Most fans of Italian supercars, if asked to name the most iconic, most memorable four-wheeled beast to emerge from that country in the last few decades, might well say it’s the inimitable Lamborghini Countach.

Designed by the great Marcello Gandini, the Countach LP 500 prototype was unveiled exactly 50 years ago, at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show, and wowed visitors with its dramatic, wedge-shaped bodywork, painted a bright yellow for maximum impact. That day, Lamborghini also had the stunningly beautiful Miura SV on display at its stand, while the V12-engined LP 500 was placed in Carrozzeria Bertone’s exhibition space and easily stole the show from everything else on display.

The LP 500 concept later led to the production-spec Countach, which was one of the most uncompromising supercars of its time. While Ferruccio Lamborghini himself believed that his company should build a comfortable, high-performance grand tourer to succeed the Miura, Lamborghini’s technical director, Paolo Stanzani pushed for an all-out supercar and Ferruccio finally agreed.

Gandini, then design director at Carrozzeria Bertone, did the best work of his lifetime and the design elements used on the Countach (for example, scissor doors and sharp, wedge-shaped styling) set the very template for Lamborghini supercars that followed. In fact, some of the LP 500’s / Countach’s design language is still being used on modern Lamborghinis today, 50 years after the LP 500 was first unveiled to the world.

In an interesting aside, the word ‘Countach’ comes from the Piedmontese dialect in Italy; it’s a word used to express amazement and enthusiasm. And when the production-spec Countach LP 400, based on the LP 500 prototype, was finally launched in 1974, it really did amaze the world with its outrageous styling, 370-horsepower V12 engine and performance that was pretty over the top for the 1970s.

The Countach also starred in many movies in the 1970s and the 1980s, with the opening chase sequence in the 1981 movie, The Cannonball Run, being one of the most unforgettable in the history of Hollywood movie car chases. Go on, hit the play button in the YouTube video below and relive the magic for yourself.