- Originally owned by Rod Stewart, driven frequently by Stewart in both Australia and Lost Angeles
- Later converted in Stewart’s ownership to an open-top targa by Albert Madikian Engineering
- Recently restored to its original LP400 specifications
- One of only 157 LP400 ‘Periscopios’ built
It is generally accepted that the Lamborghini Countach altered the definition of a supercar when it burst onto the scene in 1974. Outrageous in its appearance, it flagrantly shunned user friendliness in favour for sheer shock and awe, stopping people in the street with its impossibly wide wedge-shaped bodywork, angular lines and scissor doors. It wasn’t just form over function either; under the engine cover the 375 bhp V-12 engine was arranged low in the chassis and longitudinally, driving the gearbox via a front output shaft. This enabled the transmission to be centralised and located almost between the driver and passenger, improving weight distribution whilst allowing the gear linkage to be extremely short and direct. Power was then routed to the rear axle via a propshaft that ran underneath and through the engine’s oil sump to the rear differential. In comparison to its predecessor, the Miura, which had been compromised by its transverse engine layout, the Countach packaging not only improved the overall weight distribution and centre of gravity, but also comprehensively solved the former’s well document cooling issues.
This example left Sant’Agata Bolognese in May of 1977 built to RHD specifications and finished in Rosso paintwork over a Tobacco interior as one of 157 original Countach LP400 ‘Perosicopios’ and it was imported to Australia on behalf of the country’s Lamborghini concessionaire, Tony De Fina. Shortly thereafter it was bought by its first owner, none other than British singer and songwriter Rod Stewart, who was touring Australia at the time. Stewart’s long-term affiliation with Lamborghini was well into its stride, having previously owned three Miuras. Chassis number 1120262 proved to be the first of a several Countach he would buy. Amazingly, the car was kept for two weeks in his studio in Sydney where he recorded the album Blondes Have More Fun, and a photo of this can be found in Stewart’s autobiography.
It was subsequently flown out to Stewart’s family home in Los Angeles and re-registered as ‘RIVA 1’ and slowly modified over time, gaining many of the same aesthetic elements that Lamborghini was releasing with their later Countach models. This began with the fitment of wide Gotti wheels and a mini spoiler mounted behind the airboxes and culminated in a full wide body conversion to mimic the Countach LP400 ‘S’, along with the appropriate Campagnolo ‘Teledial’ wheels. This later work was carried out by Albert Mardikian Engineering who, in 1984, went one step further and performed a conversion to their own ‘SS’ specification. This involved the conversion of the car into an open-top targa and the fitment of a Walter Wolf inspired full width rear wing, which Mardikian promoted as being ultimate specification for the Countach.
In 1987, the car returned to the U.K., still in the ownership of Stewart and was registered as ‘RMK 651R’, ‘R’ to reflect its 1977 build year. It remained in the U.K. until 2002, at which point it was acquired by its second owner who kept the car in the same Maridikian aesthetic specification whilst choosing to completely overhaul the engine. It was presented in this specification at the Retromobile in 2010, by which time it had been converted to left hand drive. Its current owner acquired the car in 2013 from a Paris-based dealer who had given the car a cosmetic refresh at Carrosserie Lecoq in Paris that included refinishing the wheels in gold, retrimming the cabin in magnolia and breathing life into the Rosso paintwork. At this point it had covered 11,800 miles.
Recognising that the true significance of this vehicle was not because of its Hollywood history or indeed its unique configuration but actually its provenance, its current owner decided to embark upon restoring it to the specification in which it first arrived in Australia all those years before (albeit retaining its left hand drive configuration), and in which the engineers at Lamborghini had intended. Only the finest specialists were used and the work they carried out is forensically documented with hundreds of photographs in the cars history file that attest to the ‘no-expense spared’ approach that was taken. Pleasingly, the combination of Battaglia e Bolognesi of Ferrara for the coachwork, Top Motors of Nonatola for the drivetrain and mechanical work, and Bruno Paratelli for the upholstery has resulted in a truly stunning LP400 Periscopio, entirely faithful to the Stanzani and Gandini design that caused such a stir at the Geneva Salon in 1973 and free of any trace of the aforementioned 1980s Hollywood modifications.
A beautifully restored Periscopio with a truly unique history that could only be that of a Countach. This is undoubtedly one of the most well-known LP400s due to its characterful history, and would be an interesting addition to any Lamborghini collection.