Lamborghini was all but bankrupt during the mid-1970s. In the post-fuel crisis world, sales had slowed to a trickle, leaving the company with very little in the way of development resources. So when it came to partnering the Countach with Pirelli’s impressive new 50-Series P7 low-profile tire, it was actually F1 team owner and Lamborghini customer Walter Wolf who invested the money to make it happen – initially on his own cars.
Chassis changes to accommodate the rubber (which were 345/35VR15s on the rear!) included revised suspension mounting points, along with new uprights and hubs. Although nowhere near as obvious as the tacked-on wheelarch extensions, these were significant modifications and it was only right that, when the revised car went into production in 1978, it was badged LP400S. But the additional rubber allied with the unmodified engine had a negative effect on performance. Frontal area increased and maximum speed dropped.
In 1982 the situation was addressed with the LP500S (actually badged 5000S). The V12 increased in size to 4754cc although power remained at 375bhp, delivered at a lower engine speed of 7000rpm. More telling was the torque, which rose from 266lb ft to 303lb ft. That, plus a higher top gear but lower intermediates, made for a much punchier drive.
‘The first thing you notice over the LP400 is the difference in power and torque – it’s much easier to drive quickly without the disadvantage of the older car’s long gearing,’ Valentino says. The LP500S is definitely less peaky, with a much more linear delivery. Maximum acceleration involves running to 7000rpm as opposed to 8000 in the LP400, making it a less aggressive drive. In terms of engine note, it’s much the same: the volume of the bellowing has been turned up a notch, and sounds just a little more deep-chested and purposeful. We love it!
The major difference between the LP400 and LP500S is in the handling, thanks to all that extra rubber on the road. ‘These wide tires give really grippy roadholding,’ Valentino says. ‘The ultimate limit is much higher, and the responsiveness on the road is much improved, but the main difference is the additional confidence the new set-up gives – even if it means that the steering effort is much higher.’ We know what he means. When attacking the test track in the LP500S it’s a case of having to really muscle into the tighter, slower corners. Some might say needlessly so, but it’s all part of the Countach character.
One thing we’re all agreed on is the way this car looks. White with a white interior should be a visual disaster, but instead the oh-so-’80s colour scheme looks absolutely fantastic here. It’s suitably over-the-top for an extreme supercar. The rear wing, never officially offered as standard (or optional) equipment by the factory but instead sold via the back door, really sets off the lines of the LP500S – even if Valentino reckons it robs the Countach of about 12mph from its maximum speed!
Engine 4754cc V12, SOHC per bank, six Weber 45DCOE carburetors
Power 375bhp @ 7000rpm Torque 303lb ft @ 5500rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Steering Rack and pinion
Suspension Front: double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar. Rear: wishbones, trailing links, coil springs, twinned telescopic dampers.
Brakes Vented discs front and rear
Performance Top speed 170mph. 0-60mph 5.6sec