Ferrari F40 was the last Ferrari to be produced under the administration of Enzo Ferrari and he oversaw the development process of the magnificent machine.
It was a pure track-oriented car and provided less to nothing creature comforts, though it was road legal. F40 wasn’t ideal for long drives or everyday use. It was best suitable for track day events and driving fast around the tricky race tracks in Europe.
Ferrari F40 was Enzo Ferrari’s idea of producing a road car with Formula one technology at an affordable price. When Ferrari F40 was unveiled in 1987, the price tag was 193,000 Euros, making it one of the most expensive cars for sale at the time.
The twin turbocharged flat six 2.8L engine produced an output of 444hp (331KW) and 500Nm of torque. The transmission was a 6-speed manual. The weight of the car was in the range of 1558 to 1590 kg.
The Porsche 959 was basically a computer on wheels with many electronic driver-assisted technologies at disposal. In comparison, the Ferrari F40 was basically a lightweight, pure driver-focused, traditional sports car.
The 2.9-liter V8 was mated to a twin turbocharger system. The traditional old, yet improved, Ferrari five-speed manual transmission was chosen to deliver the power to the rear wheels of the car.
The power output of the car was measured at 471 horsepower at 7000rpm and the maximum torque was 426 lb-ft at 4000rpm.
Suspension setup consisted of double wishbones, coil springs, dampers, and an anti-roll bar in the rear and front. Ventilated 330mm disc brakes were provided for all wheels.
Wheels were specially built hand forged alloy ones. 8×17 in the front and 13×17 in the rear. These alloys were then wrapped in 245/40 ZR17 tires in the front and 335/35 ZR17 tires in the rear.
The curb weight of the car was just 1100kg. Despite the car being large and wider, such a lightweight construction was achieved with the use of extensive composite materials.
Ferrari F40 is the first production car to feature a complete carbon fiber body, and these were the times that Formula One was beginning to use carbon fiber for their cars.
The top speed was 201mph, making the F40 the fastest production car at the time.
The inception of Ferrari F50
According to the Ferrari historians, Piero Ferrari (Lardi), Ferrari’s vice president routinely drove his most beloved Ferrari F40 to work and it was him who laid the foundation for the project to develop its replacement, Ferrari F50.
Piero Ferrari oversaw the entire project and made sure to include no turbochargers, no brake servo assistance, no airbags, no power steering, or not even cupholders to keep the weight as at minimum as possible. This was the same recipe that Ferrari used when developing the Ferrari F40.
When the Ferrari F50 was unveiled in March 1995, with a promise of formula technology for the road, with a top speed of over 200mph and acceleration from 0-60mh in just 3.7 seconds, it entered the record books as one of the fastest production cars of its time. Ferrari F50 is also a hypercar by every means, and especially when considering its 202mph top speed and 0-60mph acceleration in just 3.7 seconds.
Despite its performance and elegance, Ferrari F50 had to live under the shadow of its arch nemesis, the McLaren F1.
The legendary McLaren F1 is a supercar manufactured by the British McLaren Cars. The Designer of this car is Gordon Murray and Peter Stevens. The McLaren F1 was powered with a V12 engine provided by the BMW and produced 618hp (461KW) and 650 Nm of torque.
The McLaren F1 was one of the first production cars to use carbon fiber monocoque chassis. Aluminum and magnesium were used for attachment points for the suspension system. It also features a central driving position and two-seat by the sides for passengers.
The famous butterfly doors were inspired by the Toyota Sera.
A naturally aspirated engine was chosen over turbochargers and superchargers to provide better reliability and increased driver feedback. Murray wanted an engine with a 550hp output and a weight of 250Kg.
Gordon Murray approached Honda for a power plant for the car, but Honda refused. Isuzu, a Japanese company trying to enter into the Formula One showed interest to provide their 3.5L V12 engine, but designers refused to want an engine with a proven design, reliability, and a racing pedigree.
This is when Murray approached BMW, and the head engineer of the BMW M division, Paul Rosche designed and built a 6.1L V12 engine with an output of 618hp. The engine produced more power and weighed 266 Kg which is slightly heavier than Murray wanted. This engine uses a dry sump oil lubrication system, so the carbon fiber body panels and monocoque required a thermal insulation in the engine compartment and thus lined with gold foil. It is said that roughly a 16g of gold is used in every car.
The road-going version of the engine produces a maximum power output of 618hp (461KW) and 650NM of torque at 5600 rpm. The Redline rev limiter of the engine is 7500 rpm.
