The Ferrari F40 celebrates the 30th anniversary of its debut this year, and in that time, it has changed what defines a supercar forever. The last car to be signed off by Enzo Ferrari before his death in 1988, the F40 was built to commemorate Ferrari’s 40th anniversary.
The genesis of the F40’s development can be traced back to the 288 GTO Evoluzione Group B prototype. Due to the demise of Group B rallying, that car never raced. What further perpetuated its development was the launch of the Porsche 959, also a homologation special, but more importantly a technological tour-de-force. On launch, the 959’s 197mph (317kmph) comfortably beat the road-going Ferrari 288GTO’s speed by 10mph (16kmph) and become the fastest production car in the world at the time. The F40 was put into development to steal the Porsche’s thunder and re-established Ferrari as the number one sports car manufacturer in the world.
Photo by Ian Wood
The F40’s 1311-unit production run was a massive departure for Ferrari. Instead of the luxury oriented models of the early 80s, the Ferrari F40 was designed with a completely different mindset. Th engineers at Maranello put the Evoluzione’s spaceframe chassis through the car equivalent of a crash diet and left out the power steering, power brakes, air conditioning, radio, sound-deadening, interior trim and glove-box. The rear windscreen used Plexiglass, window winding mechanisms were deleted and it even used straps instead of regular door handles. The Pinninfarina styled body used an F1-derived combination of carbon-fibre, Kevlar & Nomex.
These changes enabled engineers to drop the car’s weight down to just 1100kg dry. Combined with the mid-engined 2.9-litre, 32-valve twin-turbo V8 that produced 478bhp, the Ferrari F40 became the first road car to break the 200mph (321kmph) barrier. It even enabled the Ferrari F40 to boast an incredible 0-60mph time of just 3.8 seconds, something supercars today, 30-years later can compare to.
The significance of the F40 however cannot just be measured on paper. This machine was an inflexion point in the story of the supercar. Pretty much every supercar since has followed or at least kept in consideration the F40’s template: mid-engined layout, light-weight construction and complex, highly strung engines. This is especially pertinent in the present era of eco-consciousness where the above-mentioned factors are the main drivers of performance. One needs to look no further than the current Ferrari 488 GTB, arguably the best mid-engined supercar on sale now, and the first twin-turbo Ferrari since the F40, to see the spirit of the F40 still present 30 years on.
Photo by Ian Wood