We'd be lying if we told you that we'd slept well the night before. For as long as we can remember, we've had an irrational weakness for the Lamborghini Countach, and here we are about to spend a day not only in the company of the iconic midengine sports car from Lamborghini but also the car's fiercest rival, the Ferrari 512i Berlinetta Boxer.

These are cars that once were simply posters on the bedroom wall to a generation of boys like us, and now we are going to drive them at last.

A Moment in Time
As the early morning mist is burned away by the autumnal sun, we set eyes on the Countach for the first time. It's a 1975 Lamborghini Countach LP400, one of the early periscopo models finished in burnt orange. The 1982 Ferrari 512i Berlinetta Boxer that sits alongside goes practically unnoticed.

Imagine the impact the Countach must have made at the 1971 Geneva Auto Show, where the original, bright-yellow prototype with its 5.0-liter V12 was shown for the very first time. Midengine cars were still new then, yet the Countach showed how far things had already evolved since the Lamborghini Miura first appeared at the 1966 Geneva Auto Show. Curiously, designer Marcello Gandini had done both cars for the Bertone styling house. He finished what Giorgetto Giugiaro had started with the Miura, a traditionally proportioned shape with a long nose and a short rear deck. But then he'd gone for shock and awe for the Countach, as the graceful automotive shapes of the 1960s gave way to radical abstract geometry for the 1970s.

The lengthy Lamborghini V12 engine had been installed fore and aft under the Countach's rear deck and it gave the car unique proportions, wide and low with the cabin perched forward on the nose. Even after the Countach had been rationalized for production, the unique shape didn't seem too compromised by the need for additional cooling ducts. In fact, the air intakes aft of the cabin and the big NACA ducts in the flanks became part of the car's charm. Meanwhile the 5.0-liter version of the Lamborghini V12 (an engine originally designed by Giotto Bizzarrini, who developed the original Ferrari 250 GTO) had been replaced by the Miura's 4.0-liter version.

When the Countach LP400 went on sale in 1974, it launched into the middle of a storm. Demand for supercars had evaporated in the wake of the 1973 energy crisis, with many industry pundits forecasting the death of the specialty motor industry. Stringent air emissions regulations in the United States threatened to close the door to European cars altogether. And Italy's industrial relations were shattered, as frequent strikes plagued the car industry and crippled Lamborghini production at Sant'Agata. As a consequence, Lamborghini lurched from crisis to crisis throughout the strife-torn 1970s, the only constant through it all being the Countach's continued (although sporadic) production

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Inside Line: 1975 Lamborghini Countach LP400 vs. 1982 Ferrari 512i Berlinetta Boxer

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