Story and photos by Guy Anderson
If you read the story about the Desert Miura you would remember the black Countach S that was sitting in a building located in Mussafa, U.A.E. The car was owned by a Sheikh from Abu Dhabi and I was asked to make an offer on it. As I reported, I did make an offer of 30,000.00 USD to George after I heard the engine start and run. I did not know if the offer was considered because that Countach never came up again in conversation so it quickly became a non-issue.
At about the same time, on one of many trips to the continent of Europe, I was offered a wonderful 1982 De Tomaso Longchamp GTS to purchase for importation into the USA. This car was a gorgeous light blue metallic highlighted by a Champagne leather interior with burl wood accents. This Longchamp GTS featured an optional 350 HP Australian-built 351 ci engine mated to a C4/5 automatic transmission. The De Tomaso was test driven by us at high speed on Germany’s Autobahn and that was all it took to close this sale.
The Longchamp was unknown to most of the general public, so we were relying on the Pantera buyers to become interested in owning a Longchamp. The De Tomaso Longchamp GTS was a super luxurious 4-seat 2-door GT coupe featuring the De Tomaso/Maserati gathered leather interior. This beauty clicked all the boxes; it was fast, it was luxurious, and it was super comfortable and stylish.
The Longchamp GTS with its wide stance, along with the throaty Anza exhaust system, would draw in the onlookers for a closer gander. The Longchamp GTS was sitting on 10-inch wide rear Campagnolos with 8-inch Campagnolos in the front. The windows were electric, the transmission was automatic, and the A/C was super cold in the summer heat. The 351 ci 350 HP would propel this wide babe to over 100 MPH in nothing flat. The windows supplied a panoramic 360 degree view with only minor obstructions. This car was an absolute joy to drive.
Importation into the U.S. required the 350HP Ford Australian-built engine to be brought into EPA compliance. After the importation of the De Tomaso Longchamp GTS into Jacksonville, Florida from Antwerp, Belgium the car was transported to Pennsylvania for the mandatory conversion to comply with Federal EPA and DOT regulations. This would prove to be a mistake but we didn’t know that at the time.
While the De Tomaso Longchamp GTS was being worked on, Barry, a friend of mine wanted to help drive her back. It was obvious Barry wanted this car. I had already sold him a red 1980 De Tomaso Pantera GT5 to replace his aging custom-built 1972 Pantera Pre-L. I began making arrangements for us to pick up the car at the conversion shop. Prior to our departure, the shop called to inform me the car failed its EPA test two times. Each time the test fee was 1000 dollars that had to be absorbed. The engine was too powerful and emitting too many pollutants, even through the catalytic converters. The conversion shop suggested they install a 302 U.S. spec engine to be able to pass the stringent EPA emissions test.
The only viable option left was to reduce the powerhouse 351 to a more docile 302 ci in order to get this car U.S. certified. The OK was given to the conversion shop and the car passed with flying colors.
The young cargo worker told us that the workers had been racing the Lamborghini down the runway all night long. “They started at midnight and ran that car until 4:00 or 5:00 AM to see if they could get it past 200 mph.”
A Countach suddenly appears
In the meantime, I was sitting at home in Marietta, Georgia when the phone rang. The caller was from the cargo area of Alia Airlines at Kennedy International airport in New York. The voice was mid-eastern and asked for me by name. I responded and that person identified himself as an agent of the airlines. The gentleman informed me that a Lamborghini Countach S was sitting in the cargo area with me listed as the consignee.
I was baffled but asked what was needed to take delivery. The representative of the airlines said the charges were all taken care of by a member of the royal family.
How is this possible that a Lamborghini Countach is sitting in N.Y. at Kennedy International airport with nothing owed and nothing to do but go and get it? “There must be some kind of a mistake,” I thought to myself.
I had to call George in Abu Dhabi who verified the Sheikh sent the car for me to buy. If I no longer wanted the car, I could sell it and send the $30,000 back to George to give to the owner.
