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I’VE DRIVEN a goodly number of Ferraris in my life. Several of the memorable ones were classics by the time I got behind the wheel. The 212 Export Touring Barchetta was one of these (www.wp.me/p2ETap-15R); a 250 GT Berlinetta SWB was another. Among those I drove as brand new cars were the Testarossa, the Enzo, the 612 Scaglietti—and the F40.
Of them all, my favorite is the F40. There are a bunch of reasons for this, some aesthetic, some technical, some related to Ferrari heritage and, last, some purely personal.
Aesthetics: The F40 is drop-dead gorgeously elegant. From any angle. Its front end is low, aggressive and purposeful. Its front three-quarter view shows the hood’s NACA ducts, a smooth transition to the cabin and its rear-flank intakes. A straight side view emphasizes compactness of the car’s 171.6-in overall length on a 96.5-in. wheelbase.
And the F40’s rear wing is utter perfection in its height, shape and integration into the rest of the Pininfarina bodywork.
Technicalities: The F40 has an optimized specification of materials in its chassis and bodywork, tubular steel, carbon fiber, Kevlar and aluminum. Suspension is typical Italian exotic, double A-arms with coil-over shocks and anti-roll bars, front and rear.
Its mid-mounted longitudinal 2936-cc V-8, visible through a transparent rear hatch, features double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder.
Twin IHI turbochargers contribute 16 psi of boost; output is 471 hp at 7100 rpm.
The interior is honest and stark, devoid of leather trimming, carpeting and sound deadening. If a surface looks like carbon fiber, it is—and it’s part of the structure, not merely a piece of trim.
Heritage: The F40 appeared in 1987 and celebrated the 40th anniversary of Ferrari’s post-World War II emergence as a manufacturer of automobiles. What’s more, it would be the last car introduced under Enzo Ferrari’s watch; he died in August, 1988, at the age of 90.
My personal F40 encounters were memorable: I was one of the journalists at Maranello that summer in 1987.
After the usual multilingual speeches of welcome and prologue, the red cover was removed. Off-mike, but still audible, Ferrari himself could be hear saying, “che bella macchina.”
I certainly agreed.
Journalists didn’t get to drive the F40 then. But we were allowed to swarm around the car and, later, follow it over to Ferrari’s Fiorano test track around the corner from the factory.
At Fiorano, the F40 made wonderful noises in several hot laps.
My first F40 drive came about a year later in 1988, also at Fiorano. I was impressed by the car’s combination of sophistication and raw edge. Ferraris of that pre-paddle era were shifted through a massive gate on the center console; some of these were better than others, and I recall the F40’s as being definitive in its actuation of the gearbox’s five speeds.
A full road test of the car came in Road & Track, October 1991, in which I did the driving. Because of the F40’s tremendous performance, a special test site was chosen: Orange County California’s Mile Square Park.
It’s no longer evident in Google Maps, but Mile Square Park originated in 1942 as the Mile Square Naval Outer Landing Field. It contained an equilateral triangle of concrete, 2200 ft. on a side, used for carrier deck practice and qualification of naval aviators. Back in the 1990s, these wide expanses still existed (much to the delight of local radio-control aircraft enthusiasts).
A Park Ranger oversaw our testing and, like us, he was much impressed by the F40’s performance. The car leapt to 60 mph from a standstill in 3.8 seconds and posted quarter-mile results of 11.8 sec. at 124.5 mph. Braking from 60 mph required only 119 ft. It circled a 200-ft.-diameter skidpad at 0.94g.
And, just for fun, I took the Park Ranger for some thrill runs up and down the Mile Square expanse.
Whenever I drive past Mile Square Park, today full of joggers and families, I recall why the F40 is my favorite of all Ferraris. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays