Ferrari F50, Bigger Engine And More Advanced Structure

The Ferrari F50 was intended to be a Grand Prix car for the road but with a sports car body. With a big engine and a carbon fiber body structure it was a fantastic performer. Top speed was 207 mph just 6 mph faster than the F40, but it carved 2.0 seconds off the 0-100 mph time at only 8.0 seconds, neck-wrenching acceleration.

Only 349 F50s built

Although the F50 was shown in prototype form in 1991, it was some time before it emerged as a production car and then only 349 were built. Of course, the design was changed a lot before it went into production, but some features are the same as on a Grand Prix car.

Inspired by the F40, the F50 was improved aerodynamically, and had its own looks. The fenders sweep rather lower than the center section of the body, and the headlamps sit behind plastic covers. New for Ferrari were the outlets from the radiator in the hood 30 years after Ford did it on the GT40.

There are long air intakes in the flanks of the car, and the neat tail is topped by a high-mounted spoiler. The whole car had a strong wedge line, and was designed to get the air away from beneath the car.

4.7 liter V-12 engine

The biggest change was that a standard Ferrari engine was modified for the F50, so the car was powered by a 4.7 liter V-12 65-degree engine developing no less than 513 bhp at 8,500 rpm! With an output of 109 bhp per liter, this was definitely like a racing car at that time. Maximum torque was delivered at 6,500 rpm, so despite the huge power output, you needed to keep the engine spinning to get the most out of it.

This was a highly advanced engine, with five valves per cylinder now found on the Ferrari V-8 engine in the 360 Modena and CS, but this was conceived a decade ago. The engine was coupled to a six-speed gearbox.

Ferrari moved on a long way from the F40 in the design of the F50, as the car is built around a carbon fiber composite tub just like the Grandprix cars. There is a tubular sub-frame at the front for the suspension pivots, but the engine is bolted directly to the rear of the tub. The rear suspension is carried on outriggers from the gearbox.

Inboard suspension units

Taking the Grand Prix image further, the spring/damper units are mounted inboard and operated from the wishbones by push rods. Also, the joints are all spherical metal-to-metal, to maintain the correct movement without the wander and wobble admittedly in small amounts that rubber joints give.

Dampers adjusted electronically

An innovation at the time was the use of electronically adjusted dampers, designed to maintain control in all conditions. Big Brembo brakes were fitted, but there was neither ABS nor even servo assistance. You had to press hard, and keep well aware of what was happening at the tires, but fortunately in a car like this, the steering and pedals give plenty of feedback. However, the steering was power assisted.

The F50 weighed only 2,900 lb (1,320 kg) so it had an excellent power to weight ratio, as you'd expect with such an advanced design. Overall, a magnificent car: it looks right, has masses of power, and the equipment to get it on the road quickly and cleanly. But you wouldn't expect silence or much comfort in such a near racer.

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