Paolo Stanzani took over as Lamborghini's Chief Engineer in 1968 when Giampaolo Dallara left. Stanzani was responsible for the new development project, in particular the chassis, while Marcello Gandini was the magician who conjured up the new styling, and Bertone was again responsible for the body work.
The chassis was a normalised steel tube frame, or 'bird-cage' expertly crafted by Marchesi of Milan. The birdcage layout quickly proved to be very strong and highly suited to competitive, hard driving. The body skin was made of unstressed aluminium panels. Gleverbel Belgian glass was used, due to it being lightweight and thin whilst remaining very strong.
Other than being a V-12 and mid-mounted, the car was fundamentally different than its predecessor. The engine capacity was increased to five litres to accommodate higher performance and was mounted longitudinally rather than the transverse mounting seen in the Miura. With the front of the engine facing the rear of the car, the transmission was ahead of the engine producing a nearly direct gearshift with only a short linkage. A 5-speed gear-box translated the power to the drive-train via a sump housed under the engine, feeding into the rear differential. This layout was revolutionary at that time.
Exterior vision was excellent to the front and sides, but the rear vision was somewhat hit-or-miss, so for the original prototype, an intriguing roof mounted periscope was utilised, though this was later dropped. The vertically opening doors first seen in the Bertone 1968 Carabo were an interesting feature used in this new Lamborghini, and have since become somewhat of a tradition. The leather clad interior included newly contoured seats, and a tall centre console to cover the transmission located within it.
With a more or less "cost-no-object" go ahead from Ferruccio Lamborghini and 51% owner, Georges Rossetti, Stanzani used expensive lightweight magnesium cast components that added to the exotic personality of the new car and helped keep the final overall weight very close to the initial 1000 kg goal.
The new car was officially christened LP 500, (Longitudinal Posterior, 5.0 litre V-12), with the engine mounted lengthways and backwards. It debuted at the 1971 Geneva Motorshow in the Bertone booth painted fly-yellow. The 'Countach' as it was figuratively named, lived up to its name, with journalists and the public alike providing their own languages version of the meaning of this wonderful word (Countach is an Italian expression, that might be exclaimed by an Italian male upon sighting an attractive lady). The car was undoubtedly the star of the show.
Despite the glowing reports of the journalists present, most advised the fascinated public that it was just another show-stopping concept-car that was unlikely to ever see full production. Though the Countach was far from ready at this stage, it did actually go into production three years later and didn't end until 1990, having seen a total of five distinct production derivations. From day one, it was a legend. At its finish, it was a highly refined performance car that still demanded the utmost respect. Although by today's standards even the "futuristic" look for the original LP500 Countach of 1971 is dated, the actual car was never a technologically advanced, but the style will remain timeless forever.
Last Updated 17.1.1999