F1 For the Road – The Ferrari F50Posted by: Shelton Kwan onAugust 27th, 2014
With only 349 F50’s produced worldwide, and only 55 imported into the US, it’s a rare sight to see one in person. We are fortunate to have 3 in our city, two of which are owned by members of our forums, one being a more coveted Euro spec F50. This particular example has a little over 9000 miles on the clock, which, for an F50, is around average. Many examples of the F50 are purchased and stored as an investment, and rarely driven. The low mileage cars, such as this example with only 230 miles, are the ones that fetch top dollars at auctions where these cars exchange hands. The car I’m about to drive at 9000 miles is more of a driver’s car than an investment car. Lucky me.
Walking up to an F50, the first thing I thought is typical of supercars. It’s a lot smaller than photos portray it. From the side, the Ferrari is 6 inches shorter in length and a whopping 10 inches shorter in height than a BMW 4 series coupe. The rear view is a different story, as the F50 is significantly wider, giving it the menacing demeanor that a supercar naturally possesses. A rear mesh grill exposes the F1 derived engine and suspension, my favorite aesthetic design of the F50.
Styled once again by legendary design firm Pininfarina, the F50 design is a departure from the raw and edgy design of the F40. Favoring aerodynamic functionality in its design, the F50 is shaped with smooth curves rather than sharp edges to slice through the air at speed. Twin venturi tunnels, fans to extract air from underneath the front of the car, and a massive wing ensures that the F50 has a large amount of downforce, 390lbs up front and 480lbs out back at 200mph to be exact. And unlike the F40, which is plastered with 80′s era NACA ducts, there is only 1 present on the F50, on the fuel filler door.
Many critics felt the F50 was ultimately shaped by engineers and not classically sexy for a supercar. To me, it’s beautiful. Every vent, every curve, and every surface has a degree of performance in its design. Look close enough, and you’ll even see the carbon fiber weave underneath the single thin layer of paint applied to the body panels to keep weight to a minimum. Ferrari spent a huge amount of development time both in the wind tunnel and on the track to perfect the balance between absolute performance and aesthetics. Formula one drivers, including Niki Lauda, offered their hand with development work, making countless laps and tweaks at Fiorano to perfect the handling.