Anybody Own(ed) Both a 550 & Lamborghini Diablo?

Discussion in '456/550/575' started by Shark01, Apr 17, 2019.

  1. F456M

    F456M Formula 3
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    Jan 8, 2010
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    Indeed. And you see probably fifty Californias for every 550..... and that can be said in another way too. You see probably a hundred Ferraris for every 550. Cali, F12, FF, GTC4, 599, 308, 328, 348, 355, 430, 458, 488, Testarossa etc. I just never see a 550 on the road for some reason. I think it is pretty rare! And I like that ALOT. Most delicate GT ever made by Ferrari along with the 275 and 250 Lusso.
    Bluebottle likes this.
  2. 430sixspeed

    430sixspeed Rookie

    Apr 23, 2018
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    The following is just my personal opinion and observations that I have experienced with these cars. Driving experiences and looks are subjective of course so everyone will have their take on each car.

    I think a 550 is a great driving car. Much better than a testarossa or a countach and probably a lot better than a boxer. You really have to drive all of them within a reasonably close space of time to compare. I have driven a testarossa extensively and it is much slower than a 550 in real world driving. The TR controls are also more vague, especially the steering, which gets too light at speed and is not as precise. Brakes are not great either. The 550 is way more precise with great brakes and a very precise shifter. And it's way more comfortable to drive. The TR feels like it has about 320 hp. Just comparing real world driving experiences, the gearing of both cars are similar but in gear accelerations are dramatically different. 60-80 mph in third gear in the TR is about 3.3 seconds. It is 1.8 seconds in a 550, almost twice as fast. 60-100 mph in third gear in the TR is about 6.9 seconds while it is 4.5 seconds in the 550 although I think the 550 runs out of revs at 98-99 mph. But you get the point. The TR looks a lot more exotic and that's cool for a while but when that wears out and you get tired of being hassled by every Subaru WRX driver trying to race you, the 550 becomes a better and calmer experience with fewer people bothering you. Another thing about the US TR is that if you look at its speed in 5th gear, the maximum it will do until 5th gear hits redline is 167 mph. A far cry from the supposed 181 mph the magazines have it. I don't know if the tachometer is off but the speedo is optimistic. When it shows 80mph, the car is actually doing 75-76 mph. At least that's how one low mileage example drove. The car definitely never felt like it can do 180mph. A 550 will do 198 mph and it's a relative breeze to get to 180. I drove a 550 in Germany and tested its speedometer against the km markers. It had only a 1% error after 8kms of testing against them. I saw an indicated 323km/hr on my high speed run on the a92 autobahn heading northeast out of Munich on a summer evening 16 years ago. With a 1% error, I did 198 mph, with 200 mph showing (323km/h).

    I've driven three countachs in my life...a 1987 US car, the 1989 anniversary US car, and a 1985 US carbureted car, one of only 12 US four valve carbureted cars allowed into the US. The fuel injected cars were disappointingly slow. Mind you that US countachs were never made with fuel injection at the factories. They were imported with carburetors and without cats into Jacksonville FL, and converted by Lamborghini USA into fuel injected cars with catalysts to comply with EPA mandates. Thus they were never really tested for power...they were rated at 420hp vs 455hp for euro, catless carb cars. I think that 420 is really optimistic. Lamborghini USA had no facilities to test and fine tune these add on parts. They knew that countachs would sell because of the high demand and couldn't care less how much power they lost. How both injected cars drove was very disappointing. Very different from that 60 Minutes clip of a euro car. I estimate that the US cars lost a lot of midrange torque and probably developed no more that 320-330hp in US trim. The test cars in car magazines must have been "massaged" cars from Lamborghini USA. 60-100 mph in third gear in both injected US cars was about 8.5 seconds. 60-80 mph in third gear was 4.4 seconds, quite a difference between 550's 1.8 second 60-80mph run. Mind you the countach's 3rd gear went to 120 mph but still couldnt account for the lack luster acceleration. I drove a Porsche 928GT 5speed at the time and before I drove the countach, I was imagining how much quicker it should be. After the drive, I knew the Porsche was way faster. The 317 hp of the 928 pushed it from 60-100 mph in third gear in 6.3 seconds and 60-80 mph in 3.3 seconds. The countach of course sounded better and attracted all the attention one can stand but it drove quite harshly and with very poor visibility which one can live with if you have enough power. But when it doesn't, everything starts bothering you. The carbureted car was faster. I estimate it had about 360-370 hp. 60-100mph in third gear was about 7 seconds. All three cars felt faster than they were, but I attribute that to several factors, such as harder seats, a harsher chassis, and sitting lower to the ground, thus increasing perception of speed and acceleration. Unless, you absolutely love the styling of the countach or the TR, the 550 is a better car in every which way.

