The Story of the Lamborghini Countach LP Turbo S

1y ago


When you look at the Lamborghini Countach, it's easy to see why many hold it to be the ultimate poster car. The entire machine is a visual and sensual onslaught that - regardless of what angle you ogle from - simply doesn't give you a chance to contemplate the madness of what you're looking at. It is a car that was designed to invoke mountainous goosebumps about your being, and inspire rivers of drool to come pouring out of your mouth.

Countach QV. Credit: NetCarShow

While the Countach can be described as the ultimate poster car, it can also – and rather unfortunately – be described as the ultimate never-meet-your-heroes car. It's trite to say that it was every bit as bad to drive as it was good to look at, but that really is the most accurate way of portraying just how awful the Countach was from behind the wheel.

Twice in the Countach's life did it carry the grand accolade of World's Fastest Production Car – for the original LP400, and the later LP500S. But once Ferrari and Porsche got in on the game with their turbocharged monsters – such as the 288 GTO, 959, and F40 – the old Countach didn't really stand a chance.

At this point, anyone with a sense of ingenuity about them will be able to see a simple solution to the Countach's predicament: slap a turbocharger or two on it in order to bequeath it with the power required for it to rule once again. And in 1984, that's exactly what Lamborghini did, thus creating the Countach LP Turbo S. This is the story of that astonishing car.

The word "Turbo" is written at the top of the windscreen. Credit: carpixel

This particular hypercar fairytale begins in 1984. The most powerful version of the Countach at the time was the LP500S – which was the reining fastest production car on Earth, with a top speed of 182mph. The V12 engine – while being a relatively primitive unit, with just 2 valves per cylinder – made up for that with a displacement of 4.8L, resulting in 370bhp and 308lb-ft of torque. Naturally then, such a car was the ideal candidate for a bit of turbo-treatment.

Lamborghini did indeed commission a turbocharged Countach to be made – but initially, they specified only 2 examples as prototypes. And at the Geneva Motor Show in 1984, the Lamborghini Countach LP Turbo S was revealed to the world.

Just like the regular Countach, the Turbo consisted of an aluminium skin draped over a tubular steel chassis. But in order to turn the Countach into a turbocharged model, they didn't simply stick a pair of turbos on it without upgrading anything else.

The suspension saw the benefits of a number of modifications, all in the name of improving high-speed stability. A very wise move indeed, because Lamborghini weren't implementing turbochargers to simply give the Countach a light dusting of spice – they were using them with the objective of blowing people's heads off: a fact which became abundantly clear upon looking inside.

Credit: Teamspeed

Upon entering the LP Turbo S, you were met with a tantalising array of gauges unlike anything you'd see in any other Countach. Not only were there unique dials – like the ever hypnotising turbo-boost gauge – but the speedometer read a numerical obscenity that back in 1984 would've made people question not only reason itself, but also what kind of witchcraft had Lamborghini performed with the engine?

The speedometer reached right the way up to the high-heavens of 425kph, which in Queen's English is precisely...erm...dreamland! Because the only way the Turbo S was going to reach 264mph were if it were dropped from space – which ironically, is where the Countach appears to have come from. But don't let that little bit of hyperbole dampen your spirits, because the Turbo S was still capable of a truly savage turn of speed.

The Twin-Turbos ran in unison with the 6-carburators that ran down either side of the 4.8L V12. Underneath of the Turbo S's steering wheel, the driver would find a boost adjuster that was capable of altering the pressure between 10.2psi, and 21.8.

Credit: Teamspeed

Even on the lowest boost setting, the Countach Turbo S was capable of sending 510bhp to its huge 345mm rear tyres – but when turned right up to the max, it produced a simply colossal 747bhp!! Not only that, but while running maximum boost, the Turbo S also developed a gut-churning 646lb-ft of torque.

The addition of turbochargers added some weight to the Countach – up to 3340lbs (1515kg) from 3263lbs (1480kg). But it also added performance well beyond the reaches of anything in the hypercar domain at the time.

Throwing all of its power and torque through a 5-speed manual gearbox, the Turbo S was capable of getting from 0-60mph in just 3.6 seconds, and onwards to a top speed of 208mph. So in other words, back in 1984, this car had the prestige of becoming the world's first 200mph production car on a plate in front of it, ready to demolish.

Engine bay. Credit: Teamspeed

As impressive as a 208mph top speed was and is though, you may think that nigh-on 750 horsepower should result in the Countach being even faster. But the Countach was always a long way from being an aerodynamically efficient car: a fact that was made worse thanks to its signature rear spoiler.

