GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

'74 Lamborghini Countach LP 400

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SPECS

Year: 1974
Class: Supercar
Type : 2-door coupe

Host: GT5
Country: Italy

Price: $143,308 (used car lot)

Mileage as tested: 42,296.8

Construction: steel tube frame chassis/aluminum body panels

Length: 163.0" // Width: 74.4" // Height: 42.125"
Wheelbase: 96.5"
Overhang: 5 feet 6 inches
Track: 59.1" [F] 59.8" [R]
Ground Clear: 4.9"

Weight: 2,347 pounds

Steering: unassisted rack & pinion
Turn Radius: 42.7 feet

Layout: Mid Engine/Rear-Drive
Tires: 205/70VR-14 [F] 215/70VR-14
Suspension: wishbones, coils, shox, anti-roll bars
Brakes: vented discs

*test car was given oil change (but no engine rebuild) before all specs & testing below.


Engine: 3.9 liter DOHC V12
Aspiration: natural
Construction: aluminum alloy block & heads 
Fuel Syst: 6 dual-throat carbs
Valves / Cyl: 2
Bore x Stroke: 3.23 x 2.44"
Compression: 10.4:1

Tested HP: 368 @ 8,000 rpm
Tsd. Torqe: 261 @ 5,500 rpm

Credits per HP: $389.42
Pounds per HP: 6.38
Pnds per torque: 8.99
Horses per Liter: 93.2  

Idle Speed: 750 // Redline: 8,000 // RPM Limit: 8,500

Transmission: 5-speed manual
Differential:

0-60 mph: 5.312
0-100 mph: 10.183
0-150 mph: 21.500

400 M: 13.450 @ 118 mph
1 Kilom: 23.157 @ 154 mph

1/4 Mile: 13.494 @ 120 mph
1 Mile: 31.338 @ 169 mph

100-zero mph: 4.900

Daytona Lap: 49.793 seconds
Top Gear RPM @ 60 mph: 2,500

Top Speed at Redline:
1st: 65.5 mph
2nd: 80.2
3rd: 108.2
4th: 146.7
5th: 194.6 mph @ 8,300 rpm

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----------EXTERIOR / HISTORY------------

Alright everyone, got your driving gloves ready? We're about to take a ride, a ride which most of us (...I wanna say all of us, but there are always exceptions) have been waiting for in Gran Turismo, for a very long time.  

But before discussing the Lamborghini Countach, let's talk about the Volkswagen Beetle. These two machines are (of course) worlds apart in just about every single way possible. The Countach is a rocket-ship-on-land. The original Beetle is so slow, there are speed records made on modified bicycles that beat it.

Also, the Countach is a car which I am assuming everyone has been dying to drive in Gran Turismo. The MK1 Beetle? Only people like me got excited when it finally made its first appearance in Gran Turismo 4. 

Thing is, we should have been able to drive Countachs long ago. Anybody wonder why a then-unheard of carmaker named Vector appeared in GT2?  It's probably because PD could not get Lamborghini at the time. Why not? Because a very EVIL video-game franchise known as Entertainment Arts owned rights to all the best Italian cars (as well as Porsche), and would not grant us the ability to race them. I imagine PD might have  been able to get Lamborghinis, Porsches, Maseratis, and Ferraris into GT2 if they paid massively to E.A. But perhaps this fee would have been way too steep. Or perhaps E.A. really were that greedy, and refused PD the right to allow these top exotics, period.

Who knows. Who cares. Now we finally have our chance! And I'm taking mine...right now....but first let's learn a little, eh?

In 1974, Lamborghini was still a relatively new car-maker, yet they had risen to the very heights of auto-dom in just a few short years. The Countach would soon make its appearance on dozens of sleazy posters with half-naked chicks on them, in dozens of movies, hundreds of TV shows, and millions of dreams. It basically became the Farah Fawcett of cars: very high profile, very much a celebrity, and very very sexy.

