The buzz at the auction was that this car was unusual and desirable in being completely ready to run with the F1 Clienti. The buyer bought it for that purpose

Ferrari entered 1990 with a dream driver lineup. Nigel Mansell was in his second season with the Scuderia and Alain Prost was making his debut with the Maranello team. Ferrari would have its best season in years. Steve Nichols joined Ferrari from McLaren in 1989 and thus inherited a John Barnard-designed car for the second time in his career.

His 1987 McLaren MP4/3 had been a logical development of Barnard's last car for that team, and Nichols decided not to make any drastic changes to the Ferrari 640 concept. A larger and more robust fuel tank was utilized, the bodywork was revised, and huge advances were made with both the sequential gear change and engine development. Ferrari's V12 engine was acknowledged to be one of the most powerful powerplants by the middle of the season. The Ferrari 641 was a superb-
handling racing car, which Alain Prost described as being "the best car on the grid."

In 1990, chassis 121 had two 3rd place finishes-one being in the season's final round in Australia-two 2nd place finishes, and a dominant victory in the hands of Prost in 1990. This car has since spent some time in both the United States and in Japan in important private collections. It was recently returned to the factory's expert F1 Clienti department in 2008 for a no-expense-spared overhaul at a cost of nearly $150,000. The work included fitment of a brand new injection system, a new set of gears for the sequential box, overhaul of the braking system, and dyno testing of the engine.

No fewer than 360 hours were spent in overhauling this important Ferrari racing car, and it was subsequently shaken down at Fiorano in April 2008 by the Ferrari test drivers, where it performed impeccably. Ferrari F1 Clienti would welcome this car at any of its events during the 2009 season and even at the Monaco Historic Grand Prix in 2010.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1990 Ferrari 641/2 F1
Years Produced:1990
Number Produced:7 (1 destroyed, 6 exist)
Original List Price:n/a
Tune Up Cost:$10,000
Chassis Number Location:Tag on tub in cockpit
Engine Number Location:Unknown
Club Info:Ferrari Owners Club 19051 Goldenwest St., Suite 106-328 Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Alternatives:1987 March Kraco Indy, 1993 Williams-Renault FW15C, 1987 Ferrari F1/87
Investment Grade:B

This 1990 Ferrari 641/2 F1 sold for $484,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM’s Leggenda e Passione auction in Maranello, Italy, on May 17, 2009.

Grand Prix cars have always been the ultimate form of motorsport-the most technically advanced, least constrained, and purest examples of what state-of-the-art engineering and stupid quantities of money can create in a racing car. The unfortunate adjunct is that they are also-from the standpoint of supporting and running them-the most difficult, demanding, unforgiving, and high-maintenance mistresses in the sport.

Don’t get me wrong; they are almost without exception fabulous cars to drive, but from the 1930s to the present, they have always been the province of people who could write large checks. Anyone seriously considering owning one needs to understand this going in. If not, he’s guaranteed to figure it out later.

F1 cars of the 1950s and ’60s are simple

Like most mechanical systems, the complexity and attendant difficulties in Grand Prix cars have followed a roughly parabolic trajectory from the early 1950s to the present. The cars of the 1950s and 1960s are relatively simple to own and run; a mechanically competent owner can keep and run one safely and competitively with a minimum of assistance.

By the time we get to cars of the 1970s, keeping a GP car running is more the job of a competent race shop than an owner-driver, mostly because the chassis components were built as lightly as possible and require constant attention. The Cosworth DFV engines and Hewland transaxles that were ubiquitous during that time are remarkably dependable, and the performance levels, though very fast, are still within the range of excellent but amateur drivers.

In the late 1970s, everything changed, first with the advent of ground effects aerodynamics and then with the 1.5-liter turbocharged era. The cars became too powerful and demanding for any but the best professionals to drive competitively, and the complexity of the systems skyrocketed. Electronic engine management arrived in the 1980s, along with pneumatic valves and one- or two-race optimized components, with the result that only the original teams had the computer programs, knowledge, and capabilities to run the cars effectively. After 1979, the idea of any amateur or privateer participation in Grand Prix racing, either at the time or later on in historic racing, was simply lost.

Contemporary historic racing reflects this fact. Though there are places and events where you can go and play with your 1980-and-newer Grand Prix car, there are no serious organized racing series for cars newer than 1979. Thus, buyers of these cars fall into one of two categories: people who buy them more or less as relics to keep on static display in collections; and people who buy them for the thrill factor of being able to occasionally drive one.

There is almost no transference between these two approaches, the problem being that pneumatic valves need constant gas pressure to keep them in place (there are no valve springs as such). Operable cars are kept with a nitrogen tank constantly hooked up, and if you ever let things lapse, the valves fall open and tangle. Then the only remedy is to rebuild the engine. The semi-automatic paddle-shift transaxles are similarly vulnerable to being ignored. Once a car has been allowed to sit untended for any substantial period, you pretty much have to start over before you can hope to run it.

For buyers in the second category, the ones who actually want to experience the thrill of driving a contemporary GP car, there is an excellent alternative (for Ferraris, anyway). It’s called the F1 Clienti Department at Ferrari, but before embarking on this route, it is very important to acquaint yourself with the most basic rule of racing, to wit: The least expensive thing you will ever do in racing is purchase the car.

I’m not kidding. Assuming you don’t do something really stupid, you can always resell a car like this for something like its purchase price; it’s a place to park some money rather than being a cash drain. Having it kept and properly maintained, though, plus participating in the various events organized so you can play with it, involve costs that make running the horse racing circuit look like a bargain.

You’re only allowed to show up and drive

It’s instructive to note that the catalog states that about $150,000-roughly a third of the hammer price for the car-had just been spent getting the car up to speed as an F1 Clienti runner (and they didn’t rebuild the engine). I’m told that if you want to run your Ferrari with F1 Clienti, they will insist that they store it, maintain it, transport it, and support it at events; the owner is only allowed to show up, get in, and drive.

I completely understand this. F1 Clienti is the responsible party, and the consequences of anything going wrong are serious or worse, so control of everything is necessary. But this both makes it very expensive and limits the joy of ownership. The car is never going to be in your garage for your friends to drool over; you’ll have to impress them with photos. And you can only go play when F1 Clienti organizes something.

The buzz at the auction was that this 1990 Ferrari 641/2 F1 was unusual and desirable in being completely ready to run with the F1 Clienti. The buyer clearly bought it for that purpose and paid a substantial premium over what non-runners have sold for just to do so. I know several SCMers who have owned and played with Ferraris like this, and the experience is apparently spectacular, to the point of mental overload.

A Ferrari 641/2 F1 is brutally expensive for very little track time, though, and not appropriate for anyone who has to be concerned about shelling out tens of thousands of dollars for an occasional 20 minutes of scaring himself silly. Assuming a qualified buyer knew exactly what he was buying into when he raised the paddle, the car was fairly bought.

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