Cars We Love: 1987-1992 Ferrari F40

Pushing a supercar to its limits unleashes a roller-coaster of driver emotions ranging from exhilaration and euphoria to anxiety and apprehension. But only one car, the Ferrari F40, is so stark and so brutally fast it can quickly lead the driver into what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here fear. The Ferrari F40 reduces speed to its purest essence. When building the supercar, anything that didn’t affect speed was tossed aside. With the F40, Ferrari took it to its most focused and uncompromised extreme—it delivered staggering power and an extremely low weight, but no electronic “nanny” devices to save the driver from himself.

Ferrari F40 – A Car to be the Best in the World

At a private introduction of the F40 for journalists and media from around the world, 89-year old Enzo Ferrari introduced his latest supercar celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Ferrari S.p.A by saying: “A little more than a year ago, I expressed my wish to the engineers. Build a car to be best in the world. And now, the car is here.” Ferrari spokesmen clarified the F40’s objective: “We wanted it to be very fast, sporting in the extreme and spartan. The F40 is for the most enthusiastic of our owners who want nothing but sheer performance.”

And that’s exactly what buyers received. With a body designed by Leonardo Fioravanti and Pietro Camardella of Pininfarina under the guidance of engineer Nicola Materazzi, the F40 was indeed spartan, and true to Ferrari’s objectives, was lightweight in the extreme with everything that didn’t directly contribute to speed eliminated. There was no sound system, interior door handles, glove box, leather trim, carpets, interior door panels, a spare tire, or a jack. The interior door release was a pull wire located in the bare door pockets. The paint was so thin that the weave of the composite body panels was visible and the body panel gaps were inconsistently wide.

In the first fifty F40s, the plastic side windows were fixed – no window raising and lowering mechanisms. Exterior access was via a sliding Lexan panel in each side window. Strangely, a small air conditioning system was standard equipment even though it didn’t help the car go any faster. Considering the close proximity of the engine directly behind the cockpit and the fixed side windows, the occupants would have baked without air conditioning. Which begs the question, “why on earth would anyone pay the suggested retail price in the U.S. of $400,000 for such a car?”

First Road Legal Car to have a Top Speed of over 200 mph

The F40 was solely about performance and, as it came from the factory, was the first road legal car to have a top speed over 200 mph. Although the factory claimed a top speed of 201 mph, U.S. magazines were able to achieve only 197 mph (Car and Driver) and 196 mph (Road & Track). The small difference didn’t matter to the cognoscenti, the F40 was still the fastest thing around thanks to Ferrari’s expertise in making sophisticated engines that snarl, growl and scream as they push past the competition. The F40’s 2.9 liter, fuel-injected, double overhead cam V8 with four valves per cylinder and twin turbochargers produced 471 horsepower at 7000 rpm and had a redline of 7,750 rpm. If you stop and close your eyes for a minute or two, you can probably imagine the shriek of this engine as it approaches its rev limit.

And the engine wasn’t just about goose bump-raising sound. With a curb weight of only 2,425 pounds, the five-speed F40 went from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, 0 to 100 mph in 8.3 seconds, and could zip through the standing quarter mile in 12.1 seconds with a terminal velocity of 122 mph. The F40 suspension was based on the double wishbone system of the 288 GTO and offered plenty of grip riding on Pirelli P700 245/40ZR tires in the front and 335/35ZRs on the rear. Disc brakes with thirteen inch rotors and four-piston calipers provided the stopping power, although in keeping with Ferrari’s lightweight philosophy, no power brakes or ABS were offered. Steering was through a rack and pinion system and again, no power assist available.

The F40 – Enzo Ferrari’s Legacy

Less than a year after the introduction of the F40, Enzo Ferrari passed away. The F40 was the last car personally approved by Enzo, also known as “Il Commendatore.” At the time, the F40 was Ferrari’s fastest, most powerful and most expensive car, a suitable legacy for the man who devoted his life to making powerful and expensive vehicles. Initially, only about 450 F40s were to be made, but the demand was so great that a total of 1,311 F40s were built with 213 sent to America. Even with the additional supply of cars, U.S. dealers were getting up to $700,000 for F40s and Hagerty estimates that some U.S. customers paid three times the $400,000 suggested price.

The demand for the F40 remains unabated. According to Hagerty values, the average price of a 1991 F40 is $1.1+ million, ranging from a high of $1.4 million for an F40 in number one concours condition to $1 million for one in number four fair condition. If you’re in the market for an F40, be aware that cars officially imported into the U.S. had different fuel tanks, stronger front and rear bodywork to meet required crash standards, and a different engine tune than Euro versions. Also, if you find one you like, try it on first and make sure it fits. F40s came with form-fitting race seats and these seats are not “one size fits all.” There were three different seat sizes available when new and a prospective buyer could specify his preferred seat size.

There will never be another F40

The rarity, the outrageous performance and the fact that it was Enzo Ferrari’s last car all keep up the demand and the price for F40s. But another, perhaps more subconscious, reason for high F40 demand is the fact that there’ll never be another. In today’s world of governmental red tape, and ever-stricter emission and safety regulations, no manufacturer will ever be allowed to make another car like the F40. In an increasingly digital world where it seems everything is filled with electronic devices to relieve us of our responsibilities, the F40 is the last analog car that demands the driver devote full attention to the task at hand or suffer the consequences. Take a good look at the F40 – you’ll never see another car like it.

Thanks to Ted Gushue and the other fine folks at Petrolicious, race driver Cooper McNeil will take us for a video ride in the F40. You don’t have to be concerned about not fitting into the seat, but you may find yourself tightly gripping the arms of your chair during the ride. That’s okay – that’s what F40s are for. Turn up the sound and hang on!


Ferrari –

Car and Driver –

Road & Track –

Hagerty –

Quora –

Wikipedia –

VIDEO: Credit to Petrolicious


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