According to what I read on Wikipedia just now, the word "Countach" is an exclamation men make towards hot or cute women in the 'Piedmontese' language, which I've never even heard of. I'm guessing it's a dialect of Italian. Sorry. I did a Wiki search on the Lamborghini Countach, but my research ended there. I'm not looking up languages. Not today. :-p 

The Countach was first made as (guess) a concept car, by the Bertone styling house, and showed up in the 1971 Geneva Car Show. The concept was named "LP500" because it had a 5.0 liter engine, but when the car went into production 3 years later, it was now the LP400 with a 4.0. 

The man who got the job of designing the Countach was apparently not very experienced, which is possibly why the Countach wound up with a more radical shape than the Ferraris, Maseratis, and Lamborghinis Italy had been slowly cranking up to this point. Plenty of others had employed slippery shapes by the early 1970s, but the Countach is undeniably the first to use (and popularize) the "wedge", which would eventually be used by everyone from Triumph to Toyota. The Countach may have also been the first to affix "scissor" doors, which rose above the car's low roofline, rather than swinging outwards from the side. These seem to have been added solely for their outrageousness, although I've read they had a functional purpose as well (better chassis stability). 

But this car is not just otherworldly and wedge-shaped...it's got all sorts of odd-looking scoops and ducts as well, all of which are functional. The 4.0 liter V12 engine (not to mention the LP400's rear brakes) would otherwise overheat if these were dummies. 
   
Before the Countach, the company with a bull as its trademark produced the Miura, a smaller, lighter vehicle which most drivers have never heard of. With the Miura, Lamborghini was basically laying the groundwork for what would become one of the most famous cars, ever. Not very many Countachs were made, of course. Over all the years it was in production (1974-1990), just 2,042 have been created, and only 157 of these are the original LP400s.    

In our game, the Countach LP400 weighs-in at just 2,347 pounds, which happens to be the 'dry weight' a real-life version possesses. This means: no people inside, but also no gasoline in the fuel tank. Whether or not PD has provided an error here is up for debate. Later Countachs weigh hundreds more than the original, even in the game, leading me to believe PD kinda screwed-up here. Oh well.

As a used car, the Countach LP400 is certainly on the expensive side. It is also rare. But thanks to the GT Auto Shop, as soon as you find one of these, its looks can easily be customized. Those who want to re-paint their car will certainly jump on this, and this can be a very fun car to experiment with when going for polarized or fluorescent paint jobs. In a way, perhaps it is better that the Countach did not appear in earlier GT games, then. We get to experience this car in all its glory, but also get to make it ours.

But enough jibber-jabber! Let's get inside this space-pod and see what it can do. We've been driving freekin' Fiats and Lancias around for years now, when it comes to Italian cars. Right? So FINALLY we get a chance to really up the ante. Don't know about you, but I cannot wait to do so! C'mon!!!!

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---------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN----------

Yes. Here it is, everyone....the moment we've all been waiting for. Before tearing off around some tracks, let's unveil the absolute beauty underneath this car's rear hood. 

SIX carburetors! Not two or even four. Six twin-throat carbs sit atop those twin banks of cylinders. Ahhh....must have been a bitch to tune, tweak, and keep running smoothly (outside of the Mediterrenean or California's perfect weather, especially), but we don't have to worry about that in our game.

...I can remember being a kid, reading Road & Track magazine, and first encountering the Countach. I had already learned about how 4-stroke engines work, earlier. Pistons, valves, cams, etc.  The Countach's 12 cylinder genius was certainly in a league of its own, and I knew this even way back then. Most cars of the time had 8 cylinders, max. 
The "Lamborghini V12" has been in use ever since 1963 in the Lamborghini 350 GT.


But now it's the Year 2012, and the famous Lamborghini V12 is being featured in a racing game with hundreds of others with newer technology. Engine management computers, fuel-injection, and all that. So the question: How does the Countach stack up? Did its day end sometime long ago? Or does it still offer some ferocity, able to keep up with the modern litany of Skylines, Corvettes, RUFs, McLarens, and the like?

