The History and Evolution of the Ferrari F40

1987 Ferrari F40

Few automakers are bold enough to declare that their models are the best in the wold, but that’s exactly what Ferrari did with the F40. When it was announced as the successor to the 288 GTO, speculation went wild about what the end product would be. After much buzz and anticipation, the Ferrari F40 launched and made its mark in the brand’s storied history. The car isn’t just a commemorative edition, it has a number of features that make it truly special. It’s doubtful, for many reasons, that another car like it will ever be produced.

Here’s a look at the history and evolution of Ferrari’s F40.

The big concept

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Back in the early 1980s, Ferrari was looking to make a model that could compete against Porsche’s 959. However, the project ended up becoming a key part of the company’s history. Indeed, the Ferrari F40 would be the last model designed by Enzo Ferrari, and he passed away the very year that he presented it. In short, Ferrari wanted the F40 to be extremely fast and a performance machine. Once plans were finalized for the car, the Ferrari F40 debuted in 1987.

The say that this mid-engine, two door, rear-wheel drive sports car was fast is an understatement. It had great aerodynamics and got a good boost of speed from its shape, which featured a reduced frontal area to smooth out air flow. Its partial undertray also worked to create smoother air flow underneath the car’s radiator, cabin, and front section.

Style and features

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Pininfarina came up with the design for the Ferrari F40 and incorporated panels made of aluminum, Kevlar, and carbon fiber. These materials gave the car’s body strength while also keeping it fairly lightweight. Having a plastic windshield and windows allowed the car to shed off a bit of weight, as did the elimination of a glove box, leather trim, door panels, carpeting, and door handles from the F40’s design. Air conditioning was incorporated into the F40 throughout its production run, but only the first 50 cars that came off the production line had Lexan windows — all other F40s had wind-down Windows.

All F40 models were painted rosso corsa, Ferrari’s trademark red color. However, when people got their hands on one of the cars it was often painted another shade, most notably black and yellow. Interestingly enough, to limit the number of Ferrari vehicles with non-factory paint jobs the F40’s successor, the F50, was made available in a much wider range of colors.

One of the many highlights of the F40’s design was its classic H-gate pattern, and the body of the car was beyond sleek. The Ferrari F40’s looks were definitely something to talk about, but its speed and performance are what really made the F40 special.

Amazing performance

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The F40 was equipped with a five-speed manual transmission and a twin-turbocharged V8 2.9 liter engine that produced 471 horsepower. When put to the test, the model was able to produce impressive numbers. Its 0 to 60 mile per hour time was 3.8 seconds, and the Ferrari F40 could go from 0 to 100 miles per hour in 8 seconds flat. Its quarter-mile time was clocked at 11.5 seconds.

The Ferrari F40 was not developed for racing, but one was put to test in 1989 at the Laguna Seca Raceway. Its initial appearance on the track went fairly well, and in 1994 the F40 was entered into its first international competition, which is when it won the Vallelunga Four Hours.

The public debut

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Before the Ferrari F40 was made available to purchase, a production run of just 400 units was planned. The original retail price of the car in 1987 was $400,000, which is equivalent to $830,000 today. By the end of its production run in 1992, 1,311 Ferrari F40 cars had been produced.

While some car aficionados had their criticisms of the car’s engineering, aesthetics, and features, the majority of the public was wowed by the vehicle’s appearance, specs, and speed. When it became apparent how powerful a machine the Ferrari F40 was, demand for it grew. However, a high cost limited its ownership to the wealthy and those who had cash to spare for the supercar. Though the F40 was not practical at all for everyday use, it was simply gorgeous and awe inspiring. Its exotic flair, being backed by the Ferrari name, and the public’s knowledge that the model was the last one Enzo Ferrari had a hand in creating drove its price tag to a peak.

Today most of the models produced are in the hands of private collectors, and every once in awhile an F40 will make a stunning appearance at a luxury classic car show. Seeing one at auction is a rarity, and when it does come onto the block the bidding price goes insanely high.

An enduring legacy

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There has never been another car quite like the Ferrari F40, which is why it’s legendary in the supercar world. The model was so popular that it became a pop culture icon, and even today you can find die-cast models, toys, and memorabilia that pay homage to it.

One reason that the world won’t see another car similar to the F40 made in modern times is governmental red tape. Safety and environmental regulations these days won’t permit a car of its specifications to be produced. If Ferrari had tried to manufacture the car today instead of in the 80s, the model would have met its end before it even made it off the production floor.

These days the F40 is a highly prized collector’s item, largely due to its rarity and significant place in the history of the Ferrari brand. In 2015, a 1992 Ferrari F40 was auctioned off for a sum of $1.22 million, which was a record-breaking amount at the time. As the years go on and even as the world witnesses the coming and going of models on the supercar scene, there’s no doubt that auto lovers will continue to have an affection for this beautiful gem.


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