Lamborghini Countach “Walter Wolf” at Villa d’Este

Very few individuals have been as instrumental as Walter Wolf in keeping Lamborghini moving forward, most obviously so through the special Countaches he ordered and co-developed. Wolf owned at least four Countaches from new, starting out with a rather standard white LP400, to which he added a roof wing. The second one was a red LP400, equipped with wider Pirelli P7 wheels and extended wheel arches, as well as a fixed rear wing. This car, and the following Wolf specials, received the special 5.0-litre engine that had initially been developed for use in the Countach. However, only two such engines were made, and one is believed to have ended its days on the factory test bench. This engine remained Lamborghini property throughout.

In early 1976, Wolf took delivery of his third Countach, a Bugatti blue LP400 with mainly the same customisations as the previous one; only this one had an electronically adjustable rear wing and a public address system(!) installed. The final Wolf Countach was the very first LP400 S, which was shown at the 1978 Geneva Motor Show in dark blue with details in gold, matching the Wolf Formula One team colours.

Last month’s Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este saw the Bugatti blue Countach on display and in action, causing a wave of pleasantry through the world of Lamborghini enthusiasts. A Lamborghini with this kind of provenance is hard to beat, let alone its importance in transforming the Countach from the original, clean LP400 into the racing-inspired, muscular LP400 S.

Gian Paolo Dallara had his mind set on improving the suspension and drive train of the Countach to accommodate for the wider Pirelli P7s, and Walter Wolf was only too happy to be his guinea pig in the process, also injecting large sums to see the project through. At one point, Walter Wolf very nearly bought the entire factory!

Chassis number 1120202 was finished in Bugatti blue over the natural leather interior, with gold stripes to accentuate the lines of the Countach. Add to that gold wing mirrors, gold rims, a tiny steering wheel and some Canadian maple leafs and you have a truly unique result. The fact that this car won its class at Villa d’Este, beating, for instance, the superbly restored first Miura SV, is clear proof of its impact and desirability, especially so since the car had not undergone a complete restoration.

Prior to arriving at Villa d’Este, it had only been cleaned and had some minor adjustments done to it to get ready to be shown. For those of us who love details, it even displayed a few non-original changes, namely the black wing mirrors, the slightly incorrect steering wheel and the end plates on the rear wing. All these are set to be corrected, returning the car to its original guise. It’s also worth mentioning that this car houses the special 5.0-litre engine, which most likely is one of a kind.

Having long-time Lamborghini test driver Valentino Balboni behind the wheel sure didn’t diminish the experience, and the sound of the engine through the sports exhaust system when he fired it up caused many spontaneous smiles, mine included. Seeing and hearing this legendary Countach being piloted by the capable hands of Balboni through the lavish landscape of Villa d’Este, the lovely Lake Como on one side and the ancient city of Cernobbio climbing the hillsides around it beats just about anything I have experienced in the world of cars.

At the exhibition at Villa Erba the following day, the Wolf Countach enjoyed a huge amount of interest, and the ever so gentle Balboni was around to shake hands and be taken photos of together with smiling fans. As the morning turned into afternoon, the parading of the cars drew closer, and I found a decent spot among the numerous photographers. The Countach was part of Class H, “Driven by Excess — From Glam Rock to New Wave”, which was one of the last to be the centre of attention. Valentino Balboni drove, door open, onto the red carpet and climbed out, meeting the loudest and merriest applause of the entire weekend. I’m sure I heard a few wolf whistles as he received the class winner trophy.

Valentino Balboni with the class winner trophy and certificate

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