    I've never driven the boxer but I suspect it's even slower than the TR and countach. But it might drive very retro and that appeals to some and I can understand buying a car for that reason.
    Korr, rubenpadron, Bluebottle and 3 others like this.
  3. ralfabco

    ralfabco F1 World Champ
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    Mar 1, 2002
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    Israel Beiteinu
    #78 ralfabco, Aug 14, 2019 at 8:06 PM
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2019 at 8:24 PM
    Are you sure about that ? The U.S. F.I. car has different cams, heads, and most likely exhaust headers. It is also possible the block is different. I don't remember all the differences with the engine. You will not have a retro euro RoW spec car, if you simply replace the F.I. unit and intake and replace it with the factory Weber unit. I am not even sure it fits. Again - different heads. In addition, I have not heard of Countach buyers asking, if an 'original' 1985-1990 euro RoW car with the Webers, is a fake.

    Quite a bit of the seat of the pants feel depends on the quality of your mechanic. Driving a few cars is a different experience from ownership. I would 'guess' most 'mechanics' could not extract the full potential of the engine with both the Boxer and Countach. On occasion the EPA/DOT Boxer and Countach modifications were performed by shady companies that botched the work, to import the cars into the U.S. At the time Lamborghini had no practical U.S. dealer network, to service the cars. What is the point when you compare 80's vehicles, to what is available today. You're 80's exotic should not street race an entry level modern Mustang GT. I never performed a *(single)* 1st gear burn out, with the Box or the Countach - or any Italian exotic.

    When buying today, if you have the spare dough go ahead and buy the Countach QV, with the downdraft Weber carbs. It is one of the few factory cars available with double overhead cams and carbs. The car makes a lot of power for the time. It is surprisingly fast by today's standards. You will not miss much fun, if you buy a U.S. F.I. car and you want to enjoy the experience with less grunt. If you want neck bending acceleration you can always pick up a nice exotic organ donor bike, for about 15K.

    Buy the QV downdraft Weber car for collectable reasons. The Countach has a wide pecking order from the first generation car without flares to the U.S. market 2 valve 1985 F.I. vehicle. The Box (aka - Brigitte Bardot) also has a big spread between the 365 and the others. If you do not need a blue chip Lamborghini classic go ahead and buy the F.I. Countach and the 15K organ donor bike, to smack the Mustang GT and other modern exotics.

    The 550 also has issues. The power steering is over-boosted. The car is too big, heavy, and tall and comes across as a refined cruiser. The design is gorgeous and I will probably enjoy it even more with a nice off-road exhaust.
  4. 430sixspeed

    430sixspeed Rookie

    Apr 23, 2018
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    They are all great cars and if I had enough money, I would buy all of them. Each one has its own intricacies but unfortunately, choices must be made.

