An owners story
I can't really remember when Lamborghini as a car manufacturer came into my awareness, which is quite an awful thing to own up to, all things considered. However, I do remember that as a poor 17 or 18 year old, the ubiquitous Countach poster took pride of place on my bedroom wall.
Only later, when I was actually in gainful employment, did I start plotting and scheming, wondering if there would ever be a way that I could actually afford one of these cars. Looking back, I think it would be fair to say that I was living in a fantasy world. Whilst the employment may have been gainful, it wasn't luxurious, and this was at a time when I was still living with my parents. Outgoings may have been fairly minimal, but I was still having to budget carefully if I still wanted to afford a pint at the end of the month. Heck, even my transport was of the two wheeled variety - passing my driving test was still some way off in the future at that point. Seems strange to recall that I actually learnt to fly before I learnt to drive!
At some point in this period of my life, I found myself on a one week residential course in London. The importers of Lamborghini at this time, if I remember correctly, was a company called Portman, whose showrooms happened to be in London. One evening, armed with an old A-Z, I managed to find my way to the showroom, and this was the first time that I had ever seen one of these amazing vehicles in the flesh. The showroom was already shut for the day, which meant that my view was limited to what I could see with my nose pressed up against the window, but I was still gobsmacked. I can still vividly recall that car in my mind's eye, and whilst there must have been other cars in the showroom, I can't recall a single one. Indeed, if someone was to offer me £1,000,000 if I could remember just the colour of one of the other cars, I would be stumped. That's how big an impression my first sighting of a Countach made on me!
In a lot of ways seeing the Countach like this did me no favours at all. Here was the car of my dreams, and it was as far out of reach as it had ever been, only now the object of my desire was more tangible. It didn't stop me dreaming though. Unfortunately, for a great number of years, that's all it remained; a dream.
In all the subsequent years, until fairly recently, I only ever saw 4 Countaches being driven on public roads, and I am pretty sure that two of those were replicas. Hell, one sounded like a Volkswagen Beetle when it started up, which completely shattered the illusion. But when a real one went past me whilst I was driving on the M25, I could only watch it disappearing into the distance whilst cursing that I didn't have a video camera in the car. What an awesome noise. And still the dream lingered.
Many years passed and I think it would be fair to say that whilst the dream of buying a Countach didn't disappear altogether, it did fade somewhat. Going through life, the usual demands on available funds like buying a house, getting married, expensive hobbies (gliding, diving, motorcycles) and the obligatory foreign holidays managed to keep the dream in the distant background.
Gradually the finances settled down - maturing sharesave options and the odd bonus meant that the level of disposable income became sufficient to start thinking about buying a sports car. Strangely enough, given my lifelong ambition of owning a Lamborghini, the first list of cars we considered for purchase didn't include one. At this stage I was still under the impression that buying a Countach would prove to be too expensive. It was also a fact that the house we were living in at that time didn't have a garage with a wide enough door, and I wasn't able to convince my other half that a Countach was indeed a sensible purchase (would it ever be?)
So, the shortlist of cars we were considering at that time included a BMW Z3, a Lotus Elise, a Honda S2000 and a Mercedes SLK. Discarded at an early stage were the MGF (not sporty enough), the Mazda MX5 (hairdresser's car) and the VX220 (it may be built by Lotus, but it's still a Vauxhall). Also failing to make the shortlist were cars in the Caterham 7 mould (too full on and impractical for the odd weekend away).
An opportunity presented itself to drive the BMW Z3 for an extended period, which showed that whilst it was a nice car to drive, it didn't 'feel' special. In fact it felt like driving a saloon, which wasn't the experience we were looking for. The choice from the remaining three largely came down to reading as many reviews as possible. The Mercedes soon fell by the wayside for being even less sporty than the BMW. Again, a very nice car, but not quite meeting the criteria we had set. I think at this stage a certain amount of snobbery crept in to the proceedings, with the likely choice set to be between the Honda and the Lotus. Whilst Honda may be renowned for building some of the best motorcycles available, and some of the most reliable cars ever made, the name didn't carry the same sort of kudos associated with Lotus, rightly or wrongly.
