The F40 was the last car introduced and commissioned by Enzo Ferrari himself. Its introduction and its name coincided with Ferrari’s 40th anniversary as an automobile constructor. The car was a celebration of the marque and the man seeking to safely provide owners with a race car for the street, embodying all the finest elements of 1987 automotive engineering.
The Ferrari F40 was to a large extent an evolution of the GTO in both form and concept. Though not designed for a particular racing series, it was a car that could be driven to a track and raced competitively at a professional level. It was a leap forward from the GTO in aerodynamic, structural, and performance terms. As befitted a car designed with such dynamic purpose, it had a somewhat spartan interior: the focus was unification of man and machine, combining for awesome acceleration, handling, speed, and presence.
Presaging the F50 and the FX, the Ferrari F40 was formed entirely by its function. A pleasing shape, it reflected the GTO from which it descended, essentially aerodynamically ’finishing’ that model’s 5-unit Evoluzione study. Airflow, indeed, was the prime stylistic motivator in this Pininfarina design. Before placing such power in the hands of clients, it was necessary to ensure predictability and stability at the edge. Its most dominant features are aerodynamic aids: the low smooth nose with precisely formed intakes, the recessed doors and the numerous NACA-type ducts around the car, the vented plexiglass engine cover directing airflow to the large rear wing, and the lower rear diffusers. Like all Ferraris designed for racing, the F40 sported enamel Scuderia Ferrari badges on its front fenders.
The F40 was designed with aerodynamics in mind, and is very much a creation of its time. For speed the car relied more on its power than its shape. Frontal area was reduced, and airflow greatly smoothed, but stability rather than terminal velocity was a primary concern. So too was cooling as the forced induction engine generated a great deal of heat. In consequence, the car was somewhat like an open-wheel racing car with a body. It had a partial undertray to smooth airflow beneath the radiator, front section, and the cabin, and a second one with diffusers behind the motor, but the engine bay was not sealed. Nonetheless, the F40 had an impressively low Cd of 0.34 with lift controlled by its spoilers and wing.
The F40’s body is comprised almost entirely of composite materials, mostly a weave of carbon fiber, Kevlar, and Nomex. The car was available in one colour only - Rosso Corsa - and the composite body panels were left unfinished in many areas, such as inside the doors, the cabin floor, and the door sills. This can be seen most clearly when the car’s large front and rear sections are open, revealing the radiator and drivetrain. Although the front section hinges forward in traditional sports racing prototype fashion, the rear is unconventional in having a hinge at its front where it meets the roof, and is held open by a sturdy central prop. Through effective design, Pininfarina ensured the F40’s body was made up of only 11 main panels. Although the composite materials are extremely strong they bear little or no load, that being the purpose of the F40’s chassis.
The main chassis of the F40 is made from the oval-section tubular steel common to Ferrari cars of the time. Square and rectangular section steel was used for sub-assemblies such as the front and rear sub-frames. The F40 was made doubly rigid through the use of composites for the large door sills, floor panels, and also the roof, giving it something approaching a monococque within a tube steel framework. Between the engine bay and the cabin was an aluminum and composite honeycomb employed on the GTO, part of it being removeable for access to the front of the engine.
The F40’s heart was its engine, a 2,936cc twin turbocharged, alloy 90° V8 putting out an astonishing 478bhp at 7000rpm (163bhp / liter) and 424 lb-ft of torque at 4500rpm. The engine was substantially evolved from that in the GTO, its displacement, compression ratio, and maximum boost pressure all having been raised. The other basic statistics were the same: dual overhead cams controlling four valves per cylinder, a dry sump lubrication system, separate electronic ignition and fuel injection systems for each bank of cylinders and a Weber-Marelli engine control system.
The forged pistons were redesigned to improve combustion efficiency, and the IHI turbochargers were water-cooled although the Behr intercoolers remained air-to-air. The large tube-steel exhaust system was improved, most notably with a revised wastegate, and by the inclusion of catalytic converters. A horizontally mounted muffler exhausted gasses through three large tail pipes located centrally between the twin rear undertray diffusers.
The F40 employed a clutch and transaxle assembly identical to the GTO, but for a change in the gear ratios. This was a fully synchronised 5-speed manual system with hydraulically actuated single-plate clutch. The transmission and differential were both housed in magnesium and aluminum alloy cases. To aid in optimal weight distribution, the transmission sat behind the differential, drive going through 180° from the crankshaft to the end of the driveshaft. Gear selection was accomplished by solid rods and forks to ensure positive engagemnt in all conditions. The F40 was also endowed with a transmission oil cooler. Optionally, the F40 could be ordered with a non-synchromesh unit.
The F40 employed much the same fully independent suspension as the GTO, featuring unequal-length wishbones with coil springs over adjustable Koni shock absorbers. The wisbones were of high-tensile tubular steel. Front and rear anti-roll bars contributed to the car’s high cornering stability. Optionally, the F40 could be ordered with an electronically adjustable suspension that altered ride height and stiffness using a cockpit mounted three-position switch. This was controlled by an ECU that based its settings on road speed.
The F40 had cross-drilled ventillated disc brakes developed in conjunction with Brembo. The cast iron and aluminum rotors were of 13.1" diameter acted upon by large aluminum four-piston calipers. These were actuated by a dual-channel hydraulic system without servo-assistance, front and rear channels being independent. This was essentially a contemporary Formula One braking system.
The car rode on special split-rim Speedline aluminum wheels carrying 245/40-17 or 235/45-17 tires at the front and 335/35-17s at the rear. The 17" wheels were secured to the hubs by means of a single nut and sprung cotter pin.
The F40 was designed to provide customers with a street legal car that could be taken to the track and raced at a high level of competition. As such, its interior eschewed anything unnecessary. The carbon composite floor and door sills were unfinished, and the dashboard and center tunnel were covered with a black felt designed to insulate and retard reflection of light. All interior trim was functional; no space was set aside for a sound system.
All controls were set around the driver, with none on the center tunnel aside from the gated shift lever and handbrake. The traditional three-spoke leather-rimmed steering wheel separated the driver from a small binnacle containing engine and road speed, boost, and temperature gauges. Auxilliary readouts were placed on the dashboard, along with controls for lights and climate control. Pedals were of drilled aluminum. Occupants were held in place by single-piece kevlar racing seats and harnesses.
Early F40s had plexiglass side windows with a sliding section. Later models could be had with manual lifts and glass windows. The doors lacked a handle, offering a cable to release the latches.
Although the F40 lacked interior storage space, a surprisingly generous compartment reminiscent of a giant hat box was to be found in the front tub, behind the radiator.