1991 Ferrari F40

The F40 needs no introduction. It is the quintessential “ultracar,” developed by Ferrari to blast their competitors out of the limelight.

In 1984 Ferrari had launched their spectacular 288 GTO, a limited production car which was to wrest the title of World’s Fastest Production Car away from Lamborghini, and which had been developed for Group B racing. Michelotto was engaged by Ferrari to develop the car for competition use, with close collaboration by the factory and the Evolution version was extensively tested. However, a change of direction by the FIA saw the abandonment of Group B racing and the GTO was obsolete even before it had turned a wheel in competition. The development work was not wasted, however.

In 1987 Ferrari celebrated forty years as a manufacturer and to mark the event Enzo Ferrari wished to introduce a very special car, one which would confirm his company as producing the absolute ultimate sports car that could be used on the road. That car was the F40, drawing heavily on experience gained from the GTO.

Visually stunning and technically more advanced than anything else the company had previously made, the new car rendered everyone who saw it and drove it awestricken. Extensive use was made of advanced composite materials in the construction, such as Kevlar and carbon fiber, although underneath the chassis was still based on Ferrari’s typical space frame layout. An aerodynamic shovel front was offset by a huge rear wing and this body styling, created by Pininfarina from careful study in their wind tunnel, allowed complete stability at the car’s maximum speed of 202 mph. No production car had previously cracked the 200 mph barrier, so this was truly a landmark car. Concessions to luxury were few, for this was little more than a pared-to-the-minimum racing car for the road. Sound deadening was all but non-existent, seats were Kevlar racing buckets, four point racing harnesses were standard, side and rear screens were of Perspex, door trims were absent, as were carpets, radios or windup windows. There were to be no traction control, servo assisted brakes, power steering, ABS or any other electronic trickery, for this was a pure driver’s car, offering the most involving and stimulating drive anywhere outside a racetrack.

The world’s motoring press fell over themselves to have a chance to drive it and when they did the superlatives flowed freely from their pens. Performance was ferocious, with 0-100 kph (0-62 mph) in 3.9 seconds and that massive top speed, supplied courtesy of the longitudinally placed V8 engine of just under 3 liters and two IHI turbochargers, providing 478bhp and 425lbs.ft of torque. The F40 was an instant classic and customers clamored to pay their deposits in order to secure one of the limited number available. So in demand was the car that huge premiums were paid in order to take early delivery, with prices eventually reaching $1,600,000.

Ten years later the F40 is still held in awe, and in spite of newer cars with even greater performance, it is this car which captures people’s imagination like no other. It is an icon which represents the quest for the ultimate more faithfully than anything else. And ten years on, the F40 is enjoying a successful racing career, proving faster than the latest state-of-the-art McLaren F1s in World Endurance Racing, with plenty of development potential left. There is no doubt that Enzo Ferrari created a very special car to celebrate his firm’s first forty years!

The example pictured here is exceptional, even by F40 standards, for it has covered less than 500km from new, having been part of an important private overseas collection for the whole of its life. It is in perfect, as new, showroom condition.

{analysis} SN 88960 sold for $224,800 at the February 25th Coys auction in London. There is an emerging consensus that the F40 will be the next Ferrari to wear the Daytona supercar mantle that somehow never fit comfortably on the shoulders of the Boxer.

After their initial price spurt, F40s have settled into the $225,000 to $250,000 range for cars with no stories. As a new car, we would have thought this F40 would have brought closer to $250,000, and at $224,800 could be considered a small bargain. So long as new Ferraris continue to escalate in price, F40s should be immune from depreciation. – ED.