Our author was given the chance to drive a Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4, the only one of just 112 units in the color Arancio Bruciato.
If you’re now asking yourself why he, of all people, was allowed to do that – you’ll just have to read this story to find out.
As we all know, you can’t choose your family. But you can choose your friends. And I choose them well. One of them, for example, is the general manager of a luxury resort with overwater bungalows in the Caribbean. Every year, I visit him there for two weeks with my girlfriend Madita. When taking a shower, we’re treated to a view of the seabed through the glass floor. The official price for the fourteen-day stay in our category is €19,820. On the last day of our vacation, I pull out my credit card. Pro forma. My friend always just taps me on the shoulder with a wink, “Kurt, c’mon, are you crazy?” Another friend of mine runs this gourmet temple in Vienna. Twice a month, occasionally three times, I dine at his place. With Madita, of course. I especially enjoy the seven-course table d’hôte (the most recent example: Bouchot mussels with sweet corn, Arctic char with blood orange, wild duck with black walnut, etc.). Comes to €410 for two people. Not counting the bottle of wine. After dessert, I ask the waiter for the bill. Pro forma. My friend, a whirling dervish in a tailored cashmere suit, then comes rushing to our table, gently squeezes my forearm, shakes his head and says, “No way, Kurt! Go on, put it back.” Some people say that money can end a friendship. I don’t agree. For me, that’s exactly where my friendships start.
1 of 112 Countach Arancio Bruciato
Despite my rotten character, I have a surprisingly large number of friends. Of one of them, I would like to say that he is my best friend – but he wouldn’t like that, because he thinks I’m a scheming sycophant. So I just call him my second-best friend. And that brings us to the beginning of our actual story. Because my second-best friend is one of only 112 people in the world who own a Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4, that exhilarating, exclusive, exorbitantly priced reinterpretation of the most famous of all Sant’Agata bulls, built on the Aventador platform to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its ancestor: 6.5-liter naturally aspirated V12, 803 hp (of which 34 are supplied by an electric motor), 355 km/h top speed, seven gears. The hybrid powertrain was adopted from the Sian. All-wheel drive, of course. You can’t drive the 800-4 on electric power alone, however; in fact, the electric motor is really only there to optimize performance. Why was the production limited to 112 cars? To remind you of the internal project designation of the first Countach: LP 112. Sticker price: €2.4 million.
Late summer last year, we went for a long drive in his yellow Miura. After two hours of chasing after all sorts of rebellious upstarts (Mercedes AMGs and the like), we gave the old warrior its favorite swill (V-Power 100), settled down on a couple of bar stools inside the gas station, and once again asked ourselves whether the mind-blowing thunder of a twelve-cylinder engine revved up high or the sweetly ecstatic, sky-high exultation of our most dearest at the climax of physical union gave us the greatest possible pleasure in our earthly existence. Once again, we could not come up with a definite answer. But when my second-best friend said with a thoughtful look on his face, “Well, if I had to choose . . . ,” I stopped him right there. Because I could guess how he was going to finish that thought – and I wanted to save his really quite happy marriage. (Because once something is said, I write it down without mercy, there’s no off-the-record with me, that’s kindergarten stuff!) “Stop right there,” I stopped him, “You don’t have to say anything, I know how you feel.” He nodded in relief. Then I casually asked him, “So, when are you taking delivery of the monster?” A blissful smile flashed across his lips: “Very soon.”
Two months later he called me: “It’s here. It’s waiting for you. Come and play with it and write something nice about it.” I dropped everything and took the next plane to Stuttgart. When I arrived in front of the garage where he keeps all of his race cars, I was greeted by the blazing hellfire of the sun itself. I thought I was hallucinating! My taxi driver was feeling a bit uneasy as well. He turned off the engine and shouted in bewilderment: “What the fish!? Am I dreaming? Someone pinch me!” Arancio Bruciato. Burnt orange. My second-best friend hadn’t told me the color of his Countach. It was supposed to be a surprise. This burnt orange makes everything worse! It increases the degree of alarm that takes possession of you as soon as the optic nerve has registered the monster and passed it on to the brain. My thinking organ immediately recalled the last lines of a poem by Alfred Henschke, a German writer better known by his pseudonym Klabund. Hopefully not a bad omen: “Fly between moons, between stars, to the throne of the sun, the distant one; fly to the blazing god of pain and burn in his heart!” In the next instant, however, the unfathomable human brain experienced a spectacular decline in sophistication and produced one of those simplistic Chuck Norris jokes: “Chuck Norris can stand faster than you can run.” And to ensure that that makes sense further down the line, within milliseconds my brain turned nasty: “The Countach can stand faster than a Ferrari can drive.” Dear friends in Maranello, I am infinitely sorry! My cerebrum, often subjected to strong centrifugal forces, puts me in maximum embarrassment. I will make it up to you! Just park the latest test car in front of my door – but in red, not in blue like last time! Two weeks should be enough, I’ll write something very lovely in that time, greetings and kisses. Okay, back to the Countach and a word on its looks. Because the new Countach is more than just the old Countach. The LPI 800-4 is an extremely intoxicating cocktail with a shot of Diablo and a good dose of Murciélago, it makes you drunk with joy, no, heavily drunk just by looking at it, like a Tequila Sunrise, and when it stretches its bulging rear end towards you, you need to control yourself enough not to make a fool of yourself by lying down on your stomach in the street, clawing your fingernails into the asphalt in despair and cursing life because, for whatever reason, you’re not one of the 112 chosen ones.
Just then, the owner of the Countach came around the corner. His face was solemnly serious. His dark eyes literally pierced me with their gaze. Not a word of greeting. “There are only three people in this world,” he began, “who I would trust with this car. Senna. But he’s dead. Verstappen. But he doesn’t have any time. And you. You’re not dead and you have time like Santa Claus has whiskers. Senna was the greatest. Then comes Verstappen. Then comes nobody for a long time. And then there’s you.” – “I know,” I said, “and now give me the key.” He was taunting me, of course, because after Verstappen, it’s not me who’s next. It’s him. And only then it’s me. So my second-best friend gave me the key. I opened the scissor door and was about to get in. “Stop!” he shouted. “You’re wearing the wrong pants. They’re too dark and will rub off on the light-colored seats.” I thought he was joking, but my second-best friend was serious. “Okay,” I said, “I’m happy to take them off, except my underpants aren’t any lighter. Maybe you’d like me to sit in there with my bare ass?” – “Hmm.” He pondered and I continued to spin the yarn: “What will I say when they pull me over? I’m already looking forward to tomorrow’s headlines: NAKED IN A LAMBO – PERVERT SHOCKS POLICE!” – “Wait a minute, I’ve got something you can wear,” he said, before he disappeared in the garage. When he came back, he brought with him a thin, white plastic of the type that the workers at a professional car wash stretch over the damp seats after their work is done. It didn’t look very elegant in the €2.4 million bomber, but that was okay with me; at least I was allowed to stay dressed south of my waist.
I felt somehow annoyed by those bright seats, and by the brightness of the entire cockpit in general. It seemed too clean to me, too clinical, it made me feel like I was in the waiting room of my outrageously expensive dentist, only without the receptionist with the Emma Peel hairdo and the speech impediment. (Poor thing always says “oral hyena” instead of “oral hygiene”, but you can’t make fun of that.) The brightness, I told my second-best friend, made all the surfaces look even smoother than they already are, too smooth. “I wanted it that way,” he said dryly. To which I replied, “Well, I don’t know, I’d rather have a dark interior.” What he said next was surely intended to humiliate me: “Well, be glad then that you don’t have those worries.” That one hit home. Eager to retaliate, I confronted him with some words that I had read in an online forum somewhere two days earlier, where a rather cocky individual had written, “How many Italian nails do you have to have in your skull to buy a car called Countach for more than two million euros based on the eleven-year-old Aventador?” What he thought of that? He just grinned a smug grin and laid it on: “First of all, I don’t give a shit about money. I buy overpriced status symbols as a matter of principle, just to infuriate envious perpetual losers. That works quite well, as I see. Second, thank goodness the basis is a tried and tested vehicle like the Aventador. That way I can be sure the car will perform reliably. If it were a completely new development, it would constantly be breaking down – as happens regularly with other low-volume hypercars, which are much more expensive, by the way.” – “But two and a half million,” I opined, “is still insane. I can get a mansion for that.” – “You?” Again, he humiliated me. “Of course,” he continued, “from a technical point of view, the car is not worth the money. A luxury car never is. But the Countach is drop-dead gorgeous, and for that alone it’s worth every penny. And let’s not forget: Exclusivity still plays a weighty role, after all. So, are we finally hitting the road?”
