Two automotive icons — the Lamborghini Countach and the Maserati Bora — share their 50th birthdays on March 11. Both cars were unveiled on March 11, 1971 at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland.
It was 10 a.m. when Lamborghini unveiled the Countach LP 500 in yellow on the Carrozzeria Bertone display stand.
“Its unveil (in prototype form) was so successful that the company raced against time to satisfy the customers’ requests and transform the futuristic show car into a production car, though in a small series,” Lamborghini said in its anniversary announcement.
“The decision to unveil the Countach LP 500 in Carrozzeria Bertone’s space was motivated by the fact that Lamborghini’s stand featured the latest arrival from the House of the Raging Bull: the Miura SV, perfected after five years of production.
“With this double presentation, Lamborghini communicated and confirmed its prowess not only in production but especially in innovation, to the extent that in the months following Geneva, the Countach LP 500 was featured in all the international automotive magazines.”
The Countach was developed, under chief engineer Paolo Stanzani, within Lamborghini as project code LP112 — LP for Longitudinale Posteriore, indicating the rear longitudinal position of the 12-cylinder engine.
Design was done by Marcello Gandini of Bertone; Gandini also designed the Miura. Unlike the production cars that followed in 1974, the Geneva prototype was built on a platform frame rather than a tubular chassis and had a one-off 4971cc engine. The body featured engine air intakes with a shark-gill design and the interior showcased electronic instrumentation.
“The origin of the name of this car lies in the dialect of the Piedmont region,” Lamborghini said in its anniversary news release. “In its final stages of assembly, the car was hidden in a shed for agricultural machinery on a farm near Grugliasco (province of Turin) to avoid possible work stoppages related to labor unrest, and was ‘discovered’ by a farmer who exclaimed in amazement and enthusiasm ‘Countach!’ (a word in Piedmontese dialect expressing wonderment).
“When Piedmont-born Marcello Gandini became aware of the fact, he thought that this word had a particularly strong communicative force and also convinced Nuccio Bertone, Ferruccio Lamborghini and his colleague, Paolo Stanzani.”
After the Geneva debut, chief test driver Bob Wallace began road testing the prototype, though with a reliable production V12 rather than a one-off engine in place.
“The career of this extraordinary car ended at the beginning of 1974,” Lamborghini said, “when it was used for the crash tests required for the homologation of the production car, and subsequently scrapped.”
Lamborghini noted that from 1974 to 1990, it produced 1,999 Countachs in five series.
It also noted that the car was displayed on bedroom walls around the world and was showcased in dozens of movies. The car’s success “allowed Lamborghini to survive the most difficult years of its history.”
The Bora, also unveiled at Geneva that day in 1971, was the first Maserati with its engine mid-mounted behind the driver’s compartment.
“The wind of the Maserati Bora spans through 50 years of history, and reaches the dawn of a new phase for the Brand: all new models share the exclusiveness, sportiness and uniqueness that have always characterized the Modenese constructor, and Bora has also handed down its engine position, first introduced on the Tipo 63 (1961), initially reprised on the MC12, and now a key feature of the new MC20,” the company said in its 50th anniversary news release.
The Bora, designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro at Italdesign, was produced until 1978 with 564 units built. The Bora also was the basis for the Giugiaro-designed Boomerang concept car, which featured a wedge-shaped body and futuristic engineering.
The Bora initially was powered by a 4.7-liter V8 that provided 310 horsepower. A 4.9-liter unit followed in 1973. Giulio Alfieri was the car’s chief engineer. Among the car’s features were retractable headlamps, Maserati’s first use of 4-wheel independent suspension, a 5-speed transmission and disc brakes.