Ferrari F40

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Maranello barnstormer that redefined the word ‘supercar’

For many people it’s the supercar that re-lit the boosters on the Ferrari legend. Staggeringly fast and unrealistically expensive (or so we thought at the time), it would also be very rare – only 400 chassis numbers were allocated, twice the number needed for homologation into Group B competition. Not that it was really intended for racing or rallying; it was a road-going indulgence, a celebration event for the marque’s 40th birthday that only the supremely wealthy were invited to enjoy. 

But that didn’t matter. For most, any Ferrari was out of reach so why not revel in the Top Trump-topping specs: 202mph! 478bhp! 0-60 in 4sec! And £163,000 – twice the price of a house! Above all, it looked amazing with its shovel nose and sky-scraping rear spoiler you looked through, not under, via clear plastic slats that showed off the huge intercoolers and complex manifolds of its twin-turbocharged V8. It was a road-legal firecracker.

So what if it followed another vastly expensive product down the homologation special autobahn? We had gazed in awe at the Porsche 959, awed by its technological cleverness, its sophisticated four-wheel-drive system, its MENSA-level electronic IQ. Yes, it was first to that unimaginable 200mph figure. But Stuttgart’s device was like a brilliant and besuited university professor, whereas the F40 was a mad uncle in torn jeans saying ‘To hell with school, let’s go and break some windows!’

Turbocharging system and fancy composite panels apart, the F40 was simple, even crude: two-wheel drive, steel-frame structure, no servo or ABS, a trimless cockpit that was stripped and spare to the point of having wire door pulls. It was Maranello’s riposte to jibes that its road cars had become too comfortable, too soft, too far from the race track where the legend had been born. It had number plates, but on the track it metaphorically tore them off and threw them in the bin. True, some did go racing, but that wasn’t what we wanted to dream about; we all wanted to fantasise about that winding road through the Italian Alps, cheered on by understanding polizie

Anyone lucky enough to drive one said it was the purest experience you could buy, and it turned out that 3000 people were prepared to pay for that experience. When the firm ramped up production to 1400, critics said it was cynical profiteering, but what sensible firm wouldn’t do the same? Naturally the laws of supply and demand meant that immediately an F40 put on value faster than the scary maintenance costs – or the repairs if your wallet exceeded your talent. And that in turn meant cars being salted away to keep the miles down, which to most of us seems a desperate shame, but if you have the millions already it’s probably sound practice. No other Ferrari F40, though, can beat the one recently offered by Verdi in Hayes, Middlesex – zero miles. And zero kilometres as well. One of only a handful of right-hand-drive examples, it must be unique after so many years. In investment terms it’s gold-plated, but what enthusiast could resist flicking on the pumps, turning the key and snicking the lever into first…

Price new: £163,000 Price now: £2,200,000 Rivals: Porsche 959, Lamborghini Countach Heritage: The finest competition pedigree feeds into an engineering and marketing bull’s-eye