Right now, the 1980s are a white-hot ticket if you’re looking for driving nostalgia. The teenagers who bought Athena posters can now afford to realise their dreams, and that means 30- and 40-somethings are clamouring to purchase the decade’s sexiest cars. Of these, the F40 is the ultimate must-have machine of its era – for so many reasons.
For one, it was the fastest Ferrari of its day, at 202mph. And that alone guarantees its place among the greats. But beyond that, it’s the ultimate development of Fioravanti’s mid-engined 288GTO – a car which in time is going to be described as the ultimate million-dollar ’80s Ferrari. As the last Ferrari signed off for production by Enzo, the F40 is pretty special. When he unveiled it to the press in 1987, he announced: ‘A little more than a year ago I expressed a wish to my engineers to build the best car in the world. And now that car is here.’
The F40 is powered by a twin-turbo 2936cc V8 that pushes out 478bhp and, as it weighs a mere 1100kg, performance is formidable. So much so that, back in the early ’90s, after driving one for the first time for CAR magazine, Rowan Atkinson commented that to use full throttle on the road was both terrifying and foolhardy. But in that era of excess, when the world economy looked as if it was going to continue growing, this Ferrari was the model to aspire to.
The F40 was built in quite high numbers – 1315 eventually rolled out of Fiorano. And that means finding one should be straightforward; but, as with all top-tier Ferraris, history, condition and mileage are absolutely everything.
As we’ve spelt out several times in Octane’s market section, top-end Ferrari values remain strong.
The F40, although not in the stratosphere occupied by the 250, is very much seen as a special, and seems to be following the trend for healthy upward growth.
‘Anything classic – Dino and earlier – has been phenomenally good, considering where the economy went,’ says Russell Smith, sales and service manager for Bob Houghton Ferrari, and pictured above left with Bob himself.
‘We expected prices to collapse, but they didn’t. F40s are worth more than they were in 2008, and we still get lots of people asking to buy good examples from us.’
The price for an entry-level F40 is around £250,000. For this kind of money you are not looking at a car that necessarily has a lot of miles, but it may well have seen track-day action and could also have non-reversible upgrades. Most cars will have had some spray-gun attention – at the very least to rectify stone chips, which the F40 is susceptible to. It’s the quality of the work that is vital.
But at this price level, the cars are in massive demand. ‘We have people waiting for F40s,’ Russell adds. ‘In the past month we sold three, and they never even got close to being offered on the website. There are a few around in the trade which haven’t sold, but there’s usually a good reason for that – because, quite simply, people want the very best.’
The top cars command around £400,000. For that money you’re looking at an unmarked and as-new example with nominal mileage.
Yet don’t allow all this to lead you into believing that F40s are bought simply for their investment potential. ‘They’re a car for enthusiasts. But values are always on buyers’ minds because an F40 is still a liquid asset,’ Russell says.
‘That also means the F40 is very much an international car, and its values fluctuate with the exchange rate. When the value of the pound collapsed in 2008, we found people coming in from Europe to buy them.’
IN A NUTSHELL
You will have noticed that we’ve omitted a model history from this buying guide. There’s a simple reason: between 1987 and 1992, aside from the fitment of exhaust catalysts in 1990, there was only one variety of F40. You could specify Perspex sliding windows, adjustable suspension (on later cars only), and a choice of two seat sizes, but other than that they were all the same – and they were all left-hand drive.
One thing that goes down well with potential buyers is the presence of a Ferrari Classiche certificate. It means that the factory has given its stamp of approval, saying the car is exactly as it was when it left the factory – and the Classiche people are very specific.
The V8 engine is bulletproof, and will stay that way if looked after. Look for oil leaks from cam covers – not good because the oil drips onto the hot turbos. Sometimes the turbo cooling pipes can weep oil, too.
Bob Houghton Ferrari recommends an annual service, which costs around £800, and the cambelt should be renewed every two years, a £1600 job.
There are rarely problems with the turbos. ‘We look after 30 F40s, and in ten years we’ve put on two or three sets,’ Russell says. ‘We’ve had only a single engine rebuild, and that was on a higher-mileage, track-day car.’
Brakes are expensive at £6000 for a set of discs and pads. Ferrari recommends that the fuel tanks should be replaced every ten years, as they’re rubber. Clutches cost around £3800 including parts and labour to change.
Most cars have had scrapes, stone chips and repaints, so ensure repairs have been done properly with a uniform finish. Also make sure there are no cracks on the underside of the engine cover. The front headlight covers are a good indicator of how much damage the car has received, as you’ll see stonechips in them even if the bonnet is unblemished. A sure sign of repairs.
Check the air-con works and whether any seat trim or dashboard materials have worn out – bear in mind that only Ferrari can supply original trim parts.
We said in the introduction that the Ferrari F40 is a real ‘it-car’. Not only is it the ultimate supercar of the 1980s but it still looks sensational now. It’s basically a 288GTO on steroids, and what that means is you’re buying a model with genuine race car feel. In absolute terms, the F40 is less valuable than the 288GTO, but arguably it’s a more exciting car.
It’s a vehicle that’s demanding to drive. It lacks driver aids such as ABS, traction control and electronic stability programming. It doesn’t even have power steering. But, for its fans, that’s all part of the F40 mystique.
You pay for condition and originality, and will need to work hard to keep your F40 in tip-top condition, so it’s not going to be something you’ll want to use every day. But it’s good to know
a well-sorted F40 will drive through the centre of London without any issues, before heading off for a blast over the Alps.
We’ll leave the final word to Bob Houghton: ‘The F40 is the one car that’s teaching you all the time. It can bite you. People like that – it’s faster than you are ‑ and I do too. It’s my favourite road car.’
1987 Ferrari F40
Engine 2936cc, V8, DOHC, twin IHI turbos
Power 478bhp @ 7000rpm
Torque 426lb ft @ 4000rpm
Transmission Five-speed, rear-wheel drive
Suspension Independent double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bars. Height adjustment option available on later models.)
Brakes Vented discs
Performance Top speed 202mph, 0-60mph 4sec
Ferrari Owners’ Club Great Britain
Ferrari Owners’ Club (FOC)
Ferrari Club of America
Ferrari Club Italia
Bob Houghton Ferrari
Nick Cartwright Restorations
Modena Motorsports (Germany)
Urban ProTrade (Germany)
Ferrari of Houston (USA)
Symbolic Motors (USA)