In celebration of its 50th anniversary, Lamborghini is releasing a new version of the iconic Countach. But its return isn’t without controversy.
Earlier this month, Lamborghini unveiled a modernized reimagining of their classic Countach in honor of the car’s 50th anniversary. It makes sense, given the recent uptick in cachet the old Countach has been experiencing. Indeed, there is a great thirst for all things Countach as evidenced by the fact that the entire 112 car run of the new limited edition are already sold out. And that’s in spite of a $2.5-$3-million-dollar price tag (depending on options).
The original Lamborghini Countach debuted at the Geneva Motor Show back in 1971, and at the time there was simply nothing else like it on the road. It went to a visual extreme to match the screaming V12 positioned just behind the driver’s ears. The Countach’s wedge design would go on to influence generations of supercars to come and the car itself became the literal posterchild definition of a dream car.
The new Lamborghini Countach sits atop the existing architecture of the Aventador but takes a page out of the Sian’s book and pairs the obligatory V12 with Lamborghini’s supercapacitor hybrid boost. The V12 itself puts out some 780 horsepower while the 48-volt hybrid system adds an additional 34 hp for a total of 814 horsepower. Lamborghini says the new Countach will run 0-62 mph in just 2.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 221 mph. All of which places it firmly on par with other modern supercars.
But the supercar internals aren’t what’s buzz-worthy about the new Countach. For the car to carry the name it needed to harken back to the original while providing a convincing gloss on modern designs. Features like the super low front lip, the hexagonal wheel arches, the NACA side ducts are all here. Some of these, like the NACA ducts have been greatly accentuated, while others are toned down, like the quintessential squared off headlights now sitting at a more modern angle. The new hexagonal wheels, 20s up front and 21s in the rear, are very nice indeed. On its own merits, the new Countach, is, like any Lamborghini, a striking vehicle.
The new Countach has received a lot of passionate reactions, and not all of them positive. Designers like Frank Stephenson (of the Fiat 500 and McLaren P1) were quick to offer their own alternative gloss on a modernized Countach while pointing out the deficiencies of the new design. I’ll leave it up to you to determine whether Lamborghini was faithful enough to the original or creative enough in their evolution of it.
Road & Track contributor Matt Farah called the new Countach a “cash grab,” accusing Lamborghini of reskinning the Aventador and capitalizing on the Countach name to ring in excess of a quarter billion (that’s 112 cars at $2.5 a pop) from the world’s supercar collectors. Meanwhile, Japlonik’s Raphael Orlove wrote that the car looks good, like a Lambborghini should, and asked whether we, the non-Lambo buying public, should care whether a storied nameplate was exploited in the process.
For my money, the discussion surrounding the Countach is at least equally as compelling as the car itself. The line from Lamborghini is the new Countach is basically a thought experiment come to life: what would a modern version of the classic look like. Indeed, the car doesn’t radically depart from current Lamborghini design language, but then, a lot of that design language started with the Countach itself. It makes sense that some are disappointed that Lamborghini didn’t do a clean-sheet/ground-up design. After all, Lamborghini’s brand certainly isn’t about playing it safe.
So, is the new Countach a cash grab? And why settle for a what’s basically a Countach-inspire refresh of the Aventador?
Here’s my totally not serious but at least plausible theory. The answer lies in the 50th anniversary of the Countach. Someone at VW group (who owns Lambo) called up Lamborghini and asked the following: “Hey guys. What are your plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Countach debut?” Lamborghini’s response was: “ah…anniversary, right…yeah, that’s, like, almost done. It’s awesome, too.” Like the kid on Sunday night who forgot his homework was due Monday, the team at Lamborghini rushed through a slapdash fix. That it’s also a highly profitable and easy to execute fix was just a stroke of luck.
Seriously though, the real reasons probably have more to do with the lifecycle of the Huracan (Lamborghini doesn’t need a replacement yet) and the low hanging fruit that is nostalgia.
With every carmaker and their brother dusting off old badges for their latest releases, it raises the question: how close are we to reaching peak nostalgia? Trading in on old IP isn’t a new concept, nor one limited to the auto industry. Everywhere from movies to toys, already proven franchises dominate. These tried-and-true ideas are the opposite of innovation. While it’s true that creativity is at its core a game of recombination, taking what exists and reconfiguring it to suit a new age and new purposes, the auto industry’s reliance on old nameplates isn’t creative, it’s lazy. Sure, it’ll make money, and at the end of the day that’s what matters. But giving up on bankable innovation is a clear case of these companies selling themselves and their talented employees short.
Lamborghini could have done something more revolutionary with the return of the Countach. But it’s easier to print money first and innovate later. We can only hope that the next “new” Lamborghini is closer to the old Countach than the new one; that is a car more interested in overturning expectations that simply meeting them.