Ferrari F50 - Supercar Or Superflop?
The brief for the engineers at Ferrari was quite simple. Their Formula One racing car was to be adapted so as to be street legal – just. A 200 mph racer was to be let loose on the roads.
The result was the F50 and in 1995 Ferrari introduced the most uncompromising road car they had ever manufactured. The specifications included a rubberised petrol tank; a chassis made entirely of carbon fibre;magnesium alloy gearbox housing and wheels; titanium hubs and con rods; Kevlar panels. There was even a black box recorder fitted (which would be of questionable advantage to most drivers in a car capable of 200mph facing a possible speeding charge!), and body roll was minimised electronically. Yes, this was a racing car with a few bits added onto it.
Was it attractive?
The body shell was designed byPinninfarina. Enough said.
Was it powerful?
The engine was pretty much the same one that was fitted to their F1 cars; a five litre V12 producing 521 brake horsepower. This was sufficient to propel the car to just a shade over 200 mph. The quad overhead camshafts were driven by chain rather than by gears, which made the engine a tiny bit quieter whilst losing a little bit of power, but there was still plenty to spare.
Was it good to drive?
Yes and no. if you were looking for street cred then this was as good as it got. It's six speed gearbox and rock solid road holding made it incredibly easy to handle. Steering was precise. The carbon fibre seats, covered in leather, were reasonably comfortable and the cockpit space was adequate for most drivers. Performance was just breathtaking.
However the biggest drawback was the noise level which was loud, loud, LOUD! This was bad enough when the car was driven with no top on but when the optional hardtop was in place it was positively deafening for the driver and passenger. It was also a firm ride and driving over typical British potholes could rattle the teeth somewhat; those looking for limousine-like comfort for their money had to look elsewhere.
Did it have drawbacks?
It was a racing car dressed up as a sports car. As a result maintenance was not for the fainthearted or the little corner garage. Spares were horrifically expensive and slow to arrive.
The car was built for speed and not necessarily for longevity. Then again the vast majority of owners would hardly use this as day-to-day transport.
Not least of all, though, was the sound of the beast; waking all the neighbours up within several blocks every time the car started up in the morning was not the way to keep on friendly terms with them.
Was it successful?
A total of 349 F50s were built, which was a number specified by Ferrari at the outset. These sold quickly despite a price of around a third of a million pounds and little marketing effort by the manufacturers. So, no doubt it was very satisfactory for their accountants.