Let it feel fast. Please God, let it feel fast.
I’d been a little frightened of the Lamborghini Countach for as long as I’d been aware of cars generally, and it would have been a disappointment if, when I finally got to drive one after twenty-five-odd years of fear, it felt tame. It was an early-eighties LP500S, its 375 horsepower now sub-standard for a super-saloon and its just-sub-five 0-60 time now threatened by hot hatches.
I’d driven a Veyron before I drove a Countach, and you can’t unlearn how it feels to get to 100mph in five seconds, and 60mph in less than three. But the Countach didn’t disappoint. It didn’t feel quick in the instant, torquey, aim-and-fire way of modern, often turbocharged supercars. It’s far more grown-up than that; the combination of cammy engine and tall gearing requiring you to get your foot all the way in and keep it there to get the best from it, which in turn requires long open roads and massive testicles. Do that, and yes, it still feels fast – very fast – even today.
God knows what it felt like when the first LP400 arrived with the same power in 1974: like trying to steer a Saturn rocket down a country lane, probably. Flat-out, the absurdly heavy control weights – steering, pedals, gearchange – make sense: you need to know where you are. There’s decent grip at both ends, talkative steering, firm-but-fine ride; even as it approached the end of its long life the Countach outhandled most rivals.
The brakes are rubbish though, and the cabin literally encapsulates everything Gordon Murray hated about compromised supercar design and sought to put right with the McLaren F1: offset pedals, a little wheel that rests between your bent knees, a roof that pushes your head down into your shoulders to create that extraordinary shape, and no visibility anywhere other than forward.
But like Franco says in The Gumball Rally, “the first rule of Italian driving: what’s-a behind me is not important”.
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