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The Ferrari F40 (Type F120) is a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive sports car built from 1987 to 1992, with the LM and GTE race car versions continuing production until 1994 and 1996 respectively. As the successor to the 288 GTO, it was designed to celebrate Ferrari's 40th anniversary and was the last Ferrari automobile personally approved by Enzo Ferrari. At the time it was Ferrari's fastest, most powerful, and most expensive car for sale.
The car debuted with a planned production total of 400 units and a factory suggested retail price of approximately US$400,000 (5-fold the price of its predecessor, the 288 GTO) in 1987 ($900,000 today). One of those that belonged to the Formula One driver Nigel Mansell was sold for the then record of £1 million in 1990, a record that stood into the 2010s. A total of 1,311 cars were manufactured with 213 units destined for the United States.
As early as 1984, the Maranello factory had begun development of an evolution model of the 288 GTO intended to compete against the Porsche 959 in FIA Group B. However, when the FIA brought an end to the Group B category for the 1986 season, Enzo Ferrari was left with five 288 GTO Evoluzione development cars, and no series to enter them into competition. Enzo's desire to leave a legacy in his final sports car allowed the Evoluzione program to be further developed to produce a car exclusively for road use. In response to the quite simple, but very expensive car with relatively little out of the ordinary being called a "cynical money-making exercise" aimed at speculators, a figure from the Ferrari marketing department was quoted as saying "We wanted it to be very fast, sporting in the extreme and Spartan," "Customers had been saying our cars were becoming too plush and comfortable." "The F40 is for the most enthusiastic of our owners who want nothing but sheer performance. It isn't a laboratory for the future, as the 959 is. It is not Star Wars. And it wasn't created because Porsche built the 959. It would have happened anyway."
The body of the F40 was designed by Leonardo Fioravanti and Pietro Camardella of studio Pininfarina, under the guidance of Nicola Materazzi, the engineer who designed the engine, gearbox and other mechanical parts of the car and had previously designed the bodywork of the 288 GTO Evoluzione, from which the F40 takes many styling cues.
Power, Torque and suspension
Power came from an enlarged, 2,936 cc (2.9 L; 179.2 cu in) version of the 288 GTO's IHI twin turbocharged and intercooled V8 engine generating a peak power output of 478 PS (471 hp; 352 kW) at 7,000 rpm and 577 N·m (426 lb·ft) of torque at 4,000 rpm as stated by the manufacturer. Gearing, torque curves and actual power output differed among the cars. The F40 did without a catalytic converter until 1990, when US regulations made them a requirement for emissions control reasons. The flanking exhaust pipes guide exhaust gases from each bank of cylinders while the central pipe guides gases released from the wastegate of the turbochargers.
The suspension setup was similar to the GTO's double wishbone setup, though many parts were upgraded and settings were changed; the unusually low ground clearance prompted Ferrari to include the ability to raise the vehicle's ground clearance when necessary for later cars.
Body and interior
The body was an entirely new design by Pininfarina featuring panels made of Kevlar, carbon fibre, and aluminium for strength and low weight, and intense aerodynamic testing employed. Weight was further minimised through the use of a polycarbonate plastic windshield and windows. The cars did have moderate air conditioning, but had no sound system, door handles, glove box, leather trim, carpets, or door panels. The first 50 cars produced had sliding Lexan windows, while later cars were fitted with wind down windows.
Cooling was important as the forced induction engine generated a great deal of heat. As a consequence, the car was somewhat like an open-wheel racing car with a body. It had a partial undertray to smooth airflow beneath the radiator, front section, and the cabin, and a second one with diffusers behind the engine, but the engine bay was not sealed. It has a drag coefficient of Cd=0.34.
The car saw competition as early as 1989 when it debuted in the Laguna Seca Raceway round of the IMSA, appearing in the GTO category, with a LM evolution model driven by Jean Alesi, finishing third to the two faster spaceframe four wheel drive Audi 90s and beating a host of other factory backed spaceframe specials that dominated the races, the following race it had to retire after 18 rounds. The next season there, under a host of guest drivers such as Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Jacques Laffite and Hurley Haywood three second places and one third were achieved as best results.
Although the F40 would not return to IMSA for the following season, it would later be a popular choice by privateers to compete in numerous domestic GT series including JGTC. In 1994, the car made its debut in international competitions, with one car campaigned in the BPR Global GT Series by Strandell, winning at the 4 Hours of Vallelunga.
In 1995, the number of F40s climbed to four, developed independently by Pilot-Aldix Racing (F40 LM) and Strandell (F40 GTE, racing under the Ferrari Club Italia banner), winning the 4 Hours of Anderstorp. No longer competitive against the newly entered McLaren F1 GTR, the Ferrari F40 returned for another year in 1996, managing to repeat the previous year's Anderstorp win, and from then on it was no longer seen in GT racing. In total 19 cars were produced.
The F40 Competizione is a non-sponsored, more powerful version of the F40 LM, which was the result of consumer requests following the order of a French importer who wanted to enter one in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. 10 examples were built, all at customer request, the first two being called F40 LM's, and the remaining 8 being F40 Competizione, as Ferrari felt that the LM tag was too restrictive.
