At the Geneva Motor Show in March 1971, Automobili Lamborghini presented its “idea car”, the LP 500 Countach prototype. It was an instant sensation and heralded a new era for the supercar. Its influence still holds today and in time for the 50th anniversary of the Countach, Lamborghini has rebuilt the original 1971 Countach LP 500. The completed car was recently entered in the class reserved for concept cars at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este.
At the end of 2017, a classic car aficionado and important Lamborghini customer asked Polo Storico if there was any possibility of creating a reconstruction of the Countach LP 500, a legendary model known only through photographs of the time. The end result required over 25,000 hours of work and was a fastidious recreation of the original prototype.
The first months were spent acquiring all the material available and undertaking an in-depth analysis. “The collection of documents was crucial,” stated Giuliano Cassataro, Head of Service and Polo Storico. “There had been so much attention paid to all the details of the car, to their overall consistency and to the technical specifications.”
Photographs, documents, meeting reports, original drawings, and the memories of some the protagonists of the time: all this contributed to establishing the form and function of every single detail as accurately as possible. The support of Fondazione Pirelli was also fundamental in providing historical archive material to recreate the tires mounted on the original LP500 model.
The work began on the platform chassis, completely different from the tubular frame of the Countach models that would follow. In addition to physically redesigning it, Polo Storico had to decide which work system to use for building it in order to respect the production methods of the time. The same procedure was used for the bodywork, with various modern technological instruments employed for its analysis and definition. Once the sheet metal beating phase was reached, technology gave way to the traditional Italian system, carried out by the “battilastra” with his creativity and tools. A similar process was followed for the interior, which included the lighted diagnostic instruments, as shown on the 1971 prototype.
For all the mechanical components, as in 1971, original Lamborghini spare parts or restored components of the time were used, or failing that, parts were completely rebuilt.
For the historical reconstruction part of the original design, Polo Storico turned to the Lamborghini Centro Stile where the team led by Mitja Borkert, Head of Design, set to work on a very challenging project. “The LP 500 is of paramount importance to Lamborghini because it gave rise to the design DNA of all subsequent models.” said Mitja Borkert.
“To arrive at the car that debuted in Geneva in 1971, a 1:1 scale styling model was developed, which along with the car itself was lost over time, but extensive photographic evidence of it remains. This is the same approach with which we decided to tackle the project. Starting from publications of the time, from images on homologation sheets and other material recovered from Polo Storico, we were able to reconstruct the mathematics necessary for creating the first 1:1 scale model.”
“The biggest challenge was to create the exact volume of the car, and for this we used the opportunity to take a 3D scan of our LP 400 (chassis 001), which was an enormous source of information. It took us 2000 hours of work altogether to arrive at the final model, with lines that satisfied us. The exact same procedure was followed for the interior.”
The project also involved a collaboration with Pirelli who reconstructed the tires mounted on the LP 500 prototype. Thanks to the images and materials preserved in the archives of Fondazione Pirelli, it was possible to use the original plans of the Cinturato CN12 tire fitted on the LP 500 for its Geneva debut. From these documents, the Milanese company’s technicians set out to create the Cinturato CN12 of the Pirelli Collezione range, today’s line of tires dedicated to the most iconic cars built between 1930 and 2000, which preserve the originality of the rubber by combining a vintage image with modern technology. Specifically, the Pirelli Cinturato CN12 tires for the Lamborghini Countach LP 500 were supplied in the sizes 245/60R14 for the front and 265/60R14 for the rear, and are now fitted with the same tread pattern and aesthetics as in the 1970s, but with a modern compound and structure.
When it came to choosing the color, the PPG archives proved to be crucial, making it possible to identify, after careful analysis, the exact composition for producing the yellow color used, which was called “Giallo Fly Speciale”.
“The Countach reinvented high-performance cars,” said Stephan Winkelmann, Chairman and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, “and it became an icon in terms of stylistic language that even today, after decades, still inspires contemporary Lamborghinis. Bringing the reconstruction of the first Countach to the concept class of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, in the year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of this model, is something extraordinary because it allows us to admire the legendary 1971 LP 500 in person for the first time in so many years.”