We finally hit the road. Before things start to get beastly, a few words of reflection: How nice that Germany exists. What would I do without this country? What would my second-best friend do without this country? What a paradise on earth! The Spreewald in Brandenburg. The Triberg Waterfalls in the Black Forest. The Mecklenburg Lake District. Morsum Kliff on Sylt. And, and, and. But Germany only became the true promised land through a decision by the Bundestag on December 19, 1952, namely the abolition of all maximum speed limits. A speed limit was later reintroduced on rural roads, and on autobahns for a few months during the oil crisis. But for seventy years now, people in Germany have been allowed to drive as fast as they want. December 19 is a holy holiday for me and the only day of the year when I pray. I thank the good Lord for letting the politicians make such a wise decision and pray that it may remain so until the end of days. I also include in the prayer my third-best friend, Andreas Scheuer of the CSU, “Andi” to me, the former Minister of Transport of this heavenly country, who once quite rightly said: “Speed limits go against all common sense.” What a dog, that Andi!
I kicked my right foot down into the Countach as deep as Clint Eastwood would kick his muddy boot into the belly of a desperado wriggling on the ground in the Wild West. In second gear the car roared like a raving lunatic, and it already sounded and felt as if we were going 260. But that wasn’t enough for me, so I pushed it into third gear and heard a cracking sound that I first assumed was technical, but which was in fact the blockage in my cervical spine being released by the powerful jolt. I then thought to myself, since I was also feeling some tension in my lumbar region, come on, man, bang it into fourth gear now, doesn’t matter anymore, don’t sweat it, the road may not be particularly wide here, but so what, you’re in fourth place in the ranking of the best drivers in the universe behind Senna, Verstappen and your second-best friend, and it would be really great if I could properly crack my spine again. But I restrained myself, it didn’t seem very sensible to me and it already felt like we were going 400 anyway.
Where is this going? I can’t drive a Lamborghini like a normal car, a Lamborghini turns me into a bat out of hell. I can tell myself as many times as I want: “There’s nothing at stake here, relax!” It doesn’t help at all. Why can I drive a Porsche like a normal car? Because the 911 – to use a term from the field of behavioral biology – rather obviously possesses some traits of the baby schema. Its curves as a whole, and especially its large, round “eyes”, make it appear cute. Its disposition can be as gentle as it is brutal. The 911 is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The Lamborghini, on the other hand, is just Mr. Hyde. It is evil par excellence. Maleficent. A dangerous seducer. Unruly and crude. An incident that occurred years ago in Kitzbühel says it all: I had parked a matte black Murciélago in front of the entrance to my hotel. A boy, his mouth agape, asked his father, “Dad, what kind of car is that?” As if to protect him, the father placed his hands on his son’s shoulders. “In this car,” he then said in a solemn tone, “rides the Prince of Darkness.” I am certainly not the Prince of Darkness. However, as soon as Mr. Hyde wrathfully raises his voice, I am in his thrall. I give him everything, all my love. Only that this love does not express itself in tenderness, but by me kicking him hard.
“And?” my second-best friend asked, “What do you think?” – “It’s utterly and completely terrifying, totally awesome!” I shouted in reply. He smirked knowingly and asked me something else: “Did you notice anything?” – “What do you mean?” – “Do you notice any difference compared to the Aventador?” – “I’d have to lie. It’s the same engine, after all.” – “Almost. But the electric motor delivers an extra boost when changing gears up to 130 km/h.” – “I didn’t notice that. I drove the Aventador Ultimae six months ago.” – “Shift back and then up again. You’ll feel it.” I complied with his instruction. I made a concentrated face as I shifted gears. I still didn’t notice any difference. But I said I did because I didn’t have the nerve to repeat the exercise thirty-five times: “Ah, now I’ve noticed it, quite clearly in fact!” We rolled through some small towns. But we didn’t elicit the usual reactions – twisting necks and thumbs up. This Lamborghini must have seemed like a phantasmagoric vision to people at first, because what their frozen faces suggested was: “I can’t believe what I’m seeing.” Only occasionally were there some odd individuals who paid no attention to the Countach whatsoever. My second-best friend didn’t like that at all, so he asked, “What’s the matter with those people?” His words hadn’t yet died away when I thought of the climate activists who have recently been showering valuable paintings in museums with tomato soup and paint. These climate activists sure are crazy! How can the works of art be to blame? If I were such a militant climate activist, then never in my life would I pour a bucket of paint, let’s say in a strong dogshit brown, on a Van Gogh, but on a . . . A horrifying thought. I dared not utter it aloud.
