The old rivalry with Ferrari showed no signs of abating as the 1980s continued. So when the Prancing Horse unveiled the 390bhp Testarossa in September 1984, Lamborghini immediately countered with a move to get more power from its long-serving V12. With a degree of financial security given to the company by the Mimram family (who had owned Lamborghini since 1980), and an engineering team now headed by the brilliant Giulio Alfieri, the route to extra power was more straightforward than it was in the cash-strapped ’70s.
Alfieri actually started the Quattrovalvole program after the arrival of the Testarossa. Valentino smiles and tells it like it is: ‘We wanted this engine to be more powerful than Ferrari’s.’ Alfieri aimed for 450bhp and cleaner exhaust emissions – and achieved them using brand new four-valve cylinder heads and centrally mounted downdraught carburettors (which required a vision-robbing, re-profiled engine cover).
On the test bed, the uprated engine – enlarged to 5167cc – produced 480bhp, but that was throttled back to 455bhp for the production version. Torque, too, was up substantially to 369lb ft.
On the road, Valentino reckons this Countach is perfect. He says: ‘This was the engine that finally delivered enough power to give this beautiful car the performance it deserved. In terms of driving sensation, it’s not too far away from the previous car’s; it’s just smoother, more powerful and generates so much more torque.’
It’s mightily impressive on the track, too, sounding almost identical to the LP500S, but from 4500rpm it pulls with so much more conviction, delivering a killer punch that still manages to place the QV near the top of the performance car tree today.
Dynamically, the Quattrovalvole is only subtly changed over the LP500S. The steering is heavier than on the older car’s, yet Valentino confirms that this could well be down to its grippy new Toyo front tires: ‘It’s a subtle difference, but the steering on a Countach has always been quite heavy, yet still reasonable.’ We’d argue with that – yes, it has bags of feel in sweeping bends, but power steering would transform this car when the going gets tighter.
Valentino also confirms changes to the gearshift: ‘A new synchromesh has been fitted, and the change action has a very short travel, which makes things a little bit harder. It’s more precise than the previous one, and is very quick.’ The soft-feel gearknob looks a little cracked in places – which has probably happened because of the sheer effort it takes to slot the lever in repeatedly, especially during downshifts.
But overall, the QV represents a massive leap over its predecessors. It’s much faster – it’s still quick in modern terms – plus it has the smoothest-responding engine, the most grip, and the best brake/handling package. In objective terms it’s easily the best so far – and Valentino doesn’t pull his punches, either: ‘This, in my opinion, was the greatest Countach when new, the best looking and the best performing. I like its character and temperament, and it remains a pure Countach to this day.
1987 Lamborghini Countach 5000QV
Engine 5167cc V12, DOHC per bank, 48 valves, six Weber 45DCNF carburetors
Power 455bhp @ 7000rpm Torque 369lb ft @ 5200rpm
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 180mph. 0-60mph 4.8sec