The Ferrari F50: Ahead of its time?
A supercar built for the illustrious brand’s 50th anniversary had to be special, and it was, but at the time it just didn’t seem special enough.
Leading car manufacturers today are trying to make Formula 1 derived cars for the road — the Aston Martin Valkyrie and Mercedes-AMG are two very recent examples. However, with the F50, Ferrari did that way back in 1995. The F50 was powered by a Formula 1 derived engine, had no driver aids and a manual gearbox. Sounds like the perfect car to succeed the iconic F40 then, right? Well, a lot of people didn’t agree. Let’s see why.
Firstly, there was the question of looks. When the F50 came out, critics said it looked a bit too outrageous, a bit too flamboyant and not very beautiful. 25 years on and the F50 has aged remarkably well. Not only does it look exactly what a successful drug lord would drive around in Miami (I know I would), it also breaks apart from the intricate and delicate designs Ferrari was known for back then. It’s so in your face, and I love it.
Fun fact: The F50 had a removable hardtop, but there was no place to store it in the car!
Secondly, the engine. Yes, it was a naturally-aspirated V12 derived from a 1990s Formula 1 car. However, after all the humdrum of it being a Formula 1 car for the road, it produced 512bhp and 471Nm of torque. Not little by any means but at the time it was only slightly more powerful than the F40 and actually produced less torque. In terms of performance the F50 was only two-tenths faster to 100kmph than the F40. Yes, the F50 did have a higher top speed than the F40, errr... by 1kmph.
Fun fact: The F50 was built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ferrari, but the F50 was actually two years early to the party
So, with technology and cars fruiting new innovations and records by the day in the 90s, critics were angry that the F50 wasn’t that much of a step forward compared to the F40. Fast forward to 2020 where we have hatchbacks with 400 galloping horses, the F50 seems like the perfect compromise. No power steering, no ABS, no electronic nannies and no forced induction. Just a naturally aspirated engine singing a soulful orchestra and delivering pure driving pleasure.
Fun fact: The F50 GT1 was a racecar based on the F50 road car of which only three examples were ever produced but Ferrari scrapped the project before the F50 GT1 could race!
The final major reason for the F50’s lack of success was… the F40 itself. The Ferrari F40 was just such a breakthrough car that the F50 didn’t seem like it was worth the money back then. The F40 was just too good but that doesn’t mean the F50 wasn’t. The F50 was different, it was more special, more of an occasion. Not everyone understood it, not everyone understands it today either. However, with prices for the F50 on the second hand market creeping up, it seems like the F50’s time to shine has finally come.