Despite being a proper racing car, it came with many comfort features such as electric defrost, remote central locking etc.
Only 106 were ever produced.
Even as of 2020, the McLaren F1 is one of the fastest production cars ever made. It can do 0 – 60 mph in 3.2s and achieves 0-200mph in less than 30s.
Automotive enthusiasts were flocking around McLaren F1, gave it a hug publicity, and praised it widely. Ferrari F50 was met with limited praise and limited coverage when compared to the coverage McLaren F1 received.
The main reason for this was, Ferrari’s resistance to keep pace with Germans, British or Japanese automotive manufacturers in terms of technological innovations and electronic driver assisted features. Nowadays, Ferrari is considered as the leader of the racing in terms of technology and innovation, but back in the 1980s, it was a more traditional company with the vision to provide the customer a pure drivers car, not a car with electronic wizardry.
Mechanical Specifications of Ferrari F50
When F50 was developed, Ferrari was still following the age-old recipe favored by Enzo Ferrari himself. Keep it lightweight as possible to provide better power to weight ratio and provide the best weight balanced chassis and sports tuned suspension to improve the handling.
In the early 1990s, when Scuderia Ferrari was struggling to win Formula One races and hadn’t won the Formula One championship in more than a decade, the management decided that they had enough and hired the engineering genius, John Barnard. Then Alain Prost joined the team after leaving McLaren after his famous feud with Ayrton Senna.
Alain Prost is considered as one of the most accomplished and most talented Formula One drivers of all time. He went on to win five Grand Prix races in 1990 piloting a Ferrari 641 single seater formula one car and lost the Championship title after Ayrton Senna crashed his McLaren Formula one car against his in the Suzuka final race. This effective took both of them out of the race.
The driving genius of Alain Prost and engineering genius of John Barnard changed the company’s direction as a traditional sports car manufacturer to a more engineering focused modern day technology leader.
Piero Ferrari had envisioned a supercar with a Grand Prix Formula One engine, and the development of the car began in 1995 using the already proven V12 engine from Ferrari 641/2 formula one car.
However, when the Ferrari F50 was unveiled at the 1995 Geneva Auto Show, the production car’s engine had little in common with the formula one engine other than the dimensions of the engine block. The engine was cast in iron to withstand more internal pressure and featured Nikasil coated cylinder liners.
When the production Ferrari F50 came equipped with a normal V12 other than a real Formula one engine, nobody particular was shocked. A genuine formula one would be impractical and next to useless in a production road car. A road car doesn’t need revving up to five figure rpm numbers, nor pneumatic valve actuation.
Ferrari F50 engine was similar to a Formula One engine in dimensions, and its small size was largely due to clever packaging. Many Ferrari enthusiasts consider this small V12 as one of the best Ferrari engines ever made. This V12 engine acted as a stress-bearing member in pure competition style.
The engine was bolted directly to the back of the bulkhead and carried the rear suspension on a yoke cast into the final drive casting. This also performed as the dry sump oil tank.
Grand Prix formula one engine had a capacity of 3.5-liter. This was enlarged up to 4698cc. The reworked engine now developed 109.2 horsepower per liter, which was significantly higher than the McLaren F1’s 103 horsepower.
The V12 had a dual overhead cam per bank, sixty valves, Bosch Motronic 2.7 fuel injection and ignition.
This engine was then enclosed by a full-length undertray featuring two fans that extracted air from beneath the car to blew it over the exhaust manifold and catalytic converters. Hot air was dissipated through the slots in the engine cover. This setup was successful in keeping the engine temperature and oil temperature in check.
The maximum power output was 513 horsepower at 8000rpm and the maximum torque was 327 lb-ft at 6500rpm.
A six-speed manual gearbox was developed to channel the power to the rear wheels of the car.
Steering was a rack and pinion unit.
Since the engine is based on that from a formula one car, experts say that the engine has a lifetime of approximately 30,000 miles or 45,000km, and after that, it will be necessary to completely rebuild the engine.
Ferrari F50 was the first Ferrari to feature a composite monocoque. It was also the first to feature an inboard pushrod-operated suspension setup.
The tub of the car wasn’t completely made out of carbon fiber, as it featured supplementary tubular steel chassis which were then bonded with stressed composite panels. This structure was three times stiffer than a steel monocoque according to the Ferrari.
The suspension setup featured double wishbones, pushrod operated coil-over dampers in front and rear.
