Ferrari F40 Buying Guide

The brutal F40 is as undiluted as supercars get. Here’s how to buy into one of the most exciting driving experiences of all time…

How much to pay

• Project £500,000 • Good £750,000-900,000 • Concours £1,000,000-£1,200,000

Practicality
Running costs
Spares ★★★
DIY friendly ★★
Investment ★★★★★
Desirability ★★★★★

At a time when most other manufacturers were fully embracing the brave new world of computer technology, Ferrari decided to go in the opposite direction. Built for the firm’s 40th anniversary, and intended to evoke the road-racers of the early 1960s, the F40 was stripped back, focused and ultimately raw.

It couldn’t have been more different from the 959 – Porsche’s technological masterpiece – and at the time there those who viewed the Ferrari as simply being too old fashioned. But they overlooked the fact that driving an F40 offered a level of excitement, a visceral appeal, an ‘eyes on stalks’ jolt of adrenalin that you simply couldn’t get elsewhere.

That purity has stood the model in good stead during the past 30 years. If you accept that the McLaren F1 changed the game and created the hypercar, then surely the F40 is the ultimate example of the supercar. In terms of sheer charisma, there’s little to match it.

Your AutoClassics Ferrari F40 inspection checklist

Engine

The F40 featured a 2936cc development of the 288GTO’s 2855cc twin-turbo V8. Thanks to twin injectors for each cylinder, plus a higher compression ratio and increased boost, power was raised from 400bhp to 478bhp.

It’s a robust unit when properly serviced – Ferrari’s recommended interval was 3000 miles but, given the use these cars now get, most owners opt for an annual check-up. The cambelt needs to be replaced every two years, and on non-USA cars the rubber fuel cells have to be replaced every 10 years. American F40s had an aluminium tank instead.

Check for oil leaks and excessive exhaust smoke. The IHI turbos are generally strong and reliable. Any signs of wear could indicate a car that has regularly been used on track. Make sure the engine pulls cleanly, with no hint of a misfire. Electrical gremlins are not unheard of.

Don’t be surprised to find a modified exhaust system, which is a relatively common upgrade. Make sure that it hasn’t increased noise to unbearable levels, though. 

Gearbox

As with many Ferrari transmissions from the era, the five-speed gearbox will need to be warm before performing at its best, but it’s a strong unit that shouldn’t give much trouble.

Clutch life depends entirely on how the car is used. A F40 that’s driven hard might need a new one after only a few thousand miles and, as you’d expect, it’s not a cheap operation.

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Suspension and brakes

Although there were very few changes to the roadgoing F40 throughout its life, the main one concerned the introduction of catalytic converters in 1991 – along with the option of adjustable suspension. The latter enables you to raise the ride height, and while each specification (non-cat/non-adjustable; cat/non-adjustable; cat/adjustable) has its supporters, some prefer the non-adjustable suspension for reasons of simplicity and reliability.

Cars that are often driven on track will likely have uprated brakes but, while the standard Brembo set-up has come in for criticism, it’s fine for normal road use. Make sure it’s in good condition, though – even replacing just the front discs and pads will incur a bill that’s comfortably into four figures.

The original Pirelli P Zero tyres were developed especially for the F40. Check both the age and condition of the rubber. Brilliantly, there’s a sticker on the windscreen advising you of the recommended pressures for above and below 300kph…

Finally, inspect the split-rim wheels for signs of corrosion around the bolts.

Bodywork

Pininfarina’s Leonardo Fioravanti was in charge of the F40’s styling, and the result was nothing short of a racing car for the road. Wide, low and aggressive, it ticks all of the supercar boxes.

The construction was a blend of old and new – a tubular-steel chassis incorporating bonded composite sections, with Kevlar body panels on top. Famously, the factory paint was applied so thinly that you could see the weave through it.

The ground-hugging nose easily picks up chips and scratches, so check for damage all around it, and inspect the quality of the paintwork throughout. Most cars will have received some form of respray by now, unless they’ve been kept in storage and covered very few miles.

Also inspect the Perspex rear panel, which is expensive to replace. The standard unit had two lines of louvres, and the rear-view mirror looks straight at the solid bit in between them. To improve visibility, some owners have fitted a replacement that has three lines of louvres so that the mirror aims through the central line.

Specialists will be able to pick up poorly repaired accident damage or sub-standard restoration work, so make use of their expertise before you buy.

Interior

‘Spartan’ is probably the best word to describe an F40’s interior. There are no carpets or door trim, no electric windows, no radio – not much of anything at all. Getting in and out isn’t the most graceful manoeuvre for the uninitiated, thanks to the combination of high composite structure and deeply sculpted bucket seats. The latter were offered in three sizes to suit the original owner, but the thin material can soon wear and is expensive to replace.

The same goes for the rest of the interior trim – such as it is – while you absolutely must check that the air-conditioning is working. It gets very hot inside an F40, and unless driving in the middle of winter you wouldn’t want to go far without the air-con.

There’s a bespoke luggage set – including a case that goes into the spare-wheel well – that offers at least the vaguest possibility of taking the car on some sort of trip. In all honesty, though, an F40 is not the ideal touring companion.

History

  • 1987: F40 launched.
  • 1989: LM version makes racing debut at Laguna Seca.
  • 1991: Catalytic converters added. Optional adjustable suspension.
  • 1992: Production ends after 1315 cars.

Autoclassics says…

Ferrari initially intended to build only 400 F40s, but that number steadily grew until just over 1300 had left Maranello. Perhaps that relative lack of rarity kept prices sane for a while, but in the past few years there’s been a definite jump from low six-figure values to high six-figure values – with the best cars now breaking the £1,000,000 barrier.

As ever with a car of this type, expert knowledge will be invaluable. If you’re not buying from one of the recognised blue-chip Ferrari specialists, get a full inspection carried out. If a car’s been restored or it’s had accident damage repaired, you need to be certain that the work has been properly carried out.

Originality and a complete, bulletproof history are vital. A 50,000-mile car that’s been impeccably looked after will be a much better bet than a 15,000-mile example that has gaps in its past. An F40 is impractical and expensive, but once you’ve experienced one you’ll be hooked.

Ferrari F40
  Power 478bhp
  Top speed 201mph
  0-60mph 4.2secs
  Economy 10mpg

Picture courtesy of Ferrari

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