This was an amazing development; I called Barry and explained that when we pick up the De Tomaso, we need to drive to Kennedy Airport to pick up a Countach and then blast both exotics back to Georgia. Barry was all for it because he is an adventurer. This guy loved GT cars and GT driving and knew me well. I like to travel, but I really like to travel in Italian GT cars built to run at insane speeds. This was really cool, not one car but two, and the only thing better would be a pair of babes to take along for this ride.
So it began: we took a flight to Pennsylvania then hopped a cab to the conversion shop to pick up the 1982 De Tomaso Longchamp GTS. The charges were a bit excessive for the conversion but it needed to be done or the Feds would demand the car be exported back out of the U.S.A. We looked in the engine bay at the Ford 302 smog motor then paid for the conversion. Barry and I put our luggage into the Longchamp’s huge trunk to get underway to New York for the Lamborghini Countach S.
Barry started out driving the Longchamp GTS in the slow moving city traffic and commented how the new engine was running really cool. We were in bumper to bumper traffic when I asked, “How did the engine feel?” Barry responded OK. So, things were looking great until Barry entered the freeway and had some room to let her run. Barry hit the gas and nothing much happened. He tried it again and the car did very little again. Barry was concerned and then he looked over at me and said “Something is wrong.”
He pulled the De Tomaso over onto the shoulder so I could give it a try. I started back onto the Freeway and stomped the gas pedal to the floor. I was not sure what the problem was, but it was low on power. I then pulled over to check a few things under the hood. I removed the air cleaner and noticed immediately that this engine was running on a 2 barrel carburetor. I explained to Barry that this car might be producing a whopping 150 HP. The De Tomaso Longchamp GTS had been reduced from a blistering 350 Horse powerhouse Australian built Ford 351 ci to a wimpy 150 HP U.S. spec Ford 302.
The engine swap just killed the spirit of the De Tomaso Longchamp GTS. This car was no longer a wonderful GT cruiser; it was reduced to a p.o.s. There was nothing to do but call the shop and start screaming.
The conversion shop owner immediately understood and suggested a partial refund. He also suggested the return of the HiPo engine to Georgia where we could have it reinstalled. I suggested he put the original engine back in the car while we wait, but the problem was the new exhaust, the electrical, and the cooling system were re-manufactured for this conversion. The conversion shop owner informed us he could not swap the engine because of current EPA/DOT law.
Lead Sled to NYC
So, onto New York we go in the lead sled. My buddy Barry was familiar with N.Y. drivers and the streets with pot holes so big you can take out your suspension with one hit. We arrived at our destination and the general manager was on the phone. I told to him we were here to pick up the Lamborghini, and then he motioned us back to the cargo warehouse. There I found a young worker who was on a fork lift moving cargo so I informed him we were there to pick up the Lamborghini.
“Oh really!” he said. ”Oh man – everybody got to drive it but me.”
This was not cool, but I knew I had to keep my mouth shut. The young cargo worker told us that the workers had been racing the Lamborghini down the runway all night long. “They started at midnight and ran that car until 4:00 or 5:00 AM to see if they could get it past 200 mph,” he said. By this time I’m boiling over. The cargo worker went on to describe how his coworkers spun the tires, slammed the gears, and slid the Countach sideways down the runways until finally the car started smoking real bad.
At this point Barry turned around and is laughing while I’m furious. I didn’t reveal my emotions to the warehouse worker because I was interested in finding out all the damage that was done to the Countach. The keys were in the car and I started it up, it appeared to run OK; there was some oil smoke but nothing to concerning.
We went back to the office to finalize the paperwork and mentioned to the general manager that I heard the Lamborghini was raced down the airport runways all night long. The manager told us that was forbidden and could never happen. He called in a few cargo employees and they knew nothing of the car being driven. The kid who informed us about the perpetrators punishing the gorgeous Countach was nowhere to be found.
We started up the black Countach S and the De Tomaso Longchamp to fuel them up since the Countach was sitting dead on empty. We found a gas station just a few blocks from the cargo gate. The Countach was starting to smoke much more but we were now committed to make this journey until the Lamborghini or the De Tomaso would go no more.
Next week Anderson concludes his Lamborghini adventures with a hilarious drive home to Atlanta.