This is an interview I did back in Nov 2012 @ the NEC Classic Motor Show in Birmingham, UK
The famed cars of Sant’Agata have a reputation of being unreliable, uncomfortable and impractical. Image issues also surround their owners, who of course are all rebellious rock-stars and A-list celebs who refuse to buy that ‘other’ Italian brand. So what on Earth is a middle-aged railway vehicles engineer doing with a 1974 Urraco and 1988 Countach 25th Anniversary? I spoke with the aforementioned individual, Geoff Armstrong, to debunk some of the myths surrounding the legendary fighting bulls of Italy.
Mr. Armstrong owns his consultancy business and to my disappointment is not someone who needs to routinely dodge the paparrazi, although a quick peek into his garage might seem to indicate otherwise: two vintage Lamborghinis, a 1929 Riley special and a classic motorbike. During the few free hours he has away from his day job he acts as ‘Publisher & Press Officer’ for the Lamborghini Club UK, although I secretly hoped to hear that his leisure time was devoted to yacht parties involving lingerie models. Although Geoff does not have any experience with “commercial writing of any sort,” he reveals his secret to publishing an impressive looking quarterly magazine for the clubs members: “I get a bit of guidance from my daughter, she’s a journalist.” So far, Geoff Armstrong appears to be an ordinary, hard-working family man. Shucks.
It’s part of the challenge to do it, do it well and do it right, it’s part of the pleasure of driving.
Geoff purchased his 1974 Urraco P250S to use as a ‘company car’ from a fellow member of the LCUK. He describes his as a “sweet car, very light, delicate…doesn’t go as well as obviously a Countach which of course is twice as much horsepower, yah, but a sweet car nonetheless.” You can see Geoff is immensely proud of his 2+2, but is gracious enough to share it with others less fortunate. He recently participated in a ride-a-long charity track day for disabled children and recalls fondly, “that was very, very satisfying really, I was indulging myself and enjoying myself and I was also giving pleasure to somebody who normally never be able to do something like that.” His garage may inspire jealously, but it’s hard to dislike a man with such heart.
The Countach is infamous for being difficult to drive, but as Geoff eloquently puts it, “It’s part of the challenge to do it, do it well and do it right, it’s part of the pleasure of driving.” He spoke candidly about what it’s like to wrestle with his 1988 25th Anniversary edition Countach (the final version of the supercar) stating “the clutch is still hugely heavy, and the gear change is heavy, so, it is a very physical car to drive.” Compared to the modern Lambo’s, (he specifically mentions the Murcielago and Aventador) Geoff says they are “just so easy to drive” and “just very, very user friendly.” Is it possible to use something like a Countach as a daily driver? Geoff reckons it’s just not worth it. “You’d want to give it away after a month. It’s not an everyday car at all.”
Maybe it’s true that exotic cars back then were engineered without much thought given to driver comfort, but what about the horror stories regarding reliability? As an engineer, I feel Geoff is well-qualified to put in his two pence about the misconceptions which seem to forever plague exotic cars. “The horror stories you hear of exotics being rebuilt after 10,000 miles, 20,000 miles are not necessarily through wear and tear it’s through corrosion and abuse, and things like that, not a fundamental design fault or quality fault in materials or anything like that.” He does admit that initially he expected “fragile engineering” but after years of ownership says the major components are in his estimation “bombproof.”
Mr. Armstrong is also not without a sense of humor when it comes to his rivals from Maranello. He glibly commented that the LCUK members commonly refer to Ferraris as “designer Fiats” and the Cavallino Rampante (the famous prancing horse logo) is known as the “dancing donkey.”
Geoff Armstrong is a man who most petrol-heads would envy. Although his vintage cars would tend to swell up the chest of most owners, he remains humble and admits he is fortunate to own such beautiful vehicles. Mr. Armstrong may not be a movie star, pop idol or owner of a mega-billionaire dollar conglomerate, but in the eyes of an aspiring Lamborghini-owner, he is a hero and someone to look up to.
About the Author: Daniel Kim is a graduate of Coventry University’s Automotive Journalism Master’s program. He has worked at Ferrari North Europe, Evo magazine, Autocar and Formula Drift.