The Ferrari F40 - Enzo's last words
Acceleration and speed. I had both terms redefined recently, when I went for a ride in an F40.
Much has been said about the Ferrari F40. Words like ‘pinnacle’, ‘icon’ and ‘legend’ regularly get thrown around whenever the F40 is mentioned. Yet, to go for a ride in an F40 is a truly life-changing experience.
I, like many others, had a poster of a Ferrari F40 on my bedroom wall as a child. Perhaps it was the simplistic design, the big red wing, or the fact that it embodied my imagined version of a supercar.
Fast forward a number of years and I’m looking at an F40 in the flesh, early on a weekday morning not too long ago. You can probably see where this is going.
As I open the (very light) doors, a rather spartan interior greets me. Climbing into the car is a bit of a chore, but once I’m firmly wedged into the seat, I pull on a tab, which closes the door. My first impressions are carbon fibre. Everywhere. A large steering wheel, the basic gauges, a gated shifter and that’s it.
Since it’s the first time I’ve hopped into a car with a five point racing harness, it takes a couple of minutes before I’m securely strapped in. Then, we’re off. Getting onto a proper stretch of road takes a few minutes, which allows me to get my bearings and realize that the F40’s (stock) exhaust is relatively underwhelming at low revs. The gentleman driving then decides to flex his right foot hard.
The car gathers acceleration at an eye opening pace, while the exhaust note transforms into a screaming wail. 2500rpm… 3000… 4000 and wham! The twin IHI turbochargers have decided to join the party with a loud whoosh!
I’m flung back into my seat as we rocket forward toward the horizon. Acceleration, if I can still call it that, is mind-boggling. As the revs build, it’s time to change gears. Clutch in and cue the sound of the turbos whistling as they reset. Gear engaged and it’s now time to repeat the fantastic process. I’m beginning to appreciate the racing harnesses more and more.
In the 70s and the 80s, turbo lag was an issue that was seen as the price to pay for building more power without increasing displacement. Cars like the Porsche 911 Turbo (930) and the Ferrari 288 GTB were pioneers in this regard.
In the F40, the process of building boost goes something like this. You put your foot down. The revs build and reach 4000 rpm. The turbos then conspire to give you a solid kick when you are least expecting it, simultaneously unleashing a wall of torque, which then elicits incoherent noises from grown men. That last part is true.
Once we reached our destination – the Dubai Autodrome – I had an opportunity to look over the car more closely. The carbon fibre body gives the few coats of red paint; excuse me, Rossa Corsa, a decidedly darker hue, which still manages to pop under direct sunlight. The numerous intakes, the wide wheels, the sleek Pininfarina-designed body and the rear wing tie together a very special package.
Furthermore, the F40 is a road legal racecar, something attested to by the fact that is looks so at home on the track. Every component of this machine is designed and build for one thing and one thing only: limitless performance
These days, Ferraris have changed. I haven’t been in many (something I’d like to change) but they’ve become plush and come abundant with driver aids, or so I’ve heard. The F40 is the very expression of the ‘man and machine’ tag. No computers, no leather upholstery and certainly no sound deadening. Just an old school racing machine with performance that would turn a brave man’s knuckles white, as he grips the steering wheel for dear life.
After all, Il Commendatore approved the F40 personally, the last one before he passed. True to his name, the F40 is a very special car indeed, and is more than worthy of wearing the hallowed prancing horse badge. The wide smile on my face after our drive is solid evidence of that.
Written by: Siddarth Pandey
Siddharth Pandey is an undergraduate senior in Strategic Communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A true petrolhead, Siddharth’s world (and head) turns based on the cars he sees on a daily basis.