Safe to say, if you have any appreciation for cars at all, chances are the Ferrari F40 is on your list or on your wall or on your desktop. It is after all the first true supercar, maybe the best of all, rivaled by the Mclaren F1 but with a bucketful more menace, a car which inspires both awe and fear.
We've all read articles, books, we've seen video reviews, we've seen them race and crash and shoot flames out their butts, always an awesome sight, we've even read the owner's manual.
There is only one aspect of the F40 which remains seldom explored: what does it feel like to purchase one, what goes though your mind when you're there, about to cut a check for one of the greatest pieces of automotive art ever?
For some it might be a cold hearted business or collecting experience but I suspect that for the luckiest of those with the opportunity, it's a highly emotional moment.
A friend of Axis is one such person and his description of that afternoon, as he gazed at the red beast for the first time, is as compelling, exciting and emotional as anything you've read about cars. I'm very happy he agreed to share his experience.
"What can I say, it had been a dream of mine for years. As a child, our dockside neighbor on the Cote D'Azur had one when it first came out and seeing it every week end parked next door imprinted strongly. I felt close to this one in particular, it was the first Ferrari I got a ride in as a kid and I would do whatever I could to touch it and be close to it. On sunny sundays I would offer to wash the F40 and our neighbor, with great patience and kindness (imagine a 9 year old washing a car...) would never refuse.
Another F40 was a source of great sadness when, a few years later, the uncle of a dear friend was killed when he lost control of one and ended up against a tree. There was always this conflict with it, love and fear, which only managed to increase the fascination I've had for the F40 since the 80s.
Recently, returning home from Maranello where I had accompanied a friend to see the current Ferrari hyper car, my "dealer" called proposing a one owner F40 for what seemed like a "good price". Maybe it was the enthusiasm of the presentation at the factory but I started to salivate as
the seed of the idea it might be the time for me to own one was planted .
After a few more pictures and details by email it turned out that yes, it was a one owner car but it had been tracked frequently and there may be some non original pieces installed on a car where originality is key to maintaing and increase it's value.
But it was too late, the damage was done, that seed was now giant red gorilla pounding around my brain!
Just enough time to return to London, make a few calls to set up the appointment and on saturday morning I'm off to the dealer, the idea was to just have a look at the car, just looking....
As I walk in the shop and despite a 250 TdF, a Daytona Spyder, two Enzo, two 288 GTO, a Miura, a California Spyder LWB and all manner of 250 variants, I can see only her. I am literally enraptured by the sight, at once so familiar yet capable of sending my heart racing. Without a doubt, it was love at first sight.
I stride over to look at it up close, to touch it analyzing every square inch for flaws I struggle to find. It's like a new car, incredible considering it's 23 years old and has 37000 km on the clock.
We move to the office and I spend about an hour looking over every single invoice for work done on the car over the years, the previous owner had kept every single scrap well organized in a large book. Included was the original bill of sale from May 1990.
Turns out there had been two owners of the car, it was one of the 60 F40 designated for the UK market and it had the same owner for the last 13 years, a British lord who also owned the 250 TdF in the shop, and F50 and a newly acquired 275 GTB, the reason he traded the F40.
I also find a Ferrari Classiche book with the certification from Maranello that the car is fully original and conforms to the spec it left the factory in. Everything is looking better and better so it was time to head out for a test drive.
I did not want to drive, I let the dealership owner, someone handy with this kind of car, take me around. Even now I cannot explain the odd sensation as a passenger of being inside a giant go-kart. You could sense the precision with which it turned into corners and you can believe the claimed 1100kg weight is real unlike more recent Ferraris where claimed weights must be...adjusted. And this just ambling along, without exploring the world beyond 3750 rpm...
The F40 seemed very easy to drive, even in traffic, at traffic lights you just need to release the clutch and it will move at idle without a single jolt. Then as you start to push, you begin to understand what an F40 is, a savage, brutal, wicked car! It was chilly that day and the 335 rears lost traction easily even in third gear but as they did the car's reactions were balanced and controllable, a testament to a fundamentally good chassis and design.
Even as the realization of the brutality with which this car dispensed its power made me nervous, the certainty I wanted it continued to grow. I sat in silence for the next twenty minutes, thinking.
When we pulled back into the dealer's shop I asked if I could be alone with the car for a little while. Inside I was already 100% convinced but I wanted to enjoy that moment. I thought about all the times our paths had crossed before: happy, carefree times from my childhood and difficult times when I had been close to a friend in unhappier circumstances. Amazing how intensely this one car brought so many memories and emotions, fear I would not be up to the challenge and palpitations every time I looked at its lines.
I think this dichotomy is intrinsic in the F40, it reminds me of the fascination of the Nürburgring, love and fear in the same breath.
|yes, pop up lights...the 80s|