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NSX vs. Contach LP400: Here's the Comparo

27 September 2000
Golden, CO
Hey sports car fans,

As promised, here is the write-up on my adventure last week picking up my buddy's "new" 1975 Lamborghini Countach LP400. FYI we drove almost 400 miles with nary a stall or mechanical problem whatsoever.

WARNING: the first part of this post is not especially NSX-related, but there IS NSX content at the end!


This car has utterly OUTRAGEOUS looks, even 25 years later. Remember, the LP400 is the "pure" Countach, before they started slapping on all the trinkets and trash (wing, louvers, fender flares, bumper risers, etc.). It looks like it just left the concept-car stand at the 1972 Paris Auto Show. The red paint is deep & lustrous. The bodywork is crisp, bold, clean and flawless. This car draws crowds – LARGE ones. I've never experienced anything even CLOSE to this with the NSX. One very distressing negative: Some people ask if it's a kit (!). Unfortunately for an owner of the real McCoy, there ARE knock-offs out there that create much of the visual intensity of the real thing.

The car has a surprisingly large & deep rear trunk that actually holds several large soft-sided bags -- easily enough for a week's trip.

The scissor doors are cool and work easily. Ingress & egress are extremely tricky – you must be nimble, and people with back problems and women in skirts shouldn't even try!

The interior is functional & solid but clearly from a low-volume "craft" car. Think '70s Ferrari. Fit-and-finish are again "craft" level. Seams are wide and don't often align, lines are basic (form follows function), and materials are functional and effective but not at all luxurious. Leather is only a few years old & smells great.

The seating position is outrageously low, and the view out the extremely raked windshield over the stubby & equally raked hood makes you feel like you're on the road -- you don't see the hood or the front of car. You look UP at Neons. The NSX driving position is considerably higher.

The seats have but one adjustment, but they fit OK, and wheel tilts & telescopes to comfortable position. The pedals are offset right but useable. There is a comfortable dead pedal to left.


The 4-liter V-12 starts with fuel pumps clicking, engine turning over slowly, then VAVOOM!
This is one LOUD car, even with extra sound insulation. It's got a big racecar rumble which turns to a ROAR under heavy acceleration. Very gratifying mechanical sounds.

The chassis (tubular space-frame, like a race car) is very rigid, even by modern (e.g., NSX) standards. The ride is very firm but controlled, not as stiff as a Zanardi.

Steering is manual, easy, and perfectly weighted, though not particularly quick. Turn-in is solid and progressive. Rear mass shift is noticeable before apex, but predictable. Tall tires diminish nimbleness but contribute to fairly comfortable ride, even over rough spots & bumps. Feedback is excellent.

The accelerator is very firm and has very long travel. You must push hard to open those four huge Weber carbs!

Clutch action is nicely weighted and progressive. It's easy to use, even in stop-and-go traffic. Take-up is crisp and predictable.

Brakes are firm and effective, but not especially grabby (rears are OEM, fronts are ATEs from a BMW). Modulation is good, feedback fair.

The gearshift is tall, very heavy, with long throws in all directions, very mechanical (though not balky) and takes real WORK to use. You must really manhandle the thing to work your way through the gears.

The car behaves itself in stop-and-go traffic, and strong aftermarket fans keep the engine cool, and engine idles fine. At speed, the car is solid, planted & predictable. No shakes, rattles, groans or other cheesy noises. Wind noise is minimal, perhaps drowned out by all the other wild sounds. A very annoying whine/whiz/whir from the gearbox enters the cockpit from the shift boot. Adding another boot over the gate would cure this.

The car is reasonably comfortable even after four hours, though the loud engine is fatiguing. The A/C works reasonably well but struggles in high humidity.

Acceleration is strong but probably no better than 0-60 in 6.0 seconds unless you want to risk breaking something. Redline is a surprisingly high 8,000 RPM and comes up pretty quickly. Blasting through the gears requires careful attention and REAL effort, but rewards with a full & gratifying complement of real racing sensations: wild sounds, solid mechanical feedback, and streaking asphalt.

The Countach lacks the NSX's finesse, refinement, tossability and ease-of-use, but provides a real supercar experience in historically important and still-stunning package. This is the car that raised the bar in 1975, no doubt contributing to later supercars.


Getting back into my NSX was like slipping into a favorite pair of running shoes – comfortable, familiar, highly functional, and immediately fun with minimal fuss and effort. In comparison to the Lambo, the NSX is svelte and silken, while the Countach is macho and gnarly. The NSX exhibits finesse in almost all that it does (even with all the mods I've done), while the Lambo takes real effort and stamina to use. I guess this is what purists (owners of Italian supercars?) mean by "engagement" – you've got to be on your game when you drive a car like the Countach, paying full attention to it at all times, whereas the NSX is EASY to drive fast and well.

So, choose your thrills…

As for me, I'm glad I've got the NSX, and that the Ferrari 308 that finds its way into my garage will provide all the history I need. The NSX will be the car I drive when I want instant satisfaction.

Unless it's sunny and I take the S2000 instead….. <g>

Don Gallo
'92 NSX Black/Black "4RE-NVME"
'00 S2000 Silver/Red "LOTSA GS"