To finalise our choice, we visited the International Motor Show at the NEC Birmingham in November 2000, where we were able to examine, sit in, fiddle with and generally stand back and deliberate the aesthetics of both cars. The surprise that awaited us was the unveiling of the new Elise 2 at the show, which probably went some way to finally persuade us to go for the Lotus. The downside of the new design was that delivery times were expected to be in the region of 6 months, according to the nice man on the Lotus stand. Hoping to take delivery of the car to make the best use of the following summer, we paid a visit to our local Lotus dealer, Motorway Sports of Canterbury, to place our order.
To cut an already long story short, we finally took delivery of our Elise in July 2001 - nearly nine months after placing our order.
So far none of this has shed any light on how we ended up with the Countach. Bear with me, dear enthusiast, all will be revealed.
At some later date we did a customary review of our financial situation. Things were ticking over nicely; share options were maturing on a regular basis and, I have to say, things were looking quite rosy. It was the other half who put the cat among the pigeons by uttering, without a hint of irony, the statement "if we hadn't bought the Elise, we could have bought a Countach next year!"
In all honesty, I don't think there was any realisation what that statement would ultimately mean for both of us. It was at that point that the possibility of owning the car that I had lusted after for all those years started to sink in as actually being feasible. Based on how many Countaches there actually were in the country, and how few of them ever seemed to be for sale at any one time, we figured it would probably take us up to a year to track one down. On that basis we felt that it might be possible to buy the Countach without having to sell the Elise, which would be nice.
With the thought of buying a Countach gathering momentum, we quickly realised that when we did find one it wasn't going to be a case of going along, kicking the tyres, and signing on the dotted line. We needed to find out more about these rare cars - what problems did they have, what sort of things should we look out for and be aware of, which model should we be aiming for, what was the difference between the various models, what sort of price should we expect to pay? With these questions, and more, one of the first things we did was join the Lamborghini Club UK (LCUK).
One of the nice things about the LCUK is that they do not insist that you actually have to own a Lambo to become a member, unlike the Ferrari Owners Club. Their aim is to bring Lamborghini enthusiasts together, and to enjoy the cars with like minded people. Nevertheless, it still remains a fairly small club, which means that you quickly get to know people and soon start to feel like one of the family.
Another port of call was Mike Pullen, of Carrera Sports in Haywards Heath, Sussex. I obtained Mike's details from a motoring magazine when I was doing as much research as I could before actually talking to anyone. I phoned Mike and arranged to go and see him, where he graciously gave up half an hour or so of his time to talk to me, despite running a very busy business. Mike was able to give me some very sound advice, and when I left his premises I had a much more clearly defined view of what I was looking for. (Thanks Mike)
I also spoke to many of the people who turned up at one of the LCUK meetings we attended, at The Bolney Stage, where once again, much good advice was received. Even down to things like 'sit in one to make sure you fit' which, to anyone over 6 feet tall, is not as daft as it sounds. The thought that I might not actually fit in a Countach had not even occurred to me up to that point!
At this stage of the search, we had narrowed down our requirements to the following:-
With all these requirements in mind I continued to check the classifieds in magazines such as 'Classic and Sports Car' and 'Top Marques'. Occasionally a Countach would be listed, but they were few and far between, and inevitably didn't match my requirements.
Searching the internet using keywords like Lamborghini and Countach threw up thousands of sites, but by refining my search, I cut down to a handful the number of dealers that I would continue to check on a regular basis. Most of those that I continued to monitor are listed on my links page. During the period of my search Jason Barker Sports Cars had a few Diablos listed, but no Countaches. Sant Agata Classics had two Countaches; one was a black 500S, which I wasn't interested in at all, and the other was a red Anniversary, which wasn't my first choice. Modena Cars, if I recall correctly, had one Countach but it wasn't a QV.
