"il cavallino rampante che ruggisce come un leone" / "The Prancing Horse, that Roars like a Lion".
Updated: Oct 1, 2019
On July 21st, 1987 a collective gasp of shock, and amazement rose above the crowd gathered to witness the unveiling of what would be the last automobile that Enzo Ferrari had a hand in creating. According to Ermanno Bonfiglioli, one of the chief designers of the F40, only a handful of Mr Ferrari’s closest associates had actually laid eyes on their newest creation, right up to the moment of the big reveal. No one knew quite what to expect, though many undoubtedly anticipated a beautiful work of art. And they weren't disappointed.
Following a thunderous round of applause from the assembled press all eyes turned to iL Commendatore, seen admiring every line and detail of his automotive “pinnacolo”. The following year would see the passing of the man fondly referred to as “iL Grande Vecchio”, but the lasting legacy of his final engineering masterpiece would shape the automotive world for decades to come.
From the outset the design team tasked with creating the F40 had one goal in mind: make it fast. Where the average automaker requires a minimum of 2 years to bring a newly designed car to market, Ferrari's engineers managed to design, test, and build the F40 in only 13 months. They made it fast. In 1968 Ferrari held the world record for fastest production vehicle when their 365 GTB/4 Daytona reached a top speed of 174 mph. The F40 would break that record, becoming the first production car to pass 200 mph. They made it FASTER.
For the 40th anniversary of his company's founding Enzo Ferrari looked to his engineers to “build a car to be best in the world”. 3 years before the F40 would become a veritable iconoclast of the Ferrari mythos, the title of “most outrageous Ferrari” belonged to the 288 GTO, itself an evolution of the moderately outrageous 308 GTB Berlinetta. Utilizing much of the 288’s technical prowess and weight-saving technology, the F40 would succeed in completely overshadowing it's predecessor. Next up would be it's Bavarian competitor, the Porsche 959.
When Porsche debuted the 959 at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1985 the car was introduced as a 1986 model. Unfortunately, due to lengthy setbacks and delays, the car wouldn't actually begin production until a year later. Initial customer deliveries for the 959 wouldn't begin until early 1987, and by then the F40 was poised to steal all of its thunder.
Upon its completion the F40 came with plenty of thunder all it's own, housed within a monstrous 2.9L twin-turbocharged engine producing a mind-boggling 477 hp. Another spiritual successor of the GTO Evoluzione this engine powerplant boasts 425 lb-ft of torque, capable of propelling the F40 from 0-124 mph in a mere 12 seconds, according to factory data at the time of release. The 4 valves in each cylinder assist in pumping out 478 bhp DIN at a rate of 7000 rpm.
With so much raw power being fed to the 4 wheels it serves to reason that the F40’s brakes would be above average. And indeed they are. Featured prominently behind the traditional 5-spoke Ferrari wheels are ventilated 13.0-in.-diameter disc brakes with 4-piston aluminum calipers. The brakes themselves are a bit of a hybrid design, a blending of cast iron and aluminum. Surrounding the wheels are ultra low profile Pirelli P700 tires, 245/40ZR-17s at the front, and 335/35ZR-17s on the back wheels. In a nod to its Formula1 roots, the wheels are affixed to the stub axles with large aluminum nuts fastened with safety clips.
As with previous Ferrari models the F40’s exterior is a carefully crafted thing of beauty. Every angle deliberate. Every intake vent and scoop completely functional. The front, and rear spoilers designed to provide the maximum amount of downforce, theoretically allowing the car to be driven upside-down on the ceiling of a tunnel, provided you ignore posted speed limits and general on-road safety.
Ultimately, the F40 was intended to be driven on-road, as a fully street legal performance car. Where Porsche’s 959 wouldn't become fully street legal in the U.S. market until 1999 the F40 was immediately available for U.S. buyers flush with cash.
While comparisons to the 959 will continue indefinitely (most auto magazine journalists at the time preferred the 959’s refined sophistication to the F40’s spartan ruggedness) the fact remains that the F40 is far more recognizable than it's German rival. And for those who appreciate the barely contained excesses of ‘80s exotic cars, the F40 is simply the “best in the world”.
Article written by: Silent Rob
Photos captured by: Jason Turner of YSYM Films
Video Walk around by: Doug DeMuro
FERRARI website - https://www.ferrari.com/en-US