    As far as the countachs, they began to be available in the States in 1982 after being absent except for the gray market from 1975-1981. Two businessmen, one of them an engineer by training, got the rights to import the countach 500S into the US and had to federalize them. From reading a good number of articles throughout the last 15-20 years, my understanding was that they imported euro countach 500S and made changes to them stateside. Since Lamborghini was always a few months away from bankruptcy in the 1980s, I don't think that arrangement changed for the QV cars. So maybe for the QV cars, Lamborghini made different heads or maybe Lamborghini USA just slightly modified them to give a different part number. Cams were different but those could be sourced out. Headers were easy enough to modify and change in Jacksonville. As far as I know, finished 500s were imported from Italy and changed and I'm pretty sure the same thing continued for the QV cars, except perhaps for the 25th anniversary. Chrysler might have injected enough money to make the FI. cars in Italy. If I'm wrong about that arrangent of fuel injection being installed in QV cars Jacksonville, I'd welcome a correction. The point is that I really doubt the Lamborghini factory or Lamborghini USA did extensive testing to make sure they got 420hp for those injected cars. Back then European manufacturers had contempt for the US market. MB for example had their 560SEL make 300 hp in Europe. The US version only made 238hp. That's a big difference for an officially imported car from a manufacturer. The early Porsche 928 also made 288-300 in Europe but 236 in the US. I don't think Lamborghini mastered the art of conversion in 1985 to only lose 35hp. And the reason I drove those three QV countachs back in the mid 1990s was because I wanted to buy one. And all three disappointed. There is no way a US F.I. QV countach made 420 hp and 369lbft of torque. Just like Lamborghini lied in the 1970s about the countach being able to do 185mph with a dismal drag coefficient and 375 hp, I don't doubt that they stretched the truth quite a bit about the fuel injected cars.

    I've driven many cars in my life and many examples of a single model and most of them drove similarly when in decent tune. Unless something is clearly wrong, the difference between engines is rarely more than 15-30 hp. I've driven many TRs and they all behave similarly and I drove many 550s and the same holds true. When something is wrong, you feel it right away. I've never driven a Euro countach with Webers and without Cats. So that would be a measuring stick to compare the US cars. But I will tell you that my 928gt was and felt faster than the countachs...not a hell of a lot faster but noticeably faster. The gearing is different. The 928's gears are 45, 67, 99 and 130 mph for the first four gears. The countach's are 54, 80,120 and 155 respectively. But the power, if in fact it is 420 and 369 lbs ft should make up for that difference in actual torque to the wheels but it doesn't. Same holds true with a TR. I own one from 1990 and have driven many others. The 928gt with 326 hp is faster slightly. The TRs gears are 48, 74, 103, and 130 so they are very close and have the same redline of 6,700 rpm. I think Enzo Ferrari didn't care about the power of the TR in the American market...he just knew that he had to sell them here to make money. I suspect there is a clear difference of probably 50-70 hp between a Euro TR and a US one.

    Of course all of this is academic. If you like the looks and how they drive, that's what's important. And of course back in the day, they were very fast. Imagine being 35-40 years old in 1985 and drive a countach or a TR. it would be like driving a LaFerrari nowadays. Most cars back then had 130-170 hp and the closest rival was the 911 turbo with 286 hp but with a 4 speed until 1989. The corvette had 245hp.

    But the reason I like the 550 so much is because it brings both the retro and modern era together quite well. I don't quite like the double clutch transmissions nowadays. They are great for streetlight take offs or merging into traffic or the race track. But you get bored quite quickly and the man/machine interface is missing somewhat, at least for me. And that's a personal choice. Many won't agree and that's ok. I also don't like the fixed paddles on the Ferraris and lambos now. If an F1 Ferrari has paddles rotating with the wheel, so should the road cars. The Porsche PDK and McLaren are better in that respect. The 550 is fast enough not to get embarrassed too much in the modern era. It can keep up with 560hp M5s and AmG Benzs. For example a 560 hp f10 m5, the previous generation, does 60-80 mph in third gear is 1.7 seconds and 60-100 in about 4.3. That is only slightly faster than a 550. A 997 Porsche turbo does it in 1.6 and 3.8, respectively. I believe a 458 does the 60-100 in 3.8 as well. Of course modern sports cars are faster than a 550 but they don't have the manual. The driver involvement with the clutch and gearbox of a 550 is quite a nice experience and modern cars cannot replicate that. I get tfrustrated of driving the TR after the initial rush wears out but not so in the 550.
    rubenpadron and G. Pepper like this.

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