CERNOBBIO/SANTÁGATA BOLOGNESE, Italy – The historic Countach LP 500 has returned, entered in a class reserved for concept cars, at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este as a passionate reconstruction carried out by Automobili Lamborghini’s Polo Storico.
It took more than 25 000 hours of work for an unnamed collector and the contribution of the Lamborghini Centro Stile was fundamental to the reconstruction of bodywork and styling supervision.
Stephan Winkelmann, chairman and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, told The Corner in a media release: “The Countach re-invented the high-performance car and 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 – it allows us to admire the legendary 1971 LP 500 in person for the first time in so many years.”
Automobili Lamborghini presented its “idea car”, the LP 500 Countach, at the Geneva auto show in March 1971. The car instantly became the star of the show, and the photographs of it, which went viral, were published in major magazines around the world. This new model was conceived to replace the legendary Miura and wrote a new page in the history of the automobile, both for its technology and design.
ORIGINAL WAS ‘SACRIFICED’
At the end of 2017 a classic car aficionado and important Lamborghini customer asked Polo Storico if there was any possibility of re-creating the Countach LP 500, a legendary model known only through photographs.
After three years of development the LP 500 was sacrificed in crash tests in March 1974 and then disappeared.
The first months were spent acquiring all the material available and undertaking an in-depth analysis.
Giuliano Cassataro, head of service, and Polo Storico, said: “The collection of documents was crucial. 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 detail as accurately as possible. The support of Fondazione Pirelli was also fundamental in providing historical archive material to recreate the tyres mounted on the original LP500 model.
GOING BACK TO TRADITION
Work began on the chassis, completely different to 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 to respect the production methods of the time. The same procedure was used for the bodywork, with various modern technological instruments used for its analysis and definition.
Once the sheet-metal shaping stage 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 parts or restored components of the time were used. Failing that, parts were re-made.
For the historical reconstruction part of the original design, Polo Storico turned to the Lamborghini Centro Stile where a team, led by Mitja Borkert, head of design, set to work on a very challenging project.
STYLING MODEL DEVELOPED
Mitja Borkert explained: “The LP 500 is of paramount importance to Lamborghini because it gave rise to the design DNA of all subsequent models. To create the car that debuted in Geneva in 1971 a 1:1-scale styling model was developed. It, along with the car itself, was lost over time but extensive photographic evidence 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. For this we used the opportunity to take a 3D scan of our LP 400 (chassis 001), a bonanza of information. It took us 2000 hours of work to arrive at the final model, with lines that satisfied us.
”The same procedure was followed to create the interior.”
RECONSTRUCING TYRE COPIES
Collaboration with Pirelli – in existence since 1963 – to reconstruct the tyres on the LP 500 prototype proved invaluable. It was possible, thanks to the images and materials preserved in the archives of Fondazione Pirelli, to use the original plans of the Cinturato CN12 fitted to 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 tyres dedicated to the most iconic cars built from 1930-2000 which preserve the originality of the rubber by combining a vintage image with modern technology.
Specifically, the Pirelli Cinturato CN12 for the Countach LP 500 were supplied in sizes 245/60R14 front and 265/60R14 rear. They’re now fitted with the same tread and aesthetics as in the 1970s, but with modern compound and structure.
When it came to choosing body colour the PPG archives proved crucial, making it possible to identify, after careful analysis, the exact yellow used, identified as “Giallo Fly Speciale”.