It was the mid eighties. Scuderia Ferrari had lost that winning feeling, and in the world of road cars the Porsche 959 and Lamborghini Countache were beginning to make the company flagship, the 288 GTO, look a little dated. Enzo Ferrari was in his late eighties and knew this would likely be the last car he oversaw, so he wanted something that would celebrate his baby's 40th anniversary in style.
In 1986 when the FIA scrapped the Group B racing class, Ferrari found themselves with a bunch of 288 GTO Evoluzione development models and nowhere to race them. The decision was made to put that development effort into producing the fastest road car they had ever made. In 1987 the Ferrari F40 was born.
The formula was simple: Wrap a super light kevlar and carbon composite body over a steel tube chassis, drop in the twin turbo V8 from the last racing car you developed, include only the bare essentials in the interior, and keep away from anything that will interfere with driver feedback.
What resulted was a 470hp road legal racing car. There was no traction control, no power steering, and no power assisted brakes. Windows were made of plastic and lexan, and the interior was left completely bare. Even doorhandles were considered heavy and unnecessary, with only a stainless steel pull cable in their place. The only concession to comfort was air-conditioning which may seem odd until you realise you're sitting in a big, uninsulated plastic box, mere centimetres away from a pair of screaming turbos.
The incredible power combined with the uncompromising weight saving immediately earned the F40 the title of fastest street legal production car with a top speed of 323km/h (201mph). It even outdid the Porsche 959 in acceleration, rocketing to 100km/h (62mph) in 3.8 seconds, and going on to 200km/h (125mph) in just 11 seconds. When describing the handling, reviewers often use terms like nimble, go kart, magical and oh-my-god!
Over 1300 were produced up to 1992, and all, apart from the 7 (yes, seven) that the Sultan of Brunei specially ordered, were produced in left hand drive. Despite a lack of factory support a fair number lived out their lives on the race track, participating in various GT championships around the world. Now, over two decades on, they're a must have for any seriously cashed up car collector.
The F40 is the very embodiment of a driver's car, because Ferrari managed to use cutting edge technology in a way that didn't interfere. Instead of complicating things, they used technology to enhance the essentials. It's light, powerful, responsive, and designed to give the most direct feedback possible. It's an amazing piece of automotive engineering, and probably the closest you'd ever get to driving a race car on a public road.