Thirty years to the day have passed since Ferrari landed the twin-turbocharged sucker-punch that is the F40. On the F40’s pearl anniversary, we’re taking a short look back at what made the crimson twin-turbo supercar so iconic.
Unlike Ferraris of yore that were forged and battle-hardened at Le Mans, Monza, and Spa-Francorchams, the F40 can trace its roots back to the uncorked rally specials from Group B. Ferrari worked with racing firm Michelotto and privateers to field four 308 GTBs in the series, seeing only minor success. Ferrari buckled down and decided to get serious, creating the legendary 288 GTO as the full factory effort.
Before the 288 could get off the ground, Group B was cancelled due to rising deaths and injuries. Development of the 288 program had progressed so greatly, however, that the automaker was sitting on five 288 GTO Evoluzione protoypes that were nearly race-ready when the FIA shut the lights off.
Enzo Ferrari, who was in his late 80s at this point, wasn’t satisfied with leaving his legacy unresolved. He ordered production, road-going variants of the 288 GTO Evoluzione, with a focus on fine-tuning the turbocharged V-8 that made its debut with the 288 GTO homologation special.
Born from the stalled 288 project, the F40 hit our collective consciousness like a hook from young Mike Tyson on July 21, 1987. The be-winged supercar was powerful, visually striking, and hardcore. Power came from a 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, producing a very impressive 478 hp and 424 lb-ft of torque routed to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission.
For that power-crazed era, the F40 had the performance of a cannon blast. Zero to 60 mph takes just under four seconds, while top speed climbs to a claimed 201 mph, Ferrari’s first car to break the double-buck mark. That last figure has remained a controversial topic among the Ferrari-faithful – independent testing has remained unable to recreate that speed.
The secret behind the F40s’s performance was its lightweight construction, which included composite body panels composed of Kevlar and carbon fiber. This was a no-frills car – a quick glance around the cabin revealed raw, unfinished carbon weave and basic cloth-covered sport seats.
Aside from the glossy performance spec sheet, the F40 was a deeply special car for Maranello. A celebration of the brand’s 40th anniversary, it was the last car released with Enzo Ferrari’s approval, arriving a year before his death.
The F40 was released to massive applause, with critics and buyers lining up to throw praise at Ferrari’s new turbo bruiser. Buoyed by pent-up demand from the limited 288 GTO (of which just 272 were made), Ferrari opened the floodgates to investors and collectors, resulting in over 1,300 produced in a five-year period. Large production figures caused a crash in the market, resulting in massive depreciation and angry speculators. As a result, Ferrari now heavily restricts production of its special halo models, a practice still seen today with cars like the LaFerrari.
Now, thirty years on, the F40 remains one of the most analog, uncompromising cars to ever wear the cavallino rampante. Years have passed, but we still can’t think of another modern Ferrari that we’d rather park in our garage.