It was the ultimate swansong. Conceived and named to celebrate Ferrari’s forty glorious years of production, it was the last Ferrari built under Enzo Ferrari’s direct supervision. Enzo, of course, determined that it would be the world’s fastest production car, and it was. Completely street-legal, you could drive it to the racetrack, compete and (probably) win. It was the definitive 1980s sports car.
Beauty was not the point. Nor was luxury. Inside, it was sparse, furnished for survival during the pursuit of the hitherto unbroken 200 mph (322 km/h) barrier. Nothing was used unless it contributed to that goal. There was no power steering or brakes, nor even a carpet or radio; and all the windows except the actual windshield were plexiglass.
The F40 shared the longitudinal, mid-mounted, twin turbocharged V8 configuration with the Formula One Ferrari 288 GTO on which it was based, and was built on a similar tubular steel frame chassis. Combined with carbon fibre, the frame achieved a rigidity that matched race car standards, and Kevlar and other advanced composite panels contributed greatly to overall weight reduction.
The challenge for Pininfarina was not just to make the F40 fly (he did that by modifying the 228 GTO’s V8 engine to generate a spectacular 478 bhp) but to make the F40’s speed and behaviour predictable and stable for road use. He cloaked it with wings, vents, air scoops and spoilers, and reduced the frontal area to smooth the airflow and gain maximum downforce. He made the F40 a master-class in aerodynamics, showing how the correct checks and balances could harness what was effectively contemporary Formula One technology and tame it.
The F40 was a brilliantly futuristic design, but no dream. It was an uncompromising race car you could take home — providing only that you could afford the stratospheric ticket price
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1987 (until 1991)
2,936 cc DOHC V8 7Win Turbo
Top speed of 201 mph (324 km/h) (NB from 1987-89, this was the world speed record for a street-legal production car); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.8 secs (road) or 3.2 secs (track)
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The F40’s rated top speed was publicly confirmed in 1992 when the owner of a Japanese dealership filmed himself – and the speedometer – on a freeway. He sold over 10,000 copies of the videotape before being arrested after selling one to an undercover policeman. In 2006 at Bonneville Speed Week, Amir Rosenbaum of Spectre Performance modified his F40 air intake and achieved 226 mph (364 km/h).