Road car: Ferrari F40

Ultimate ’80s high-tech supercar

The real proof of a new thoroughbred’s pedigree has been amply demonstrated at Ferrari’s test track, Fiorano. Handled by one of the company’s test drivers, the F40 — manufactured to celebrate 40 glorious years of Ferrari car-making has lapped the cramped track faster than Gilles Villeneuve ever could in the flat-12 1980 Ferrari 312T5.

The fact that the T5 was one of the worst Ferrari Formula One cars in living memory is irrelevant. The point is that Ferrari’s stunning new ‘street legal’ F40 epitomises the technical progress made by the 1980s generation of supercar and makes one wonder if; in 10 years time, the Ferrari ‘F50’ (or whatever) will be quicker than the F187 F1 car.

A total of 450 F40s will be made over the next two-and-a-half years. Built round a conventional steel frame, the F40 makes extensive use of carbon-fibre composite panels joined to the frame by a structural adhesive, leading Ferrari to claim that it is using for the first time in series production, techniques previously applied only to competition cars or experimental prototypes.

In fact, in designing the F40, Ferrari’s team has drawn from the experience gleaned from a number of prototypes including the 408, a four-wheel-drive machine which also incorporated active suspension.

At the heart of the F40 is a light-alloy V8 block identical to that used on the GTO (another recent Maranello classic) but with a revised 82×69.5mm bore/stroke for a total capacity of 2963cc. As a rival to the 4WD Porsche 959, the F40 is a worthy challenger, with a 0-124 mph acceleration figure of 12sec and a top speed of 201.3 mph.

Using twin IHI turbos and Weber/Marelli electronic injection and ignition, similar to the system employed on the current F1 cars, the F40 develops 478bhp at 7000rpm.

Wheels are 17in diameter and 13in wide at the rear, and shod with Pirelli P700 rubber. The car is topped off by a neat full-width aerofoil and the engine is open to view through the slatted Perspex rear screen.

The two prototypes yowled round Fiorano for a few laps, delightful to the ear, but we were not offered rides in them, far less given a stint behind the wheel. Go back to the first paragraph of this article and, on reflection, you will probably understand why! — AH
September 1987