At the new Gran Turismo Test Track X, I got to drooling. Who cares about the stop-clock: let's listen to that engine for a moment, okay? 

The Countach's V12 sounds somewhat busier than an 8-cylinder for sure. Listen closely. With each engine revolution, there are three pistons on their compression stroke ... three on their ignition stroke. And there are 6 cylinders at all times with valves open; either intaking or exhuasting. This is quite a busy engine, folks!

Stomp off the line, and uh-oh...there is what feels to be a moment of lag. Dangit. 
 
With 8,000 RPMs of revolutions in the future, it does take a few before the torque really starts to kick in. This is also a short-stroke engine. Just 2.44 inches of piston movement, and this means most of the energy (torque) is not going to be generated at first. Engines with longer strokes generally can put more torque out earlier. So considering this, it does take a moment before it all really happens. 
 
And it starts to happen between 2,000 and 4,000 rpms. Oh...but what's this? Are we going faster? Yes we are! After that moment of lag, the speed does start to pick up, and piles on fast. The engine's actual note now changes from a gruff sound (almost like a truck) to more of a zing, with a slight snarl at those highest of revs. Now is when the fun really starts. 

Amazingly, it doesn't seem as though the LP400 is moving so fast, simply because there's a lack of drama with this car's launch. No screaming or tire-squeals, despite this car's comparitively narrow rear tires. ....Then the results start coming on the data stream:

Zero to 60 mph in just over 5.3 seconds....GONE.

Zero to 100 mph just over 10 seconds! Goodbye!

150 mph?
Yes, it can be yours in less than a mile, as well.  

The car passes the 400 meter and 1/4 Mile marks...and is already doing 118. This 38-year old automobile is not just keeping up with the moderns of our world, it is actually blowing lots of them away, and some of these moderns feature more power than the LP400's V12. The LP400 therefore does live up to any hype associated with it. Unlike the Venturi or the DeLorean, the Countach is a supercar. It's got the look, but also the speed to back up its super-dart shape. 

It moves so effortlessly. It all happens so quickly and so easily...it's a shame we don't get to experience any of the g-forces associated with movement, here.

As the revs rise, it's obvious that the rumors are true. The rumors that the Countach LP400, even in its day, was a 200 miles per hour vehicle. Gearing is tall, and there are LOTS of revs to eke out. We're not casting out an ordinary fishing line into a pond here, hoping for a trout or a largemouth bass, we are going deep-sea fishing for a giant squid, and there is LOTS of fishing line to troll!  Granted, my car only got to 194.6 mph during the test, but this means 200 is possibly an air filter or an exhaust upgrade away.  

There are lots of useful revs, too...this is not a "keep those revs high at all times" situation. I'm finding that yes....we should keep revs high for the best results, but useful torque happens consistently at about 4 to 5,000, which means 4,000 rpms or more of perfect V12-revving action, depending on track and situation. We don't always need to choose the shortest gear out of turns, then. Peak horsepower happens at 8,000 while the engine is stock, and we have an RPM limit of 8,500. This seems like it'll be a problem, but it's always easy to shift and avoid this before the limit happens.

Gearing is tall, as noted. One odd feature is 2nd gear, which is not significantly different from 1st. There is a decent amount of traction out of turns most of the time (limited-slip devices eventually are needed here), and there definitely are times when 1st gear will be needed. But there are also times when we can substitute 2nd out of the same hairpin or chicane. Problem is, 2nd is too short. Despite that mountain of revs on the tachometer, there are times when I needed to skip up to 3rd for a moment when it seemed I wouldn't need to. But at times like these, staying in 2nd did wind up smacking that rev-limiter.   
 
Let's discuss upgrades. We get the usual PD-mandated triple-kits of natural power, but no turbos. At first, I assumed I wouldn't need turbos. Stacking a blower into a Lambo almost seems like blasphemy. But the truth is, natural power upgrades are so lame, I did wind up wishing for some turbo action.

A Stage 1 kit only raises 11 extra horses, for instance, Stage 2 does barely more than this: 508 hp @ 8,800 rpms with 328 ft-lbs. @ 6,300. Stage 3? Now the LP400 is pushing another 10 hp or so, with a comparable amount of torque.

Can we do plenty of racing with such power? Of course we can! But eventually, the LP400 does meet its limits. There are later editions of the Countach in our games of course. The 25th Anniversary car (also found in the used car lot) packs about 420 horsepower to start, and that's before oil change or other maintenance.

But overall, I'm pleased. Next.  

    

-------CHASSIS / HANDLING---------

And now, the other moment we've been waiting for. Yes, the LP400 goes fast as hell in a straight line. Yes, it did set several speed records in my game at Test Track X. But does it handle curves? How does it handle them? Is it a cornering demon (as we've  been assuming all our lives, since most of us will never get a chance to ever drive a Countach), or is it a V12-engined, highly-expensive mess, kinda like the Saleen S7 and Jaguar XJ220 as they appeared in GT4?

The first set of races the Countach really feels comfortable taking on (without cheating) are to be found during GT5's Supercar Festival. This is High Speed Ring II, Daytona's Superspeedway, and finally Nurburgring GP/F. If the Countach made its first appearance in Gran Turismo 2 (as it should have) it would no-doubt be a near-flawless vehicle to drive, perhaps another Vector or Venturi. But in GT5, let's be honest, we do have some problems.

First clue are those tires. 205/70VR-14 up front, with 215/70VR-14 in the rear. Not much larger than what might be found on an Eclipse or a Lancer, perhaps.   

For a car rated at 200 mph, these tires are too narrow (205 and 215), and have lots more sidewall (that's the 70 part) than modern tires. At least, this is what real-life specs signify, who knows if PD took this inferior rubber into consideration. Notice: later editions of the Countach (as well as others from the Supercar class) would start to use much wider tires overall, with shorter sidewalls to minimize tire flexing during hard cornering.

By the time the 1980s rolled around, the Countach had Pirelli P7 tires bolted on, which were sized over 300 mm in the rear; no doubt the widest set on a production machine of its time. Nowadays, such wide tires have become standard on exotic supercars, but it took a few years for tire technology to catch up. And check this out: it's interesting that I found the text below on a review for a real-life 1978 Countach LP400S, which was supposed to be an upgraded, improved Countach in comparison to the original.

....During this transition (from LP400 to LP400S), the car lost its Periscopa roof and many currently consider that it lost much of the original design's charm. Many LP400S have been sent back to factory to be refitted with smaller rims, old Girling brakes and the clean look of the first design.

Whether or not the large wheels contributed to the Countach is up for debate. The wider tread did little to help the car's handling, leaving the standard LP400 to be a much more nimble car. Many people simply prefer the Countach originally envisioned by Marcello Gandini of Bertone.
 
That's from www.Supercars.net , a website with small reviews, lots of pictures, and some information, as well. Note the bolded text. I'm not sure what they mean there. Seems to indicate that the original had better maneuverability, perhaps, since it was more "nimble". Those wider tires added stability no doubt, but some real-life drivers apparently were not impressed. Heh. I'd like to see if they'd change their opinion here after doing a few hot-laps around High Speed Ring and Nurburgring GP/F, and at Gran Turismo speeds!

Brakes. Hmm...now these are a touchy subject. ABS brakes didn't start to become popular until years later, so braking the LP400 into turns needs to start earlier than it does for some other vehicles. Start too late, and the moment steering needs to get forced can lead to disasterous moments ... perhaps sliding, perhaps even a spin. Now, there are moments when I did brake too late as I drove and raced this one, yet I managed to get out of the woods without a wreck. Feathering the brake-pedal (rather than stomping it) or a combination of stomping and feathering, can be employed at moments like this with success. Takes practice, though. There are non-ABS cars which are worse, of course...  

