We would like to introduce a new series here on GTspirit called Legendary Cars. We look back at cars from yesteryear that changed the automotive world, set remarkable records or cars that we today simply find legendary. The first car in this series is the legendary Ferrari F40, favourite supercar of our editor-in-chief and for many of us a dream car when they grew up.
In 1984, the Ferrari 288 GTO was claimed to be the fastest production car in the world with a top speed of 188mph. That glory was short lived because in 1986, the Porsche 959 was crowned the king of speed recording an astonishing top speed of 197mph.
During its production run, the Porsche 959 was hailed as the most technologically advanced sports car of its time. It had adjustable suspension, and an intelligent all-wheel drive system that gave power to all four wheels based on how much grip the tires had, and based on how much G-force it was producing. Only 337 were built with a price tag of $ 225,000 US. Despite this enormous price, it cost Porsche over $ 530,000 US to build each one, and each one of them were sold within weeks of its release. Its rear engine, 2.8 liter twin-turbo charged flat-six developed 444hp, which was mounted to a six-speed manual gearbox. It was the best sports car the world had ever seen.
Then 1987 rolled by, and Ferrari released its answer to the 959; the Ferrari F40. Its 2.9 liter IHI twin-turbo charged V8 produced 478hp under 16psi of boost. This immense amount of power was routed to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual gear box. This meant that the reign of the Porsche 959 as the speed king was halted to an end, because the Ferrari F40 penetrated the 200mph mark with a claimed top speed of 201mph.
The problem is that the top speed claim these companies put out is almost never exact, so a self-assuring run wasn’t too far off, especially if you’re going to compete with the likes of Porsche. So in 1987, Quattroruote Magazine based in Italy, conducted a top speed run of the F40, and recorded a record breaking 202.68mph. This put the Italians back into the lead for building the fastest production car in the world.
Enzo Ferrari and his team built the F40 to celebrate the 40th year anniversary of Ferrari as a car company. Pininfarina (the company that designed the F40), designed the supercar with one thing in mind, aerodynamics. With an impressive drag coefficient of 0.34, the Ferrari F40 was extremely stable at high speeds.
With an anorexic weight of only 1,100kg (due to the materials and lack of luxuries put into the car), and a drag coefficient of 0.34, it’s obvious that Enzo’s team saw that the structure and build of the car was an extremely vital role in preserving the racing pedigree of their automobiles, even though the factory hadn’t intended on racing it. The front and rear double wishbone suspension setup Ferrari had used on the F40 was similar to the 288 GTO, but with many upgraded parts. The particularly low ride height of this car made the team at Ferrari put a height adjustable switch on all of their production cars. It certainly wasn’t the most luxurious car nor was it the most advanced, but it sure was the fastest due to the design, build and engine.
Sure, the Ferrari F40 was beaten five years later by the Jaguar XJ220, and Ferrari never retook that podium, but there’s something about the F40 that stayed in people’s hearts for such a long time. It was the impression it left on people. Not just Ferrari enthusiasts, but all car enthusiasts worldwide. When Porsche buff and racecar driver Chris Harris drove the Ferrari F40, it just lit up his face like a five-year-old seeing a batch of chocolate chip cookies coming fresh out of oven. Meanwhile on the same segment, he drove a Porsche 911 GT2 RS and he wasn’t half as charmed as he was in the Ferrari. It’s the soul that the F40 portrays in having that sticks to so many people.
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the Top Gear UK host Richard Hammond, often referred to as the ‘Hamster’. For those who know Richard Hammond know that he is also an avid Porsche Enthusiast. And when he was given the opportunity to drive the Porsche 959 and the Ferrari F40, he also preferred the F40 over the Porsche. And just recently in the first Top Gear UK episode of season 18, Hammond chose the Noble M600 on a road trip through Italy because of how it reminded him of the F40. Can you imagine, 25 years after it was made, people are still using the Ferrari F40 as the yard stick in measuring how much of a sports car, modern day supercars are.
The Ferrari F40 was a supercar when it was built, and with a 0-60mph time of 3.7 seconds, it still is today, giving a lot of other supercars a run for their money. The F40 is a true classic, and it was the last car Ferrari built under Enzo Anselmo Ferrari’s direct supervision.
Thank you Mr. Ferrari for building a legendary car for remembering you by.