Heroes, stories and imagery may have inspired humans to overcome insurmountable obstacles but for me, it was the Lamborghini Countach LP400S. This car has and continues to move me through challenges and helps me to come out stronger on the other end.
Many years ago, I began my first semester at Schneekloth Stats Gymnasium, a one hundred and fifty year old, highly competitive, high school in Copenhagen that catered to individuals pursuing a career in math and science. My grandfather, Terkel Koch, had attended this same school before WW1 and for me to be accepted to the institution was seen by my family as the first step towards making my contribution to society as a civil engineer.
The first quarter was a catastrophic blow to everyone's very real, if unarticulated expectations. My grades dropped several levels and, in front of the whole class, my physics teacher declared that I was the only student he ever had who consistently answered wrong on all questions... including those questions that had a fifty-fifty chance of being correct. At the fall review, both my math and physics teachers strongly encouraged me to drop out and pursue other, more realistic, interests. There was no way around it, I was in the dumpster.
Throughout childhood, I displayed a strong interest in cars and had a closet full of Ferrari, Mustang, Rolls Royce, Volvo, and Mercedes toy cars. So, at Christmas that year, my father gave me a motor magazine reviewing the up-and-coming dream cars. It described the test driving of a mid ship engine golden Matra Murena in Tunisia, a new hot red Corvette covered in the sunset light of a California desert and then, the ultimate machine, a jet black Lamborghini Countach LP400S being tested just north of Copenhagen.
The article told the story about how a couple of youngsters who had worked a whole year on an oil platform in the North Sea and collectively made enough money to rent that super car for a month. They had toured Europe during the summer and were now flat broke, albeit enriched with a lifetime of automotive memories.
In best "Top Gear" fashion" the article went on to describe the experience of taking the "bella macchina" with a 12 cylinder, 375 horse powered engine from zero to a 100 kilometers per hour in 4.5 seconds flat. Reaching the speed limit of Denmark without ever changing gears, this supercar could reach its top speed of 318 kilometers on the German Autobahn. At the time, the Guinness Book World Records listed the Countach as the fastest road going car in the world.
On that dark December day, as I drooled over the glittering pages, the Countach challenged my sense of reality and of what was possible. I became greatly encouraged in my current struggles and inspired by the dream of one day sitting in such a marvel of innovation.
Two and half years later, I aced the physics exam at my school and the only thing my teacher said was: "I'll be damned!"
After being accepted at The Technical University of Denmark and graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, I later graduated from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California to become a car designer and engineer working for BMW Group's advanced concept center in Los Angeles. Once arrived, I finally had a chance to sit in a Countach and to wonder how that little boy from Copenhagen could possibly have ended up here.
Of course, my life's journey from high school to concept center was paved with multiple highs and lows however, the dream of one day experiencing a Lamborghini Countach LP400S propelled me forward.
Although the Countach had a hotly debated design and may be one of the least practical cars ever produced, it is a tribute to how galvanizing having such a dream can be. Today, a replica of a Lamborghini Countach LP400S occupies my desk, reminding me that big impossible dreams can still come true.