GRR

Thirty years on, is the F40 the ultimate Ferrari?

12th June 2017
Chris Knapman

My teenage obsession with collecting model Ferraris was in hindsight quite at odds with the interests of any of my friends. While they were smoking outside the school gates or trying to impress girls (by smoking outside the school gates...) I was busy contemplating whether my Phil Hill-signed 156 Sharknose should sit in front of the 1/18 scale F40 and thus gain pride of place in a collection numbering some 200 models.

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I’m not sure it ever did, for to my eyes nothing surpassed the drama or visual perfection of the world’s first 200mph production car. And thus, as Ferrari this year celebrates its 70th anniversary I will also be toasting the car built to mark its 40th, and that has gone on to encapsulate all that is great about the Italian marque. The greatest Ferrari ever? It’s certainly in contention. 

What stands out about the F40, more even than the theatre of the Pininfarina styling or the shock on people’s faces when you cruise by, is just how ferociously fast this car still feels, even by modern standards – a point I was fortunate enough to appreciate when I realised a long-held ambition and took to the wheel.

What you have to remember is that the F40’s 478bhp was extracted from a relatively small 2.9-litre V8 engine. These days that’s not an insurmountable technical challenge, but back in 1987 it required two big turbochargers and a good few seconds between pressing the throttle and anything meaningful happening.

To those used to the seamless power delivery of today’s supercars, the turbo lag is quite extraordinary, as is the force with which the F40 accelerates when it does come on boost, getting better and better as it nears its peak power output at 7000rpm.

Performance is of course helped by a kerb weight of less than 1,400kg. This itself was evidence of Ferrari’s no-compromise approach, which resulted in, among many other details, plastic windows and even paint that was thinner than normal; look closely and you really can see the bodywork’s carbon-Kevlar weave through it.

I can’t report exactly how an F40 handles because I simply wasn’t brave enough or rude enough to enter a corner at meaningful speed in somebody else’s pride and joy. What I will say is that 70 years since the 125 S wore the Ferrari badge for the first time, there are very few cars that better encapsulate the passion held by so many for this great marque.

Whether you have been lucky enough to drive one, or simply have a model on the bookcase in your bedroom, rest assured the F40 is every bit the real deal.

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What’s it like to own an F40? 
It’s all very well having journalists wax lyrical about their dream car, but does F40 custodianship actually live up to expectations? One man who knows is Mark Tiley, who owned an F40 for six years, eventually parting ways in 2007.

As with many ex-F40 owners you speak to, Tiley’s biggest regret is selling it, not least because his time with the car coincided with a period when values were fairly stagnant (for that blame the fact Ferrari built more than three times the original allocation of 400 cars). “The car went up by a modest £25,000 in the six years I had it,” winces Tiley, having since seen prices race to £1 million.

An F40 is not, of course, a cheap car to run, but by supercar standards the engine and gearbox are pretty robust, and servicing reasonably straightforward. The biggest expense Tiley had was replacing the pair of rubber fuel cells, which needs doing every 10 years at a cost of about £12,000 back then. “I remember that one,” he laughs. “But the thing to remember with F40s is that whatever the cost of ownership might be, it is far outweighed by the sense of occasion and fun factor when driving it.”

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