Finally it was my other half who found a car, using the internet, at a small dealer called Martin Ingham. Strangely enough Martin doesn't specialise in Lamborghinis, but he does deal in some of the better quality cars available. Certainly that was the impression I got after looking at his web site. The Countach he had matched all our requirements with the exception of the colour and, after speaking to Martin on the phone, we decided that it would be worth a visit to see the car. This was no light undertaking as Martin is situated just to the north of Manchester whilst I am based in Kent. However Martin was confident enough in the car to offer to refund our travelling costs if, when we viewed the car, we decided the journey had been a waste of time.
Before making the trip to Manchester, I was fortunate enough to be able to contact one of the previous owners, a really nice chap by the name of Tony, who was more than happy to give me some history of the car. As coincidence would have it, he lives not too far from Martin, and invited us to stop by for coffee when we eventually made the trip to the north.
As it turned out, he went one better than inviting us to stop for coffee, by actually accompanying us to view the car, and to give me his opinion based on his previous ownership and personal knowledge. It's just as well he did. When we all turned up we were greeted by the site of a white Countach being towed down the road in an effort to bump-start it. My reaction at that exact moment was 'if that's the car we've come to see, forget it!' However, having made the trip, we decided to persevere and Tony's previous experience with the car proved invaluable when he was able to diagnose the problem as a blown fuel pump fuse. In his 9 or 10 years of owning the car, it seems that this particular problem was the only time that the car had let him down!
With the fuse replaced, the engine was finally coaxed into life, and left to idle and warm up before going out for a test drive. I had never stood close to a running Countach before, but my remaining memory is of thinking 'Christ, that's loud!' And that was just at tickover.
Finally the time came when we determined that the engine was warm enough and it was time for a test drive. Tony took the drivers seat first, to re-acquaint himself with the car and to ensure that there was nothing obviously untoward going on. Apart from a couple of minor things - the speedo wasn't working and the steering wheel adjustment was seized - everything looked quite promising. We were aware that the car hadn't been used a lot in the previous two years, and we had no idea when it had last been serviced, so we didn't try to break any speed records, taking things reasonably gently.
When it came to my turn to drive us back, I was feeling a touch apprehensive. The Countach is a wide car, with poor rearward visibility, and has a reputation for having heavy controls. All of these things I found to be true. The width didn't prove to be too much of a problem, but the heavy throttle wasn't very user friendly, especially as I was wearing shoes that were completely inappropriate for the job. However, I only stalled the engine once, discovered that hill starts are a pain if you don't want to slip the clutch too much, rearward visibility is hit and miss, and driving a car with such a reputation gives you a dry mouth.
Back at Martin's we gave the car a final once over. There were a few stone chips on the bodywork, but nothing drastic. The interior showed signs of use, but wasn't too bad. This was a fifteen year old car after all. With assurances from Martin that the speedo and steering wheel adjustment would be fixed, together with a fresh MOT, we decided there and then that we had found the car for us.
All along it had been our intention to keep the Elise, but as it had not taken as long to find the Lamborghini as we originally anticipated, our financial situation dictated that we would need to part exchange the Lotus. We tempered this decision by convincing ourselves that should we ever decide to get another one, they were easy enough to come by. So, a deal was done with Martin and we made arrangements to return to collect the Countach a week or so later.
If the distance between home and Martin's had not been so far, we probably would have driven the car home. As it was a fair distance, and we had no idea when the car had last been serviced, or whether the car had even been used in the preceding two years, we decided that the more sensible option would be to hire a company to trailer the car home. To this end we contacted a company by the name of Virginia Waters who have a lot of experience of dealing with these type of vehicles, which gave us the confidence that our car would be in safe hands.
And so it was that on 12th December 2002 our Lamborghini Countach was delivered to our front door in Kent, having come from a previous owner (and now friend) in Cheshire, via Edinburgh and Manchester.
