Yes, the high-tech Porsche 959 and a brace of audacious bewinged Lamborghini Countaches were memorable supercars from the Eighties, but the visceral Ferrari F40 – built to mark the 40th anniversary of the legendary Maranello-based supercar company – is undoubtedly the most revered supercar from that era. In 2018, dyed-in-the-wool Ferrari enthusiast Dawie Theron realised his dream of owning an F40 and it's a special machine indeed – one with an enviable racing pedigree. This is the story of the Pretorian and his celebrated Prancing Horse...
Photos by Justin Pinto
The F40 is not only a car that defined the end of an era at Ferrari; it's undoubtedly one of the all-time great supercars. For petrolheads, supercars enter our collective consciousness because they're invariably the automotive machines that feature on the posters we affix to our bedroom walls during our formative years. The F40 is a fine example of such a car, but it has iconic status for a number of reasons. Ferrari aficionados know it's the last car produced under the guidance of Il Commendatore Enzo Ferrari (who died in 1988) and it was designed by none other than Leonardo Fioravanti, who also penned the Dino 206 GT, Daytona (365 GTB/4) and later the 288 GTO.
For many of us, the F40 was and still is, the most outlandish, raw and undiluted "racer built for the road". It's clinically sculpted exterior lines and stripped-out interior made it such a brutally purposeful machine in its heyday. Built to dominate whichever racing series it would be allowed to enter, the Ferrari demands your immediate attention.
If none of this makes you appreciate the car heralded as "Enzo’s swansong", the F40's drivetrain and performance surely will. The Ferrari's 2.9-litre V8 twin-turbocharged engine produces 352 kW and 577 Nm – remarkable and impressive numbers for 1987. With a kerb weight of only 1 100 kg, the F40 was claimed to have a 0-100 kph acceleration time of 4.1 seconds and an impressive top speed of 324 kph.
Ferrari clearly wanted to produce a memorable car to commemorate its 40th anniversary. Notable, and now iconic, design elements include NACA side air intakes and the 4 vertical ducts just below the uprights of the imposing rear wing on both sides of the car. Climb inside and the bonded composite tub is immediately obvious… and so too is the green glue that keeps part of it together. The bonded tub not only makes the car extremely light, but also very strong.
An F40 unlike any other
This specific UK-based F40 has a fascinating history. Its owner, Dawie Theron, has been a Ferrari addict since he was in school and was often called “Dawie Ferrari” by his classmates. After decades of hard work, and plenty of encouragement from his wife, he finally bought this – his dream car – in 2018. He wanted to experience the car on home turf here in South Africa and imported it temporarily. Before it returned to the UK, he availed it for this shoot.
F40 ETA (as the car is called thanks to its number plate) was successfully raced, an honour that sets it apart from most F40s. Additionally, being one of the earlier cars, it also features the purer specification of “non-cat, non-adjust”. This means the exhaust manifold has no catalytic converter and the suspension is not adjustable as the later cars are. Today this specification F40 is one of the most collectable “modern” Enzo-era cars.
As Furlonger Specialist Cars explains, this particular F40 (car #83916) has a very rich history. A total of 1 337 units of the F40 were produced (some sources claim 1 315 and others 1 311), however, this car is 1 of only 30 F40 Competizione race cars converted by F40 specialists worldwide. It has British and international racing history and is also the most successful racing F40 in the UK.
It was delivered new to the racing driver, Vito Coco in Catania, on 22 January 1990 and subsequently retained in the Italian's personal museum (having done minimal mileage) before being imported into the UK by Maranello Concessionaires in January 1998. At this time, the multiple championship-winning race driver and internationally acclaimed proprietor of Italia Autosport, John Pogson, acquired car #83916 on behalf of a client. In 1999, 2000 and 2001 this F40 became the most successful racing F40 in the UK by winning the Maranello Championship, the Intermarque Championship and the Ferrari Porsche Challenge.
The driver of the F40 was John Pogson himself, with support from the Italia Autosport racing team. Unlike the other 29 F40 Competizione cars, all of which have been modified beyond the point where they can be taken back to original factory specification, a substantial number of car #83916's parts, including its front bonnet, rear lid, wheels, suspension components, seats and steering wheel, were removed and dry stored whilst the car was in Competizione form.
Additionally, helicopter tape was used to protect all exposed carbon-kevlar surfaces. Car #83916 had a 57% “race entered to victory” ratio, having won 28 times from 49 races in its 3 seasons of racing. It won 8 pole positions and notched up no fewer than 32 fastest laps. It finished close to 90% of its races. In 2011, Italia Autosport, under the guidance and scrutiny of Pogson, re-commissioned the car back to original factory specification using the original, dry-stored parts. The engine and gearbox were fully rebuilt and it has covered very few kilometres since then. The car was subsequently entered in the Ferrari Owners Club's 2011 National Concourse at Heythrop, in which it won its class.
There is not a single angle on this car that doesn’t grab your attention. And when we lift the large engine lid and rest it on its support arm, we're treated to the full, inviting view of those wide rear tyres and the exposed drivetrain. The red bucket seats, cloth-trimmed dashboard and stripped out cabin illustrate the car’s pure intent as an unadulterated driver’s car – just the way Enzo intended. After all, Il Commendatore’s first love was always racing cars. The total lack of creature comforts didn’t deter Dawie from fully enjoying the driving experience the day he took delivery of the F40 in England. He and a friend packed their small weekend bags in car #83916 and headed straight for Italy!
Car: Ferrari F40 (1989)
Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V8
Power: 352 kW at 7 000 rpm
Torque: 577 Nm @ 4 000 rpm
Gearbox: 5-speed manual
Weight: 1 100 kg
Top speed: 324 kph
0-100 kph: 4.1 sec