A black Lamborghini that introduced Americans to the Italian carmaker’s signature style is the latest addition to the National Historic Vehicle Register.
The two-door coupe, a 1979 Lamborghini Countach, was featured prominently in the 1981 Burt Reynold’s cult classic The Cannonball Run, where it sped through a highway and was chased by police in the opening scene.
The film was many Americans’ first glimpse at the exotic sports car, and it introduced the country to the iconic wedge shape and ‘scissor doors’ – which slide up – made by Italian design house Bertone.
The 1979 Lamborghini Countach is one of only 105 of its kind made between 1979 and 1981
The car’s interior was re-upholstered to match its look in the 1981 film The Cannonball Run
The sports car still features its original engine, along with five-speed manual transmission
In the movie, the Lambo was driven by actresses Adrienne Barbeau (left) and Tara Buckman
The car was chased by police as it sped through a highway in the film’s opening scene
1979 Lamborghini Countach specs
The vehicle entering the National Historic Vehicle Register is one of only 105 of its kind made between 1979 and 1981
Paint and exterior: The car still features its front wing that served as a “bumper” to skirt laws that prevented the Countach from being sold in the U.S.
Interior: Fully re-upholstered in the tan color featured in The Cannonball Run
Engine: Original engine; Liquid-cooled, mid-mounted, DOHC V-12 3929ccd/240cid 353hp with six Weber carburetors
Wheels and tires: Front 15×8.5” Campagnolo wheels, 205/50VR15 Pirelli P7 tires, rear 15×12” Campagnolo wheels, 345/35VR15 Pirelli P7 tires
Brakes: Power assist – disc brakes front and rear/ 10.5″ vented rotors
Transmission: Five-speed manual transmission that extends forward into the passenger compartment
Source: Hagerty Foundation
Featuring a liquid-cooled, mid-mounted, 353-horsepower engine with six Weber carburetors, the Countach can go zero-to60 in 5.4 seconds and topds out the speedometer at nearly 200 miles per hour.
‘The Countach is a car that has excited and intrigued car enthusiasts since its radical style shocked the world on its debut in the early ’70s,’ said Hagerty Drivers Foundation executive director Jonathan Klinger, according to Fox News.
The model was first unveiled in 1971, according to Hagerty, an insurance provider for classic vehicles that runs the historic register through its nonprofit arm.
The list is maintained in partnership with the US Department of the Interior and the Library of Congress.
‘The radically styled mid-engine exotic was a landmark car in an era when economy and practicality had eclipsed performance and passion,’ Hagerty says.
To celebrate its entry, the car will be displayed on the National Mall in Washington, DC, in September.
Bertone designer Marcello Gandini told Hagerty that the model’s name came from a word often uttered by one of the profilers working at the company.
‘One of his most frequent exclamations was “countach,” which literally means plague, contagion, and is actually used more to express amazement or even admiration, like “goodness.” When we were working at night, to keep our morale up, there was a jousting spirit, so I said we could call it Countach, just as a joke.’
In The Cannonball Run, racers Jill (played by Tara Buckman) and Marie (Adrienne Barbeau) drove the car and won the race – though the Lambo didn’t technically cross the finish line because one of the racers crashed his pickup truck and blocked the road, resulting in Marie racing to the finish line on foot.
The movie featured a who’s who of Hollywood stars: Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.
The Countach was loaned to the movie by original owner Terry Bernius, according to Fox.
Hawaiian Tropic founder Ron Rice, a friend of Reynolds’ who hung around the set, bought the car from Bernius after the movie wrapped.
Ron Rice, the founder of lotion company Hawaiian Tropic, bought the car from its original owner after seeing it on the Cannonball Run set. Rice was a friend of star Burt Reynolds
The 1981 De Lorean DMC-12 featured in Back to the Future is one of the 30 cars on the register
So is the 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, which represents the 1960s rush to produce ‘youthful, economical’ cars known as ‘pony cars’
In 2009, Florida-based collector and Cannonball fan Jeff Ippoliti bought it from Rice.
The hit film spawned two sequels, Cannonball Run II in 1984 and Speed Zone in 1989, and reignited a frenzy for coast-to-coast illegal high-speed racing.
Three men reportedly completed the 3,000-mile trek from the Red Ball Garage on Manhattan’s East 31st Street to the Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach near Los Angeles in 25 hours and 39 minutes, according to CNN.
The three drove a souped-up Mercedes and averaged more than 110mph.
There are 30 cars on the National Historic Vehicle Register.
The car entering the register is one of only 105 Series 2 cars produced between 1979 and 1981, according to the ClassicCars.com Journal.
Other cars on the list include the 1981 De Lorean DMC-12 featured in Back to the Future – which will be displayed in DC alongside the Countach – and the first 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, which represents the 1960s rush to produce ‘youthful, economical’ cars known as ‘pony cars,’ according to Hagerty.