Two views of the Countach shortly after delivery in December 2002, taking pride of place on my drive.
First Outing in the Countach
The first trip we ever made in the Countach was across the Channel and into France and Belgium, ending up in Bruges. Unbeknown to us and purely by coincidence we discovered that an Ice and Snow show was taking place near the railway station, so we decided to take a look. We had absolutely no idea what to expect, but were amazed when we discovered what the show was all about - various sculptures carved out of snow and ice. The designs and complexity of some of the exhibits were truly astounding.
You should have seen the rest of him!
Slightly better than your average snowman!
Waiting in line for the ferry at Calais.
The car has been to quite a few meetings and events since that first trip across 'the pond'. To view photographs from many of the meetings that we have been to in the Countach, click on the Events link in the navigation bar on the left.
Moving up to the Diablo
In my tale about acquiring the Countach, mention was made of the previous owner and how he had been helpful during our viewing and test drive. Getting to know Tony over the following months we discovered that his reason for selling the Countach (and a viola Diablo SE30 that he owned at the time) was so that he could purchase a Diablo GT. Up to this point the Diablo GT was an unknown entity, having never heard of or ever seen one. Knowing of other Diablos we were more than happy with our Countach, preferring the looks and it's 'road presence' over any of the Diablos that we knew about. This was all to change!
Our trip to the 40th Anniversary Celebrations in Italy was the first time we saw Tony's GT, as both our cars were transported down to Italy on the same truck. Having originally intended the Countach to be a 'keeper', it was at that point that we realised if there was any car out there that could persuade us to sell the Countach, it was the GT.
Most people who know the origins of Lamborghini as a car manufacturer will know that Ferruccio wanted to build a Grand Touring car to rival Ferrari, which he did with the 350 and 400GT. It was only latterly that the name Lamborghini became synonymous with outrageously styled cars matched to outrageous performance. Knowing the reactions that the Countach still garners from anyone who sees one on the road today, it's easy to forget that this car was originally styled in 1971. Personally I am too young to remember the reactions it generated at the time, but I have a very good imagination. Subsequent early Diablos certainly moved things on as far as performance went, but did the styling still have that WOW factor? It was obviously still a very good looking car, but from a personal viewpoint it lacked something that the Countach definitely had, and this viewpoint didn't change with the introduction of subsequent Diablo models. Until I saw the GT!
Having at last encountered a Diablo GT, and having driven around with it during the celebrations in Italy, I finally felt that this was a true successor to the Countach. Performance had been improved (massively), the brakes were much, much better and it still definitely had that WOW factor, which I felt was either missing or lacking to some degree from all those other Diablos (apologies here to any Diablo owners who may be reading this). At that point I let Tony know that if he ever considered selling the GT, I would like him to consider letting me have first opportunity to buy it.
If we now fast forward 3 1/2 years to the latter half of 2006, a phone call out of the blue enquired whether I had been serious about wanting to buy the GT. Knowing how much Tony loved all of his cars, it has to be said that this particular phone call came as quite a surprise. However, it transpired that he and his wife had decided to emigrate and that their chosen destination in a mountainous area of Europe was not conducive to owning and getting the best use out of a supercar; so it had to go. The ultimate decision to buy the GT was not as straightforward to make as you might think, nor an easy one. I had become very firmly attached to the Countach, having attended numerous meetings, events and other such gatherings in the car, as well as taking it on a road trip back to the factory in early 2006. A quick review of all things financial revealed that if the GT purchase was to go ahead, the Countach would have to be sold to help pay for it.
It was a very tough decision, but finally an advert was placed on ebay (yes we sold our Lamborghini on ebay!), and at the end of October 2006, the Countach finally departed to it's new home. Before taking delivery of the GT, it was shipped straight to the factory for a full service and checkover as, by his own admission, Tony had hardly used the car in the preceding 2 years. Finally, a few days after Christmas 2006, the GT was delivered to our doorstep, ready for the Spring and decent weather. What a Christmas present!!!