It’s November 2000. Swiss Lamborghini enthusiast Raymond Stofer has once again logged on to the Internet and roams the world wide web in search of something interesting. He has reached Yahoo’s auction site and is skimming through the new entries when his eyes stop at an auction listing that would come to mean a lot to him, as well as to thousands of Lamborghini enthusiasts around the world.
The object being auctioned was a Lamborghini Countach, but it was by no means a regular Countach. As Raymond was able to establish upon viewing the car, this was chassis no. 1120001, the 1973 Countach LP400 prototype that Lamborghini had displayed at several motor shows when it was new. Following the loss of the very first 1971 Countach prototype in a crash test, this was the oldest Countach in existence! The whereabouts of 1120001 had been unknown for many years, and countless Lamborghini enthusiasts had been trying to find this very car when it all of a sudden surfaced in that Yahoo auction.
I interviewed my friend Raymond about the events of this remarkable happening:
KB: First of all, Raymond, thanks a lot for sharing your story of the discovery of the green Countach prototype with the readers of Lovecars.com! How long have you been a Lamborghini enthusiast, and how did Lamborghini become such a great passion for you?
RS: Since 1982 with the appearance of the LP5000 S. The initial fire was the comparison of the five V12 cars of 1982 in German “Auto Motor & Sport” magazine where the LP5000 S was simply the fastest, the most exciting car of them all. Then I saw several Countachs on the road and visited a sale exhibition at Lamborghini dealer Max Bobnar in 1986, where he had about six Countachs.
KB: Did you know the story of 1120001, and did you actively search for this car in Switzerland?
RS: I didn’t actively know about 1120001 before the Yahoo auction in 2000, but later I was able to find out that this car apparently had been only 10 kilometres away from where I grew up in the region of Basel. I even know a person who was a passenger in it and complained that it was very noisy, uncomfortable and hot – this was obviously a woman…
Bertone press photos of 1120001 from 1973:
KB: How did you come across the Yahoo auction where the Countach prototype was offered for sale?
RS: In those times, Yahoo was what Google is today, eBay was also in its beginning. I stumbled over it in the Yahoo auction section by chance and contacted the seller by phone.
KB: Did you immediately recognize that this was a special Countach?
RS: Honestly I couldn’t really believe that it was no. 1, that’s why I arranged to meet the seller and inspect the car together with two friends (one of whom is the owner of supercharged Countach 1121228).
KB: What special features made you certain that this was in fact 1120001?
RS: This was relatively easy, as we could find the original red paint in various location on the car and found the brake ducts under the nose to be riveted on instead of being integrated into the bodywork. The air scoop slats were completely different, it had non-standard Koni dampers. The interior was different from the standard LP400, such as the mid tunnel, door sills and dashboard.
KB: What kind of alterations had been done to the car to make it useable?
RS: From its first life as red showcar, the windscreen wiper and the seats are the most noticeable changes. Apart from this, the car is very similar to the LP400 series, except for the different small side windows.
KB: In what condition was the car (any damage, rust, missing parts, etc)?
RS: There was nothing missing and it was possible to start it, but the fuel pumps did not work. The bodywork looked OK for its age.
Raymond’s photos from the seller’s location (most of these were scanned especially for this feature):
KB: Was the owner of the car aware of its background and rarity?
RS: The seller was not the owner. The owner from Basel was said to be a paint artist, but I haven’t seen any paperwork of the car. The seller just knew that it was said to be the first one, but did apparently not know anything more of its history.
KB: How long had the car been with its owner?
RS: Unknown, since the owner was kept private. The car was originally delivered to Lamborghini part-owner René Leimer, who later sold it.
KB: Do you know of other interested potential buyers?
RS: The car sold in the auction to a Japanese collector, but somehow no agreement about shipment costs was reached. Some months later the seller called me and said the car was still there and available for sale. I then called Valentino a second time and said: “Hurry up, it’s still there – it’s now or never”, after which they went to inspect the car.
KB: How did Valentino Balboni react when you contacted him with your discovery?
RS: He was surprised and said he needed to talk to his boss (Head of After Sales, Mr. Gamberini), but they finally went to inspect the car in 2001.
KB: How long did it take from your first discovery to the time Balboni and Gamberini came to inspect it and pick it up?
RS: I don’t know the exact time, but it must have been in the spring or summer of 2001 since the car was displayed at the Murcielago presentation in August 2001.
KB: Can you describe the sensation you felt when seeing this car again in the factory museum?
RS: I was mainly very proud that it turned out this way; this car needs to be in the factory museum – nowhere else. For all Countach enthusiasts it must be heaven on earth to see the very first Countach sitting next to the very last one in their location of birth. The only thing I’m a bit disappointed over is that nobody from the factory ever approached me with a single word of “thank you”. Catching a ride as passenger or, even better, driving this very first car myself would be the ultimate experience for me.
KB: Thanks a lot for your time and your story, Raymond! On behalf of Lamborghini enthusiasts world wide, let me express my gratitude for the effort you made to ensure the safe return of 1120001 to its birthplace and spiritual home within the doors of the Lamborghini factory museum!
Additional photos of 1120001, taken at various times and locations:
This article was first published on lovecars.com.