It was once seen to bed the reddest Apple in Ferrari’s eye, a car that would paint the roads of the world in their legendary colour, but even nearly 30 years after the first ones slipped out of the Modena factory in 1987, this car is still an icon, a symbol, something every aspiring soul once pined for. It could only be the Ferrari F40!
Being the last car to be personally approved by Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari before his death in 1988, Ferrari desired a car that would be their perfect birthday present, with a planned release date on the company’s 40th anniversary since it’s founding in 1947. It also had pretensions of becoming the world’s fastest production car, something that could rival their Teutonic neighbours to the north, Porsche, and their 959.
Design was given to Leonardo Fioravanti of Pininfarina, who produced something truly spectacular in terms of styling, with crisp lines and space-age corners complimented by smooth, wind-tunnel curves. The car was indeed a staple of the brash 1980’s of which it quickly became a figurehead. Power came from an enlarged, 2.9L version of the previous Ferrari 288 GTO’s twin IHI turbocharged V8 developing 478hp. The F40 did without a catalytic converter until 1990 when US regulations made them a requirement for emissions control reasons. The flanking exhaust pipes guide exhaust gases from each bank of cylinders while the central pipe guides gases released from the wastegate of the turbochargers. Engines with catalytic converters bear F120D code.
The F40’s light weight of 2,425lb and high power output gave the vehicle tremendous performance potential. 0-60 came in 3.8 seconds, with a top speed of 201mph, making it the first road-legal car to break the 200mph mark. Between 1987 and 1989 the car was the world’s fastest production car, beating the Porsche 959 and the Lamborghini Countach. It was eventually knocked from it’s prestigious perch by the Bugatti EB110 GT.
Launched in 1987, the car was an immediately lauded for its beautiful design, incredible power and superb performance. At the time it was the fastest, most powerful, and most expensive car that Ferrari sold to the public. At a quoted price of $400,000, it wasn’t long before those eccentric and expensive millionaires began paying over the odds to get themselves specialized, custom versions of this mean machine, with some cars selling in excess of $1.6 million!
But behind the legend, the F40 does have a number of faults, chiefly that problem that is inherent to all Supercars, the fact that you’ll never be able to enjoy them! In Lehman’s terms, you’ll probably never reach that provocative 201mph, especially not on the public highway if you know what’s good for you or anyone else sharing the road with you, using the Clutch is an ordeal in itself, it being so heavy it’s like it was set in concrete, turning is also very heavy, and it’s low ride-height means you can’t simply just Mount-the-Curb when you need to do a three-point turn, which you will inevitably have to, and be sure to have all the local Petrol Stations mapped out before you set off because at 8mpg, this car doesn’t just drink fuel, it positively gorges itself on it!
Aside from those problems Supercar’s all suffer from, there’s a reason why the F40 weighs in at a measly 2,425lb, there’s practically nothing in it! Usually, when developing Supercars, the idea is to provide luxury in addition to the almighty amounts of power, usually with Leather Seats, Carbon Fibre trim and all the latest creature comforts such as advanced Stereo systems, Cruise Control, etc. For the F40, Ferrari decided to scrap every single little bit of luxury in favour of light weight, as the car doesn’t come with a Radio, or Cruise Control, or Carbon Fibre trim, it doesn’t even have any Carpets! Combine that with the fact that it’s got panel gaps so large you could drive a bus through them, and you see that the F40 is certainly a beautiful car to look at, but not exactly one you’d want to own!
Nevertheless, by the time production ended in 1992, Ferrari had sold 1,315 F40’s to customers all across the world, and even today it still commands legendary status and a place in many people’s favourite car of all time lists. Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond (back when theywere Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond) have both lauded the car as the ultimate symbol of the 1980’s in automotive circles, even making it to Number 11 on Clarkson’s list of Top 100 cars of the first century of motoring. At one point they even pitted it against its eternal rival, the Porsche 959, with their desired race being brought to an abrupt halt when the F40 failed to start, and the 959 suffered issues with the Turbo!
Either way, today an F40 will happily turn every head that it goes near because it truly is a beautiful machine. Although Ferrari would attempt to rival such a feat 3 years later with the F50, and again with the Enzo Ferrari, the F40 is still that machine that most people associate as the true Ferrari machine, as well as the ultimate Supercar!