But the best defense? Start early with those brakes. Once you get to know the LP400, it's possible to mess with this formula a bit (or just upgrade to ABS), but the rest of the time, slow carefully.  If we do start braking early, all is usually good. The Countach does get above-average marks here (compared to other non-ABS types), and displays decent stability into turns, meaning we can now play with cornering lines. I've driven this car with ABS on and off. When it's on, there is lots more stability of course, but we lose the ability to "twitch" the Countach into more daring approaches on-entry. It can handle these twitches sometimes, where other cars would fail.

Understeer can be a problem on-entry, which is not a surprise, ABS or not. The front tires are narrower than the rears, remember, and this means they offer less grip. The LP400 is also a 2,300 pound car, and with most of those pounds in the rear, this means the front hasn't always necessarily got the weight (and therefore the grip) it needs. Understeer in this car seems to have been calculated more as a limit than as a constant annoyance. Push too hard, and there's your understeer. But if we don't further push here, the Countach does provide a firm limit for us to hold on to, just as a true supercar should. 

With hard sport tires stocked on, I was surprised at the lack of lift-off oversteer during High Speed Ring's fast-paced banked turns. The front-end provides a solid grip if it's not understeering, but that's about all it does. The car does not tighten up its line as much as I'd assumed it would, even moments after brakes are off, and throttle has not begun yet. On the other hand, at least it doesn't just understeer, and overheat its front tires, 100% of the time, like that Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 I recently drove.   

The good news is we do have some mild throttle-oversteer to save the car on occasion, which can be used to tighten up some cornering situations, especially during larger turns. It shows up here and there, and assuming we are in 3rd or 4th gear, it's easy to dole this sort of oversteer out, and get a decent exit in the process. This trait can be used in 2nd gear too; but beware of the oversteer (twitches, burnouts) which can easily occur if too much gas gets laid. More on this in a moment, actually.      

Hmmm...

Now the interesting thing is, at Nurburgring's GP/F version, the front-end now does start to offer more assistance during this track's slower turns. Lift-off throttle can now become somewhat difficult to deal with, matter of fact. If we're steering too hard mid-turn, and we lift-off the gas and/or brakes, the Countach can now get into a bit of a slide if we're not careful!  This is especially true when downshifting. Interesting. And the tricky thing is: there are times when the Countach will enter a turn with a push (understeer), yet as the speed slows further, now it's gripping in much more forcefully! This can be a problem which can be dialed out with tuning later on, but while the car is stock, our only option will be to anticipate such moments, and just deal.

There are other times when my LP400 would just understeer, and offer no assistance with lift-off at all. That's the thing about this car, you see. It's somewhat tempermental. Somewhat hard-to-predict, even after many laps have been completed. Will the car understeer in this turn on-entry? Or will it go for the opposite and tuck its front in too forcefully? Or will it provide a mixture of both these traits? Or will it turn-in perfectly? One thing about the Countach LP400; it is one of those cars that's always looking to surprise us, kinda like a faster, bigger, and heavier Lotus Elise. This can be fun, frustrating, or somewhere in between.  

If this car appeared in GT3 or 4, oversteer would probably be not a concern at all. But in GT5, it can become a nuisance, especially if too much throttle is delivered.

This was true at High Speed Ring's larger curves (only out of slower turns, though), and especially true at Nurburging, where 1st and 2nd gear start to get used more often. Lay on a little too much gas, and the rear will start to wiggle. Or get too wide. Or even lose it all in a massive spin. Oops!

The engine is so smooth, the gearing so tall, it's easy to forget how much torque is being laid down, once we're past 4,000 rpms. Those rear tires really are inferior. It seemed all sports cars and muscle cars back in the day were shod with narrow, inferior tires, does it not?  

