GALLERY: Go Behind The Scenes On Our 1989 Ferrari F40 Film Shoot
The F40 ranks among the most recognizable and beloved road cars ever produced, and so there is very little new left to say about the machine itself—we all know that it is a potent performer, a spartan go-kart powered by a twin-turbocharged V8 nestled up between tires of construction site proportions. But cars that attain levels of popularity like the F40 has don’t become any less special the more we fantasize about them, and though the spec sheet might be committed to the memories of many a supercar enthusiast, each example has its own story.
In the case of Jasbir Dhillon, whose Jaguar XJR-15 we featured earlier this year, this F40 is woven into the fabric of his life beyond the excitement that it provides to the lucky soul in the driver’s seat. It’s a means to bond with his family, a link to his childhood and his past, and as something well beyond the definition of an inanimate object, it’s a piece of his being that he has plans to hold onto well into the future.
Jasbir’s favorite driver was Nigel Mansell, “the lion.” His driving style and his attitude and spirit toward competition were inspiring enough in their own right, but when Enzo gifted an F40 to the then-future world-champion? Seeing his favorite driver in one of his favorite cars was something that solidified both of their ranks in Jasbir’s mind: “It’s been the centerpiece of my passion for sports cars,” he says.
Though it raced only briefly and with little factory support—and is much more well-known as a road car—the F40 can trace its heritage back to the days of maniacal motorsport known today as Group B. Not the gravel and snow-slinging stuff populated by the likes of S4s and 205s and Quattros, but the circuit-based championship that never ended up coming to fruition. In the nascent years though things looked promising, with both Porsche and Ferrari showing interest in campaigning a program for their new cars to race on tarmac and asphalt under the Group B rulebook. Ferrari’s effort materialized in the 288 GTO, and though it never had its chance to properly compete in any proper motorsport, Ferrari made lemonade from their situation and built upon what they learned from the twin-turbo 288 and developed the idea into the F40.
The two turbos are made by a company called IHI that began making systems in Japan in 1939. The Japanese turbos are cooled by German Behr intercoolers, and these—and many other parts of the F40—are fed by NACA ducts, which were designed by a US government agency. Talk about a well-bred mutt.
The assortment of parts that would become the F40 were rather hastily developed in order for the car to be released in coincidence with the 40th anniversary of Ferrari’s first road car, a 125 Sport, but the reduced timeline didn’t prove to be much of an issue at the end of the day, especially seeing as how the F40 was never intended to be a comfortable gizmo-laden GT-type car to begin with, but rather an out-and-out performer devoid of anything that would muddy up the experience. It was unalloyed, aggressive, lacking everything unimportant in the cabin and packing in all the good bits underneath the massive clamshell rear end. There’s not much separating the two halves of the car, and you can hear the cobra hiss of the turbo waste gates even with the windows up.
Though you don’t need us to tell you why someone might want to own such a car, Jasbir’s story is a sentimental one. He says that in Sikh culture, asking permission from your parents is just something that one does before big purchases whether it’s more of a formality or not, and for this car the roles of his parents were swapped; his father was always very encouraging and supportive of whatever his son wanted to do, “rubber-stamping” his approval often, while Jasbir’s mother was typically the more conservative one. In this instance though, with the F40, his father suggested perhaps investing the money instead of buying an old supercar with it.
But his mother saw his passion for the car—had seen it since his childhood when she would watch him with his magazines and toys—and she told him he should buy it and not look back, explaining to Jasbir that something this special to him could only bring good fortune and good luck into his life should it become a part of his. Jasbir still has the picture from the day the F40 was delivered, where his mom is holding his eldest daughter with the distinctive wing in the background. She unexpectedly passed away just two months later.
It’s a loss that still stings, as he says, but among everything else they shared together Jasbir’s never forgotten her words and encouragement regarding the F40. She was right of course, and in the time he’s owned it Jasbir has bonded with his own family over the car, while meeting all kinds of people in between. One such example being none other than Jacky Ickx—Mansell might be Jasbir’s F1 idol, but who would turn down a chance to ride around a circuit with Ickx?!
Following an encounter at a Ferrari F40 anniversary celebration, Jasbir received a call from the secretary of the middle eastern fellow he’d been talking to at the party. Turns out the call had come from the Crown Prince of Bahrain’s office, and he was inviting Jasbir over to bring the F40 to the country’s inaugural Formula 1 race.
Jacky Ickx was the guest of honor, and he drove the F40 with its owner sitting shotgun. Jasbir says he’ll never forget being witness to “a car like this being thrown around in the hands of a master. It was a very special experience.” Watching him braking while still using the gas to preload the turbos so he was on boost after the apex? That means it’s safe to say Jasbir wasn’t riding along at parade lap pace. Jasbir has the right attitude when it comes to cars like this: it doesn’t matter how special it is to drive, it’s the people you meet in the process that really matter.