The Ferrari F40 was the successor to the equally ground-breaking and glorious 288 GTO and was launched, and named, to celebrate 40 years of Ferrari-badged car production in 1987.
Although the ageing Enzo had long since ceded control over the production part of the business, engineer Nicola Materazzi came to him in 1984 with the idea of using the FIA Group B engine and car development programme to prove future road car performance. Ferrari gained permission for the project but only if the engineering was done outside of the working week.
The result was the 288 GTO Evoluzione, but in 1986 the FIA scrapped the Group B category and Ferrari were left with a handful of development cars. Keen to see a fitting “swan song” legacy car, Enzo persuaded the company to develop a road car from the programme but one that would be a return to raw performance and simplicity, rather than the overly plush and comfortable cars that Ferrari were now selling.
Teaming up with Leonardo Fioravanti and Pietro Camardella at Pininfarina for the body styling, Materazzi revisited his earlier work on the engine and mechanicals to translate it from the track to the road. The target launch in the 40th anniversary the following year allowed Materazzi to have his pick of the engineering department.
What came out of the 13-month programme was an entirely new design - effectively a race-car for the road, built on a tubular steel space frame with a lightweight double-clamshell body utilising a mix of aluminium and composites of carbon and Kevlar. Further weight was saved by using polycarbonate for the windscreen, side windows and rear engine cover.
The styling was informed by extensive aerodynamic testing, and the need for cooling of various components (including the occupants) was sated by no fewer than eight low-drag NACA ducts let into the body. The pop-up headlamps, almost de-rigueur in the late ‘80s, were also a nod to aerodynamic improvement - when they were closed of course.
Propulsion was provided by a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged and water-intercooled V8 engine which delivered just over 478 PS and 577 Nm of torque. This performance also demanded the development of a special P-Zero tyre by Pirelli.
The price at launch was £163,000 but such was the demand for the limited run - 1,311 were built between 1987 and 1992 - that soon F40s were changing hands for much larger sums, giving rise to speculators “flipping” the iconic supercars - much as they do today with the more exclusive models from the major marques. Even Formula 1 driver Nigel Mansell got in on the action, demanding an F40 as part of his contract with the Scuderia - which he then sold in 1990 for a cool £1m.
As ever, there were a number of developments made during the F40’s production run, including replacing the sliding side windows with wind-up units, fitting adjustable suspension and adding catalytic converters, meaning that earlier models are the more sought after. There were also a handful of official race versions built by Michelotto - the LM and Competizione - for endurance racing series.
Since its launch, posters of the F40 have adorned the bedroom walls of many a young dreamer and this continues today - although maybe the children of the seventies and eighties now have a nice framed print, scale model or - if they’ve done really well - an actual F40.
Despite the fact that the F40 is now well into its thirties, it still oozes enough retro cool and outrageous performance to appeal as much to millennials and members of the Playstation generation - and this one in particular has played its part in continuing the pan-generation passion for the F40.