Now, if the driver actually manages fuel, and waits to give full-throttle out of turns, the car now takes off flawlessly. Front and rear now display such an exact balance, so that if we get it all down, the Lamborghini is doing what we want it to. Its at moments like these that we really start to scatter those Ai drivers, and show them who's the boss of the track!  

I've been critical so far here and there during this section mainly because I want to be honest, but don't take my criticisms as the final word. There are plenty of times when the Countach gets into turns with no problems, holds a line with deft precision, and we can then play with this car's mannerisms here and there (especially during exits) more than we can with some others. We can force this car into some fun behaviors, just as we can with a 120 horsepower Lotus Elise. We can  kick the LP400 around a bit, knowing there's a bit of safety zone to explore at all times.    

...But this is not a modern machine by any means! You will need to learn how to drive (and later tune) your LP400, or else. Limited-slip tuning is needed at a track like Nurburgring, to help control this MR-vehicle's love of near-pivots. LSD helps much more than suspension tuning or better tires, actually, since this is a somewhat nimble vehicle from Day One. 

Overall, this is not an easy car to master, not as easy as I was assuming; and this seems a shame at first, considering the hallowed marque we're here to discuss. But hold that thought. It is not a shame that this car is nowhere near perfect, and I hope this review provides us a reality-check for those who were expecting perfection.

This car (in its stock shape) is not always race-worthy, unless we're placing it into a cheaty situation (Clubman Cup, for instance) in which its super-sonic engine gets to walk past everyone else. During its day (mid-70s), the Countach certainly was super-cheaty; nobody else could touch it, but we have some options to really put this car at its paces, and see if it still delivers. Right?                   

Summary
So there you are folks, the review which should have been finished sometime in 2006 or 2007 is just now getting done, thanks to Entertainment Arts. The first edition of the Countach, with all its flaws, hype and glory, reviewed honestly, but not too brutally, I hope.

PROS---------------------------------------------

1). We get to drive the car which virtually defined how every other exotic which followed. The Countach is the benchmark for exotic sports cars. Such a sexy shape. Aren't you excited? I am.

2). And it still holds up against modern sports cars, sometimes with minimal or very sparse tuning.

3). Gymnastic cornering, typical of mid-engine / rear-drives. The LP400 doesn't just understeer on-entry, yet grip flawlessly out of turns, like many sports cars in GT4 did. No, the driver must master this machine, first. But it's the mastering which is half the fun, is it not?

4). At 2,314 pounds, PD made yet another mistake with weight (compared to real-life), and we get to benefit from it.  

5). Let's go to the engine. We'll be here for awhile. Lots and lots of revs to plunder, firstly.

6). And lots of torque mid-range, capped by soaring highs of horsepower.

7). Power options on the aftermarket take this car much further, too. The exhaust note only gets sweeter (depends, though, which kit we've got).

8). Acceleration comparable to the modern world, during an age when everyone else was getting their power capped.

9). Nearly 200 mph. Stock. 

10). Tall gearing, but it feels mostly appropriate, sometimes even at twisty-turny tracks.        

CONS---------------------------------------------

1). "Where's the wing?" some have complained, clueless to the fact that not all Countach models were factory-equipped with wings.

2). Not a car for beginners, and half the intermediates out there.

3). Tricky cornering, especially if ABS is not being used. But even if it is, this is a car which is not for the meek. Understeer, snapping, nervousness, and oversteer are all a part of the LP400's reality.  

4). Ooh yeah..the cost. At $143,000, my Countach was not cheap.

5). This is for a used car, too. In GT5's cramped used car lot, an LP400 can be difficult to find.

6). RPM limit is a little too close to redline. This was not a serious problem for me, but it could be for others, especially as power gets raised.

7). No turbos. And the three main natural-power kits don't raise power as much as we would think they might. 

8). Limited-slip tuning will be needed, sometimes earlier than we'd expect.

9). In-cockpit view. Not a huge criticism, but notice the passenger-side mirror. It's so small, it's almost useless when trying to guage how close that Mercedes is riding up our rear fender.


Published: June 8, 2012