The Lamborghini Countach that lit up movie screens 40 years ago is now on display at the National Mall in Washington DC The 1979 LP 400 S, which starred in the 1981 film Cannon Ball Run, is in a display case alongside other icons, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.
On the 40th anniversary of the classic film, the legendary Countach officially joins 29 other cars on the United States National Historic Vehicle Register. This means that this black Italian beauty will now be cherished in America’s oldest and most prestigious cultural institution. All car information, including files, history and 3D scans, will be managed by the Library of Congress.
For non-movie fans, Cannonball Run featured several big stars, including Burt Reynolds and Farrah Fawcett. It was loosely based on the actual competition started by Robert Yates, a journalist who made racing across the country a sport. Despite the movie’s star power, the Lamborghini Countach stole the show.
It bursts onto the screen for the opening credits, turning into a 200-second montage of the car pulling away from a Trans-Am police car. Sounds of the DOHC V-12 3929ccd / 240cid 375hp engine with six 45mm twin-barrel Weber carburetors vibrate off the screen. To add to the spectacle, the driver and navigator of the Countach are two beautiful women dressed in colorful spandex jumpsuits. And spoiler alert, the Countach wins the race – of course.
Many consider this film, especially the opening scene, Lamborghini’s big reveal to American audiences, and the start of the global obsession with supercars.
The Countach, chassis number 1121112, is fully restored and still has its original liquid cooled engine. It also has its modified front wing, used to evade the police, and other additions including two front lights, three antennas and 12 exhaust pipes, yes, a dozen exhaust pipes! The car still sits on its Campagnolo 15 × 8.5 “wheels with 205 / 50VR15 Pirelli P7 tires at the front, and at the rear, the large Campagnolo 15 × 12” wheels with thick 345 / 35VR15 Pirelli P7 tires .
Since crossing the ocean from Rome in 1980, the car has had three owners. First off, Hal Needham, the director of Cannonball Run, borrowed it from his friend, the original owner. Then it was later bought by Ron Rice, the founder of Hawaiian Tropic, who saw it on the set.
The sunscreen brand featured prominently in the film as a sponsor of the NASCAR stock car driven by NFL Hall of Fame member Terry Bradshaw. Rice kept the car for over two decades before a lawyer named Jeff Ippoliti bought it in 2004. The Lamborghini enthusiast still owns it, but I’m not sure how he’ll get it out of that showcase.
A second generation Countach was launched, the LPI 800-4. However, it has a lot of work to do to match the historic first edition that surfaced 50 years ago at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show as a concept. The prototype turned the Italian corner concept into a highly sought-after design with its dramatic angles and scissor doors. Lamborghini manufactured the exotic car from 1974 to 1990.
There are just under 2,000 first generation Countachs. On a personal note, my aunt owned a movie rental store in the 80s and 90s. The Cannonball Run posters featuring this Countach hung up proudly for years. Like other future car enthusiasts, I grew up with a Countach poster on my bedroom wall. I think I speak for all of us when I say I’m delighted that one of those rare dream cars is now rightfully preserved in American history.