Cannonball Run’s Lamborghini Countach

It’s 40 years - Yes, 40 years – since the iconic Cannonball Run film hit theatres and cemented it’s place in automotive culture.

To celebrate the Hagerty Driver’s Foundation has included the famed black Lamborghini Countach from the movie on their shortlist of 30 vehicles of national significance for the United States.

A 3D scan of it and copies of all its documentation will be preserved in the Library of Congress. 

You don’t have to be old enough to remember the original 1981 cult classic, The Cannonball Run, to appreciate it’s stars. And while Burt Reynolds and Farrah Fawcett were brilliant, the biggest scene stealer was arguably the jet-black Lamborghini Countach that was showcased during the four minute opening credits.

1979 Lamborghini Countach LP 400 S, chassis number 1121112, is well known for being the star of the 1981 comedy film The Cannonball Run. Exactly 40 years after the film’s release, considered one of the most iconic car movies of all time, the Countach, one of its stars, has made history by being included on the National Historic Vehicle Register of the United States Library of Congress, managed by Hagerty Driver’s Foundation, on the shortlist of just 30 cars to date considered of national importance for the United States.

 

The car has had two owners since the movie and even had the interior colour changed to burgundy along the way, but it has now been restored to look like it did in the film, including a beautiful Senape tan interior. The powertrain is a 353-hp 4.0-liter 12-cylinder engine with a five-speed manual transmission and amazingly for it’s age, the vehicle has travelled only 16,067 miles since new.

To celebrate this historic moment, the Countach is being displayed this week inside a glass case on the National Mall in Washington D.C., one of the capital’s most important historic sites, also home to the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

 

From now on, all the information regarding the car, its history, a 3D scan of it and copies of all its documentation will be preserved in the Library of Congress: the oldest cultural institution in the United States, an official body of the United States Congress and America’s national library.    

Erected by stunt driver and real-life Cannonbal competitor, Hal Needham, when The Cannonball Run hit theaters in June 1981, with a fictional plot based on the real-life secret race that had taken place for several years between the east and west coasts of the United States, few foresaw the enormous success it would have and its importance in the history of American culture.

Those were the years in the U.S. when a speed limit of 55 mph (88 km/h) was in effect and where the dream of any kind of speed, even just slightly higher, was strictly repressed by the police. During the same years, a group of passionate motorists lead by former Road and Track Executive Editor, Brock Yates, decided to challenge the system by racing across the continent in the least amount of time from downtown Manhattan in New York to a marina on the Pacific Ocean at Redondo Beach in California.

Obviously, such action did not go unnoticed by the Hollywood screenwriters who made the movie, choosing the most representative cars of the era driven by a star-studded cast including the likes of Roger Moore, Burt Reynolds, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Junior, and Farrah Fawcett.

The undisputed protagonist, and in the film the winner of the race, was the 1979 Countach LP 400 S, black with mustard yellow interior, chassis #1121112. Right from the three-plus minutes of the opening scene dedicated entirely to the Countach, shot in the desert east of Las Vegas and using the sound of the V12 and its six carburetors as the soundtrack, the Countach was one of the biggest stars of the movie and had the audience dreaming.

The car was delivered new to Lamborghini’s distributor in Rome at the time, SEA Auto, and was immediately exported to the United States and sold in Florida. In 1980, the owner, a friend of the film’s director Hal Needham, loaned it to him for filming.

The Countach was modified for the movie with the addition of a front spoiler, twin spotlights, three antennas and 12 exhaust pipes. It was noticed on the set by Ron Rice, founder of the sunscreen brand Hawaiian Tropic that was famous for its motorsport sponsorships, who fell in love with it and bought it on the spot. He kept it till 2004, when it was sold to attorney and Lamborghini aficionado Jeff Ippoliti of Florida, who still owns it.

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