The scent of autobahn hung in the air. The promising blue and white signs. Soon we will overtake the planes in the sky, already low and setting course for Stuttgart Airport. How I would love to be sitting in one of those planes looking down on the Countach! I would have to split myself in two. But only the frequent flyer Hans-Dietrich Genscher could do that. (Germany’s former Foreign Minister used to joke that he flew so much, if two planes were to collide over the Atlantic, he would likely be sitting in both of them.) Only a few more kilometers. Then the on-ramp. Second gear and full speed ahead. Yes! The Lambo has more grip than Correlophus ciliatus, the New Caledonian crested gecko. That always blows me away! We reached the 200 km/h mark in no time at all. From 200 to 300, I didn’t even have enough time to finish the chorus of The Cat Came Back. I tried it, but only got so far: “But the cat came back, the very next day / The cat came back, they thought he was a goner . . . ” My second-best friend buried his face in his hands. At 319, I explained to him in detail how important it was to me in my function as a tester of super sports cars to dare to do something new – like singing The Cat Came Back while going from 200 to 300 km/h instead of shouting “Unlimited power!” Those sorts of clichés just give me gas. But my co-driver was becoming more and more silent. He clasped his hands as if to hold on to himself and then let them sink into his lap. 333! We overtook a smaller Lufthansa Airbus. I would have loved to have seen the pilots’ faces. My second-best friend was very quiet. And then came the moment when the speedometer hit 355 km/h. Nothing is as it used to be, 15 km/h faster than in the Murciélago. My new personal best. My second-best friend spoke up: “I trust you. But if something goes wrong now, I’ll kill you.” I kept up the pace. “That’s what you told me when I drove your De Tomaso Pantera.” And because the air traffic was inspiring me, I added, “If something goes wrong now, it will look like a plane crash. Then you won’t be in any shape to hurt anyone anymore anyway.” I braked so as not to miss the rest area five kilometers away. “Now it’s my turn,” my second-best friend said. “You’re in for a treat!”
Text: Kurt Molzer
Photos: Matthias Mederer · ramp.pictures
ramp #60 – Too Cool to Handle
As a high-impact multimedia brand that takes an all-encompassing, end-to-end approach to publishing, ramp is an absolutely authentic expression of quality, integrity and excellence. Its trailblazing luxury magazines, recognized with numerous awards over the past 15 years, have been celebrated for their cool and unconventional, not to mention inspiring and pioneering style, since day one.
ramp, the lavish and beautifully designed coffee table magazine, celebrates the enthusiasm for cars and driving in a passionately subjective, personalized fashion.
Immediate, authentic, intense. Fresh perspectives, avant-garde
A magazine about coolness? Among other things. But one thing at a time. First of all, it’s off to the movies. There’s this businessman from Boston who helps relieve a bank of a substantial amount of money. The insurance companies are on to him, but they can’t prove a thing. That, in a nutshell, is the plot of the film classic in which Steve McQueen plays Thomas Crown, who remains a mystery to the viewer throughout the entire film and who the actor plays with incredible composure, exuding absolute coolness at every moment. The German title of the film – Thomas Crown ist nicht zu fassen – hides a wonderful play on words, by the way. It could mean: Thomas Crown is unbelievable. Or it could mean: Thomas Crown cannot be caught. Cannot be seized. Cannot be grasped hold of. He’s just too cool to handle. Much in the same way, coolness also eludes our attempts to grasp it. A fundamental vagueness shrouds this fascinating phenomenon of longing and desire.
We’re fascinated by the irrational, the incomprehensible, the unbelievable. That’s why we also enjoy breaking the rules. We are living contradictions, as neuroscientists and psychologists so dryly explain. Our irrationality, innovation research tells us, is the secret to our creativity. It is our irrationality which insists that it is not we who must adapt to the world, but that it is the world that must adapt to us. This is another reason why any kind of progress depends to a large extent on our irrationality.
“If people never did silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done,” the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once so aptly said. The physicist Richard Feynman opens our eyes to another aspect in this regard: “Physics is like sex,” he explains. “Sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.” And that’s just about how it was with this issue of ramp. Sort of.
With this in mind, enjoy!
Text & Photos: Marko Knab · ramp.pictures