Brakes were the vented cross-drilled discs with Brembo four-pot calipers all around.
The curb weight was 1350kg, despite the size of the car. This meant that the power to weight ratio was excellent for higher performance figures.
Styling of Ferrari F50
Styling of the Ferrari F50 was done by Pininfarina. Pininfarina styled Mythos supercar concept which was debuted at the 1989 Tokyo Motor show, was well received and widely considered as one of the best Ferrari concepts of all time. Lorenzo Ramaciotti at Pininfarina used the Mythos as the main inspiration when designing the Ferrari F50. As a matter of fact, only the outline of the concept car was carried over and even that was widened and lengthened. It was further tweaked to make it more aerodynamic.
A massive rear wing was added to improve the downforce and traction of the car. Pierro Ferrari insisted on
the inclusion of the massive rear wing out of fear that Ferrari customers would fiddle with settings, upsetting the balance at higher speed or when cornering.
Ferrari F50 could be ordered as a Berlinetta or a Barchetta.
Barchetta variant had removable roof panels to provide the driver a Targa top-style driving experience.
When Ferrari F50 was unveiled, its styling was criticized mainly for the sheer scale of the car and for not having the beautiful chic aura of the classic Ferraris. Being 76 inches wide and 44 inches high, the car looked oddly proportioned. Many considered that the Ferrari F50 looked even worse without the roof panels.
Despite the criticism, Ferrari F50 was successful at having enough presence to convince the onlookers that it was a serious performance car. Lorenzo Ramaciotti, the lead designer behind the Ferrari F50 project wanted to paint the car in black to give it the impression of a large glass dome. Though only a handful was produced in black.
Ferrari F50 Interior
The cabin was simply decorated to provide a more relaxed and intuitive environment. Carbon fiber was extensively used to decorate the cabin. Even the gear lever was made of carbon fiber to save weight.
The dashboard featured a digital and analog instrument binnacle to provide all the expected details without any visibility issues. The floor hinged adjustable ally pedals were easier to reach. The Momo steering was un-adjustable, but its position was already perfect.
The pedal box was made out of cast magnesium and was available in two sizes to provide better access for customers with varying feet. The leather bucket seats were adjustable manually using an all-aluminum recline knob. Windows could be wind down or wind up without any electronic help.
Ultra-thin rubber mats and optional stereo made the cabin more livable.
The media also highlighted the fact that the automotive journalists and reviewers were provided to test the car exclusively at Fiorano test track and even that was done briefly. Therefore, the journalists and reviewers could only conclude its performance and ride quality on the smooth Fiorano test track. This being a road car, it was very important to test on the public roads as well.
Ferrari was always known for its dictator-style attitude and heavily enforced restrictions, so despite these issues, Ferrari still managed to sell all the 349 units despite the 329,000 Euro price tag. The production of the car stopped in 1997 with a limited production of just 349 units.
Ferrari F50 was designed to deliver the emotions and mindset of formula one for the road. When the driver rotates the ignition key and presses the starter button, the formula one based V12 engine come to power
At lower speeds, only little vibration occurs. This is because the engine is directly bolted into the tub, therefore reducing vibrations. However, the occasional tremor is still being transmitted through the structure. At higher speeds, the engine vibrations can be felt more, but still, it isn’t that harsh or hard to live with.
The brakes don’t have servo assistance, but the 14-inch discs and Brembo calipers are more than effective for a fast-breaking response.
Despite not having ABS or traction control. The Ferrari F50 was easier to drive despite its size and power it packs.
Active damping suspension offered excellent ride quality. Each damper is controlled separately. The front end could be raised by 40mm, temporarily to make it more practical on speed bumps and harsh road conditions.
Ferrari F40 was not suitable for long-distance driving and was more suitable for track events and track racing. Ferrari F50 despite following the same standards to save weight as much as it could, provided better ride comfort, reclining seats, and improved cabin space. Ferrari F50 was more livable than the Ferrari F40 due to these differences.
It is almost impossible to find a Ferrari F50 with very low mileage due to its improved ride which resulted in making it usable over long-distance driving.
However, when the Ferrari F50 was unveiled in 1995, some went on to argue that this is too soft for being the replacement of the Ferrari F40. Ferrari F40 is still considered the best driver’s car the Ferrari has ever built. Ferrari F50 being forced to live under the shadows of its predecessor, the Ferrari F40, or its arch-nemesis, the McLaren F1, it is undoubtedly one of the best supercars ever built.