel as mediocre as tapping out of a philosophy book then taking an L against an ARM Cortex-A53 processor the size of one’s fingernail.
Nevertheless, these humbling exercises in logic ended up being a solid grounding from which to consider the very emotional prospect of a new Lamborghini Countach. Let’s start with the most logical point to be made: According to Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini’s charming CTO and the fellow who walked me around the car last week, all 112 examples have been spoken for at a non-negotiable price of $2.6 million. Ergo, the car is a success, regardless of what you (or I) might think.
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And yet, it wasn’t really about the money. How could it be? We’re only talking $291 million here. Which works out to be 6180 F-150s. In normal conditions, it takes Ford a whole … three days to do that kind of volume. (In current conditions, Ford dealers could sell that many F-150s in 30 minutes, via phone, if they had that kind of extra inventory available.) Is it more profitable to sell 112 Countaches than it is to sell 6180 Ford trucks? I wouldn’t bet on it. The Countach had to be engineered; those F-150s have already been engineered and only have to be assembled.
Any babbling about “cash grabs” and “rebodied Aventadors” should be viewed in the proper, educated context: It is extremely expensive to engineer a new car nowadays. Even if you get to start with an existing platform. If you want to produce the thing in any kind of volume, even if that volume is three-figure volume, the cost goes way up. Aston Martin can one-off the Victor at a cost of a few million bucks because it doesn’t need to make jigs and tooling and processes for it. The average non-clean-sheet redesign, like the incremental changes from the old Civic to the new one, can run over a billion dollars in engineering and retooling costs alone. If you think Lamborghini can do a new supercar for a couple hundred million bucks, you’re a special kind of goofy, and there’s a reason you’ve never worked in the productive side of the auto business. Go look at a 2001 BMW 330i, then look at a 2003 BMW 330i. The difference between them is called a “Life Cycle Impulse,” and it’s what you usually get for a couple hundred million bucks. A whole hybrid V-12 two-seater, with all-new styling including the greenhouse and interior, for that kind of money? Oh, oh, oh, it’s magic! At the very least, it’s thrifty.
A somewhat more legitimate criticism of the Countach is that it isn’t an “authentic” successor to the original car. Is that true? Let’s get some context for that as well. The preceding Lamborghini Miura was a much bigger technological and spiritual advance than the 1974 production Countach, which could be described in reductive fashion as “a Bertone wedge Miura with an engine turned 90 degrees and the wacky doors from Gandini’s Alfa concept.” By the time the Countach hit its stride in the mid-1980s, it was already older than the current Aventador is now; if you’re upset that the bones of the LPi800-4 Countach date to 2011, how do you feel about the bedroom-poster LP5000S being basically 12 years old on its debut?
At least the new one is faster than a garden-variety Buick or Firebird. The original Countach couldn’t quite hang with a Super Duty ’Bird, and its successors struggled to keep pace with a stock Regal Grand National or Buick-engined Trans Am Turbo down the quarter-mile. (Don’t even mention the GNX, which was almost Diablo quick.) If what Mr. Reggiani told me turns out to be truthful, this new one should keep pace with a McLaren Senna in a straight line. The projected top speed of 221 mph is also very competitive, although my questions regarding the stability of a spoilers-deployed Countach at that speed were met with a shrug and a comment along the lines of, “We don’t really expect the owners to drive that fast …”
Logically, therefore, the new Countach has a right to the name. What about emotionally? Ludwig Wittgenstein wouldn’t approve of that question, but he’s not around to stop us from asking it, so let’s dive in. What does Countach mean to us, and does the new car mean the same thing?
Immediately after talking to Mr. Reggiani, I ran into a fellow who owns two Countaches and three Huracáns. “What do you think of it?” I asked.
“It needs more junk on it,” he laughed. “I have a QV and an Anniversary car. Those cars have junk all over them. Spoilers, wings, slats. That’s what Countach means to me. Outrageous details. If I want a Lamborghini without that stuff, I have a Huracán Evo. I don’t need this thing. Looks like a big Huracán.”
“The original LP400 didn’t have any of that,” I countered.
“I’m not interested in those cars; they don’t have the Countach spirit.” Now this was interesting. To this fellow, the Countach didn’t come into its own until it aged a bit and became more of a Countach. Put it in Al Pacino terms: the LP400 is Dog Day Afternoon, the QV is Scent Of A Woman, the 25th Anniversary is Heat. The older Al Pacino gets, the more … Al Pacino he becomes. The maximum Countach, to this fellow, is the Anniversary car, which is my least favorite Countach of all time, a pallid parody of supercars. I think the big Lambo started out just about perfect and got crappier as time went on; the man who owns two of them says the reverse is the case.
Who’s right? The 112 people who bought the new car or this fellow who owns the old cars and thinks the new one is trash? (Maybe “trash” is a strong word; he asked that I not identify him in this column, “just in case I change my mind on it and buy one later. Don’t want anyone to make fun of me.”) For that, we have to return to a philosophical question, asked by Marcus Aurelius but familiar to most of us from Hannibal Lecter: “Of each particular thing ask: What is it in itself? What is its nature?” In 2021, any first-generation Countach is a vintage car, owned by the kind of people who own vintage and classic cars. If you had to do a Cannonball Run today, you wouldn’t choose a 1985 Countach. If you are a top-flight South American narcotics supplier right now, you wouldn’t go to the auctions to find a perfect LP400. Movie stars don’t drive old Countaches. When a scissor door goes up on a pro boxer or basketball player in front of a red carpet somewhere, it’s attached to an Aventador, not a Countach.
The original nature of the Countach, the thing it was in and of itself, was to be an outrageous mode of transportation for the glamorous and wealthy. It was meant to be used, and abused, in the moment. This is the true purpose of a first-rate supercar. It doesn’t exist for the quarter-mile or the Nürburgring or the lawn of Pebble Beach. It is meant to be part of an incandescent life, to burn twice as bright and half as long. Every one of the original Countaches, even the lovely purple LP400 owned by Simon Kidston and driven everywhere on two continents, is a housecat now. You won’t find them dusted with cocaine or drowning in celebrity swimming pools. On the boulevard, they are easy meat for Hellcats and the like. Everybody knows it. The Countach concept appeared 17 years after the gullwing SL; today, the former is 50 years old and the latter is 67, far closer to each other than to the current day.
By contrast, it is easy to imagine this new Countach carrying some superstar owner from penthouse to party and back again. It looks like the $2.6 million proposition that it is. Surely one of the owners will wind up hanging from the seatbelts and resting on the carbon-fiber roof somewhere, in the company of a second-tier runway model, whether it’s in Beverly Hills or Abu Dhabi. It exists in the current moment. Yeah, it’s a bit retro, but you don’t need to know anything about the original Countach to know that this one is a hyper-fast hypercar for the hyper-rich. The thing speaks for itself. Someday, it too will be a housecat of the manicured lawns, a subject of a rotisserie restoration, preserved in the amber of classic-and-vintage ownership.
But not today. Today it is an ephemeral creature of the incandescent life. Wicked fast, supercapacitor-equipped, perfectly modern despite the age of its underpinnings. For the next 12 months, at least, it will be in the forefront of everyone’s mind. Oh, to be the first person to pull up at the club in one! The valets will move a Pagani out of the way to park it up front. And to find yourself next to a McLaren 720 or some other pedestrian device on the freeway, only to drop the hammer and take that poor fellow to Gapplebee’s! The LPi800-4 is gorgeous, fascinating, stunning, and entirely of the moment.
The world is all that is the case. Let me tell you what else is the case: This new car is indisputably, fearsomely, wonderfully, a Countach.