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Haunted Highways: Ferrari F40

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On: Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 1:59PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Haunted Highways:  Ferrari F40

If you sit back and think about just how many different model cars have come off the assembly lines, it's amazing that we remember any of them at all. Sure, you personally might remember your first car, but, by and large, not too many of us are really emotionally vested in a 1987 Buick Skylark the way you might be. But then there are cars that come along every once in a great while that we as a collective civilized world can appreciate. Cars that are so striking, and so stunning that men and women who have no automotive knowledge whatsoever become awestruck and mesmerized by the mere sight of one of these mighty machines. That list of cars is very short, but it can be argued that at the top of that very short list lies one car, and one car only—the Ferrari F40.

To put things in perspective for some outsiders: There is an entire population of people who have fallen disturbingly in love with the Pininfarina-designed F40, that have never actually seen it in person. Built as a successor to the vaunted 288 GTO, the F40 was every bit the performance car the GTO was, and then some. To put it mildly, the F40 was purpose-built. It was designed to be a race car its owners could legally drive on the street, and that's exactly what came off the assembly line from 1987–1992 for a very select few blessed individuals (1,315 to be exact). The F40 was made almost exclusively from carbon fiber, aluminum, and Kevlar to keep weight as low as possible.

But those obsessive Italians didn't stop there; they took the idea of shedding weight about as seriously and meticulously as a high school wrestler who has to lose three pounds in the course of an afternoon to make weight that evening. Engineers did everything short of covering the car in garbage bags and having it spit into a cup every few minutes—no air conditioning, no carpets, a plastic windshield (along with plastic windows), you could forget about a sound system of any kind, and a paint job so thin you could see the carbon fiber underneath. Weight was used where it had to be—things like massive 13.1-inch vented brakes with four-piston calipers (no carbon fiber discs back in the late '80s), as well as 245/40/ZR17 front and massive 335/35/ZR17 rear tires took up most of the heft quota. The inside of the F40 was so barren, that it would make the interior of a Hummer H1 look and feel like driving a Bentley. But all of that sacrifice paid off—weighing in at just a cheeseburger shy of 3000 pounds, the F40 was a lean, mean, Porsche 959-beating machine. It is this writer's opinion that if Ferrari could have mandated a diet-program for its drivers, they would have.

Sitting just aft of the driver and his passenger was the power plant for this mid-engined monster. The engine was a tiny, yet incredibly powerful, 2.9-liter twin-turbo V8 that produced a frightening 478 horsepower @ 7000 rpm and a max torque output of 424 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm. The DOHC motor did have a bit of turbo lag, but when those two little demons spooled up, the F40 didn't just go, it launched. Cutting through the atmosphere with a drag coefficient of 0.34, the F40 laid its claim to fame, where else, but at the track. As its driver ripped through the fully synchronized 5-speed transmission, the F40 roared to 60 mph in a scant 3.8 seconds, 100 mph in 7.6 seconds, and through the quarter mile in 11.8 seconds @ 124.5 mph. In 1987, the F40 became the first production car in history to break the 200 mph barrier—besting both the legendary Lamborghini Countach and the venerable Porsche 959 as the greatest supercar of its (or arguably any) era.

When it first came off the line, the F40 had a sticker price of around $400,000, but the going 'bid' at the time got up to over a cool one million dollars to own the baddest Ferrari of all time. Prices soon came back down to Earth (relatively speaking) and dipped to as low as $275,000 in the mid-90s. With the advent of the F50 and Enzo, it has become clear just how great a car the F40 really was. Sure, the next two halo cars for Ferrari were wonderful machines, but not since 1992 has there been a car that has been so purposefully built, executed, and world-renowned as the F40. Oddly enough, it took Ferrari themselves to prove that fact. Even though Maranello could build a slightly faster and more refined car than the F40, they (or anyone) have not been able to build a car that has had the same synergistic effect that the combination of speed, beauty, and raw emotional appeal the F40 brought into this world. It is exactly that enigmatic intangible that has crowned the Ferrari F40 the king of the supercars, with no challengers in sight.

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