The F40 Competizione is rated at 700 PS; 691 hp (515 kW) at 8,100 rpm from its upgraded twin-turbocharged V8 engine. The car can reportedly achieve a top speed of about 367 km/h (228 mph).
The first independent measurements yielded 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 321 km/h (199 mph) onto the French Sport Auto September 1988 cover.
The next opportunity to reach the claimed top speed was a shootout at Nardò Ring organized by Auto, Motor und Sport. Ferrari sent two cars but neither could reach more than 321 km/h (199 mph), beaten by the Porsche 959 S, which attained a top speed of 339 km/h (211 mph), and the Ruf CTR, which attained a top speed of 342 km/h (213 mph). Both were limited production cars with only 29 built, so while the F40 never was the world's fastest sports car as self-appraised by Ferrari, it could still claim the title of the fastest production car with over 500 units built until the arrival of the Lamborghini Diablo (depending on how the term "production car" is defined). Road & Track measured a top speed of 315 km/h (196 mph) for both the European and US spec cars while Car and Driver measured a top speed of 317 km/h (197 mph).
Test results by Car and Driver:
Test results by AMS:
When the F40 was unveiled in 1987 it received mixed reactions. Dennis Simanaitis praised its looks in Road & Track, but others were unimpressed. Observers considered it as a cynical attempt to cash in on speculators money after seeing how much was paid for used 288 GTOs and for the Porsche 959. Speculators were expecting Enzo Ferrari's death and to benefit from raising prices. It was estimated in 1990 that only 10% of the delivered F40s were used for driving.
People could watch speculators selling the cars to each other at public auctions with ever-rising prices up to over 7 times the list price in 1989 (before the bubble burst) which made it even more desirable. Playing a main role in contemporary video games like F40 Pursuit Simulator (Crazy Cars II), Turbo Outrun, The Duel: Test Drive II, Miami Chase, Formula One: Built to Win and Out Run Europa also increased its fame. It appeared on many magazine covers and children's bedroom wall posters.
Autocar tested an F40 in 1988 at the Fiorano test circuit. The writer, Mel Nichols, stated: "I do not yet know how whether the F40 is tractable in traffic, fearsome on the wet, harsh on bumpy roads or too noisy on long journeys. It has no luggage space and getting in and out is awkward. But I do know this: on a smooth road it is a scintillatingly fast car that is docile and charming in its nature; a car that is demanding but not difficult to drive, blessed as it is with massive grip and, even more importantly, superb balance and manners. You can use its performance, the closest any production car maker has yet come to race car levels, and revel in it."
In 1988, Ferrari invited journalists to test the F40 at their home track Fiorano Circuit and bring a Porsche 959 along for comparison. The Automobile Magazine and Car magazine made an overall verdict, for both of them the Porsche 959 was the better car.
Gordon Murray analysed the car in Motor Trend 07/1990: "It's the lack of weight that makes the Ferrari so exciting. There's nothing else magic about the car at all...They're asking two- and three-inch-diameter steel tubes at chassis base datum level to do all the work, and it shows – you can feel the chassis flexing on the circuit and it wobbles all over the place on the road. It really does shake about. And, of course, once you excite the chassis the door panels start rattling and squeaking. Whereas the other cars feel taut and solid, this one's like a big go-kart with a plastic body on it." He severely criticized the old racing technology: "It's not even '60s technology, from a frame point of view, it's '50s twin-tube technology, not even a spaceframe. It's only got local frames to hold the bulkhead to the dash, attach the front suspension, rear suspension and roll bar. And then you have the marketing Kevlar glues in with a quarter inch of rubber."
Car and Driver called the car a "mix of sheer terror and raw excitement". Most fun was accelerating in first gear from 15 mph (24 km/h), "pure terror" was driving on a busy highway. Rear vision was so bad that lane changes required "leaps of faith". It was found unfit for daily road use, "clunky and cantankerous" around town, "so mechanically delinquent that an onboard mechanic is advised", to describe driver discomfort "Bangkok debtors' prison" was used. In a comparison test the Lamborghini Diablo was found better looking by the civilians while the testers opted for the F40. When Car and Driver declared the Porsche 911 Turbo the quickest A-to-B four-wheeled transport on American highways, the "nervous" Ferrari F40 wasn't found competitive because of being a 30-minute car. "After that, you'd like a cool drink and a brief nap."
Evo magazine's 2013 "Ferrari F40 buying guide" started with "For many it’s the greatest road-going Ferrari of all". An expert explained its popularity among the Ferrari cognoscenti: "They will never be allowed to make another F40 in today’s world of red tape and health and safety. That is what makes it so special and so desirable."
Richard Hammond compared the F40 to the Porsche 959 stating the F40 to be "as visceral and edgy an experience as the 959 is refined and sophisticated."
Full official specifications
Ferrari published the following specifications relating to the F40 flagship model.
F40 US Patent For Ornamental Design
The term of a design patent may not be extended by reissue. Ex parte Lawrence, 70 USPQ 326 (Comm’r Pat. 1946).
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