How could a car company with little history in the automobile industry and so many imperfections win the hearts of millions of people around the globe? What made it so iconic?
Case: In 1988, Lamborghini released a new Countach edition to mark its 25th anniversary. It was and still is one of the world’s most iconic road cars to have ever been built.
The Countach was first commercialized in 1974 after appearing as a concept car at the Geneva Motor Show in 1971. It was originally designed by Marcello Gandini at Bertone and remained in production until 1990. Very few exotic car manufacturers can boast of a 16-year production run.
The Lamborghini Countach however was far from perfect. The 25th Anniversary edition, in particular, included quirky features and oddities that would leave even the most unperturbed of individuals curious. It even came with a very hefty price tag. Still, it became a global icon and the epitome of automotive imagination from the 70 and 80’s.
But first, let’s have a look at some the things that would make the 25th anniversary Countach the butt of many jokes today.
- The 25th anniversary Countach had 4 side windows. 3 of which remained permanently shut while the 4th opened only half way, a generous 4inches.
- The windshield wiper did not cover the entire windscreen. From the drivers point of view, it covered the right field leaving the left unattended. It meant driving through the rain with half vision.
- The trunk was placed at the back just behind the engine cover. Due to the exaggerated wing on the trunk, the engine cover could not be closed if the trunk was open.
- Flowing from the above peculiarity, was the even more peculiar ‘unlabelled’ release mechanisms for both openings located on the driver’s side.
- With the trunk at the back, it meant the space provided at the front was utilized for the spare tire, fluid containers and toolkit. Unfortunately, it was not weather sealed which meant that it was exposed to the ailments.To add to the problem, the battery was also located in the same compartment.
- Rear visibility in general was miniscule. The rear window was incredibly small and the large wing at the back left very little to the imagination. This meant that in order to reverse confidently, drivers had to sit partially outside the car to look behind.
- The reverse gear was placed where most cars position their first gear. In order to avoid any costly oversights while driving, Lamborghini provided a small lever that could be shifted into place to prevent accidental flow. Trouble was, the lever had to be operated manually, thereby depending on a driver’s good memory to enforce.
- The pedal box was not only cramped but angled away from the driver’s natural seating position making for an uncomfortable long-distance driving experience.
- The sun visors were so large that they blocked the driver’s vision when unfolded. On the passenger side, the sun visor included a mirror. Unfortunately, it wasn’t mounted. It was placed in a small holder for the passenger to pull out and use.
- To unlock the doors with a key, the driver would have to stoop unflatteringly to find and then operate the hidden key lock.
- The horn that came with the Lamborghini Countach seemed to have been pulled from a lorry production line. It bared no semblance to a supercar.
- While the mirror glasses could be controlled via a power button on the inside, the mirror body was attached with a sort of flexible rubber arm which the driver had to manually maneuver on both sides.
What’s more fascinating about Lamborghini in general is that its founder, Ferruccio Lamborghini, came from a tractor background. He was thought to have lost his faculties when he decided to build the worlds best super sports car. Constructing that kind of car was perceived as an extravagance, a leap in the dark, and something that would squander his fortune.
Why did it work?
Timing – At the time, supercars were just coming into their own. Manufacturers were pushing the boundaries of convention. Hence imperfections were anticipated and almost accepted. Customers were buying the idea of speed, especially in the midst of motorsport’s growing popularity.
Design – The car had an ultra-futuristic and alien-like appearance, visibly far ahead of its time. It had masculine overtones, a fierce low stance, scissor doors, a rear wing, 450 horse power with a 5.2ltr V12 heart. The car stood at the extreme edge of performance specs and aesthetics. It was simply the most ridiculously beautiful car on the planet.
Promise – The Lamborghini Countach sold extravagance to customers, not utility, especially when you consider the state of the automotive industry during that time. It sold the concept of speed, looks and raw unadulterated power. It was a pure reflection of what owners wanted on-lookers to see in them.
Limited – It was never a mass market product to begin with. Its low production run (1983 units over 16 years) appealed to those who loved exclusivity and the idea of owning an iconic piece of history.
The Lamborghini Countach had such a profound impact on the world. There was hardly ever a teenage bedroom that didn’t have a poster of this supercar on the wall.
But, when you look at how customers evaluate products today, it’s almost impossible to think that such a gorgeous fiasco on wheels would have ever amounted to such appeal . Timing, design elements, promise and exclusivity only added to its allure. Customers accepted the tradeoffs in favor of what the car represented. After all, what is a little hardship when you could be a cut above the rest, right?
We also need to factor in generational influence. Could it be that Baby Boomers, Generation X and early Millennials were more flexible than later millennials and Generation Z? Or could it be that newer generations have grown up in a world so advanced that nothing less than perfection is expected?.
Incidentally, the 25th anniversary addition is still available on the pre-owned market for about $300K and earlier versions of the Countach could set you back as much as $1.3Mil.
Anyway, here’s a link to a video on YouTube showcasing the various quirks of the Lamborghini’s Countach.