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Lamborghini Countach LP400 breaks $1 million sale barrier

Thu, 05 Jun 2014

A 1975 Lamborghini Countach LP400 "Periscopica" sold for $1.21 million at the Bonhams auction held in conjunction with the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance on Sunday, June 1, setting a record for the model. Named for the roof-mounted periscope-style rearview mirror that adorned the first 150 Countach models, the stunning "Blu Tahiti" example was the first example of the Countach to break the $1 million mark.

We can probably guess what you're thinking: The Countach hadn't broken the $1 million barrier until now? That's right: The previous record amount paid for a Countach, another "Periscopica" that also happened to be from 1975, went for $836,000 at the Bonhams sale at the Quail Lodge in 2013.

It's safe to say the "Periscopica" needs no introduction, having personified the supercar for the entire decade of the 1970s... and a fair chunk of the 1980s, until the Countach started growing various vents and scoops and was finally displaced as the bedroom poster of choice by the Ferrari Testarossa by the middle of the second Reagan administration.

But it was the original, unaltered iteration of the Countach that captured the imaginations of millions of cars fans of all ages, and the example that sold at Greenwich came as close as possible to that dream.

This particular example was sold new to Zurich, Switzerland, making its way to the States in 1978 and eventually landing in the collection of the same consignor who brought it to Greenwich last week. That history alone made it a remarkable auction lot, as did the minimal 16,500 kilometers or 10,252 miles on the odometer. The chassis number of this LP400, 1120066, doesn't match the engine on this example, but Lamborghini authority Valentino Balboni remarked that it was not unusual for cars to be fitted with engines that were out of the production order in the early days of the Countach's build process. That discrepancy didn't seem to temper bidders' appetites for this example, which featured a lovely interior and flawless paint.

We had a good look at the car while it was available for viewing in the auction tent, and we found the interior as close to a time capsule as you could wish for. The naturale tan leather interior exhibited almost no patina, while the year-old respray in the original color was done to a very high standard, matching the untouched original paint in the door jambs perfectly. What can we say? This is one of the best preserved examples of the "Periscopica" in existence, and its low mileage and no-stories history elicited a bidding war that was won by a bidder sitting in the front row, who prevailed against a large number of telephone bidders.

Are all "Periscopicas" million-dollar cars now? This record-setting example was about as close as it gets to a time-warp car, as was the example that achieved $836,000 last year. And it has to be said that early LP400s look best in unusual colors, either bright pastels like this one or more subdued earthy tones such as dark green.

While not all early Countachs are seven-figure collectables after last weekend, this result could well pull a few of the better examples close to the million-dollar mark. We'll have to see whether this bid amount will flush out a few more excellent "Periscopicas" by the time the next Bonhams classic car auction rolls around.

By Jay Ramey