The usual job of a rear wing is to create downforce to stop a car from leaping off the Earth and into flight at high speed. The Countach's rear wing however was made primarily because it accentuated the car's exciting lines.

Lamborghini never originally intended any Countach to be fitted with a rear spoiler. But then a chap called Walter Wolf - who owned the now defunct F1 team Walter Wolf Racing - decided to put an F1 car's wing on a Countach LP400S. The sight of the wing on the Countach resulted in it garnering much appraisal, particularly from the producer of Hollywood film Cannonball Run, whom immediately fell in love with it, and decided that it was the car he was going to use in his film.

But when he approached Lamborghini, he was rather disheartened to find out that the wing he'd seen had been put on by a customer, and wasn't an option from the factory. He managed to convince Lamborghini to make a wing for his car – but as soon as potential customers saw the newly winged-Countach in the movie, everyone wanted the car with a wing.

Due to this demand, Lamborghini were therefore forced to set up a specific factory dedicated to producing Countach wings. There was a problem however. One of the Countach's main problems was that as the speed got higher, it became increasingly light at the front end. A rear spoiler that produced downforce would therefore exacerbate this problem, so the wing was designed to do nothing other than look good. Much like Paris Hilton, really.

Credit: André Ritzinger

It was purely an aesthetic accoutrement – one that made the Countach look even more breathtaking. But the price for looks came payable in speed, because the only other thing the spoiler did other than strike a pose was slow you down.

Apparently, a Countach with a rear wing is around 15mph slower than a Countach without. And as we can see, the Turbo S uses a rear wing. The exact impact the spoiler had on the top speed of the Turbo has never been specified directly, but what we can say with absolute certainty is that the rear wing held the Turbo S's top speed back.

Turbo S rear. Credit: BelleDeesse

But really and truly, that didn't matter. It was still a Countach; it still had the ability to steal every ounce of breath out of your lungs; and with a pair of turbochargers, it was ready and raring to move the speed goalposts to a place beyond where the monsters of the era would've been able to reach. Except it would've done, had it been put into production.

For some reason, Lamborghini steered away from producing a turbocharged Countach, and instead opted to go down the route of bequeathing it with 4-valves per cylinder, creating the 450 horsepower 5000 QV, which yes, was and is a fast car – but there's no getting away from the fact that it was less powerful than the Turbo S to the tune of 300 horsepower.

Credit: Teamspeed

No one really knows why the Turbo S was never produced. Perhaps it proved unreliable; although if that was the case, how bad must the reliability have been for it to have made the Italians not put it into production? Perhaps they thought it was too fast and uncontrollable; although again, how recalcitrant must it have been for Lamborghini to not produce it as a result? Whatever the reason, it's an automotive mystery.

A mystery also surrounds the whereabouts of one of the two prototypes built. As of right now, only one of the two is known to exist. Some say the other was lost; some say it was stolen; some say it was destroyed; some say it never existed in the first place; and some say it was the car Lord Lucan and Shergar used to run off together to Never-Never-Land. All I know is, there are some seriously idiotic conspiracy theorists out there!

Whatever the reason the Turbo S never made its way to production, its absence prevented the automotive world from experiencing something which would've unquestionably gone down as a hammer-blow moment.

Credit: Teamspeed

If you were to ask any motoring expert to look back at history, and name a list of the most important cars ever made, they'll recite a list off the end of their tongue effortlessly – a list that would no doubt include such names as the Benz Motorwagen, Ford Model T, Austin Mini, and the Bugatti Veyron. But if you were to ask them to name a list of the most important cars never made – cars that, had they been made, would've moved the world forward in such a way, their presence would've prevented automotive history from taking the path which we're familiar with today – they'd be faced with a much more difficult task. Well, I put it to you now that the Lamborghini Countach LP Turbo S is one of the most important cars never made, because had it been made, it would've changed the course of history as we know it today.

Cars like the Ferrari F40 and Porsche 959 wouldn't have held the same significance – that is, if they'd have been made at all. And if they had been made, they may well have surfaced very differently to how we know them today. Not only that, but if you were to slot the Turbo S into Lamborghini's family tree as we know it, we find that only the 759bhp Centenario beats it in terms of power. That's just how much oomph it had back in 1984.

In all of the company's history, Lamborghini has never made a turbocharged road car. While they may be making the Urus SUV – which looks as though it'll be powered by a 600bhp 4L Twin-Turbo V8 – up until now, they've yet to make a turbocharged production car. The Countach Turbo S could've been their first – but sadly, it wasn't meant to be, and we'll probably never know why.

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Written by: Angelo Uccello

Twitter: @AngeloUccello

Tribe: Speed Machines

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