How long does it take to celebrate a 50th Anniversary? In the case of Ferrari, the run-up to the big day in 1997 took two years, which is the time it took to produce and sell the 349 cars in the limited F50 series, which was created to celebrate the company’s first half century of making road cars (though of course Ferrari had been producing racing cars since 1928).
The two-seater F50 was a mid-engined masterpiece designed by Pininfarina, which was a worthy successor to the legendary F40 — the last car from Maranello to bear Enzo Ferrari’s personal stamp. The F50 was roadster with removable hardtop that incorporated many of the advanced technological features pioneered by Ferrari on the world’s Formula 1 racetracks, including the 60-valve 4.7 litre race-derived V12 engine.
This was located behind the passenger compartment and drove the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. The body was a carbon-fibre monocoque with a wedge-shaped front, open cockpit with twin roll bars and an aggressively uptilted back end. The F50’s low ground clearance and slippery shape created an aerodynamic package that delivered the tenacious roadholding required to control this supercar’s unbridled power. The magnesium-alloy wheels had titanium hubs and the suspension was electronically controlled.
This was effectively a street-legal Grand Prix racer with covered wheels that represented an almost perfect marriage of racing car and ultimate grand tourer. Indeed, Ferrari did develop a prototype fixed-head F50 GT for sports car racing, complete with revised nose and large rear wing — testing it with considerable success — before abandoning the project to concentrate on GP racing. Although it was a tad slower that the competing McLaren F1 (at twice the price), the F50 gave its fortunate pilots the nearest thing to Formula 1 experience money could buy.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1995 (until 1997)
4,698 CC V12
Top speed of 202 mph (325 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.9 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Why were precisely 349 F50s made and sold? It was said to reflect Ferrari’s philosophy that they would always maintain exclusivity by ‘producing one car fewer than the number we think we can sell’, so clearly there was one disappointed punter who had to invest his $500,000 in alternative wheels.