How do you follow on from a legend like the F40? Ferrari really did have a difficult time of it, but rather than trying to evolve and ultimately water down the ‘racing car for the road’ philosophy, it went a different road with the F50. Making the most of its technological advancements in F1, the F50 had racing in its blood, but also offered a touch more comfort and civility.
Perhaps the biggest step for the F50 was an all-new carbon-fibre tub, which made the hypercar much more rigid than its predecessor. The suspension featured electronic Bilstein dampers - which utilised sensors around the car to manage give the car a more comfortable ride as well as more controlled cornering.
The F50’s shining centrepiece though, was the magnificent 4698cc 65-degree V12 engine – which was notoriously derived from the 1990 641/2 F1 car. Unlike the F1 car, the block was cast iron, deemed necessary so it could act as a stressed member of the chassis – yet another link to F1. Featuring five valves-per-cylinder and dry-sump lubrication, power output was a claimed 513bhp delivered at a spine-tingling 8500rpm.
Although Ferrari considered developing an automated-manual transmission, it actually emerged with an open-gated six-speed manual.
While those who drove the car in period were reluctant to give the F50 an unequivocal thumbs up, time has been very kind, and it’s now being appreciated for what it is – a classic Ferrari that also happens to be the last hypercar offered by the company with a manual gearbox.
Which one to buy?
Essentially, you’re buying your F50 on condition rather than specification, because all F50s were built to the same spec. They’re all left-hand drive apart from one or two converted to right-hand drive by Pininfarina for the Sultan of Brunei.
Of the 349 cars built, 304 have Rosso Corsa red paintwork, 31 were Giallo Modena (yellow), six got a dark red (Rosso Barchetta) finish while there were four apiece in silver (Argento Nurburgring) and black (Nero Daytona). As a result you’re most likely to find a red car for sale.
American and British buyers get hung up on mileage, but the sweetest and most reliable F50s are those that are exercised regularly. Cars used only occasionally are more likely to be suffering from all sorts of problems, so don’t walk away from an F50 that’s not ultra-low mileage.
On this note, clocking an F50 is simplicity itself; it’s possible to switch between an mph readout and a km/h display, and it’s not unusual for some of the recorded mileage to disappear in the process. That’s why whatever you buy needs to come with enough history to verify the recorded mileage – although ultimately, it’s the car’s condition that really matters, not how many miles are on the clock.
While there are low-mileage cars available, the F50’s relative usability means there are quite a few around that have covered surprisingly high mileages. Don’t be put off by one of these; it’ll be cheaper to purchase and as long as it’s been properly maintained by a marque specialist it’ll prove to be an excellent buy.
Performance and specs
Engine 4698cc, 12-cylinder
Power 513bhp @ 8000rpm
Torque 347lb ft @ 6500rpm
Top speed 202mph
Fuel consumption 18mpg
Gearbox Six-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
Kerb weight 1230kg
• The F50 is built around a carbonfibre tub and all of the panels are carbonfibre too. These have aged pretty well so far and damage to the bodywork shouldn’t be an issue on any car that’s been properly stored and never crashed. But there are F50s out there which have been pranged then poorly repaired, so look for poor panel fit and evidence of mismatched paint.
• The F50 features a bag-type fuel tank which has to be replaced every 15 years. It’s a very costly job and it takes ages to do. All F50s should have had a new tank by now but many haven’t, so factor this into any purchase.
• The 4.7-litre V12 is massively strong and the bottom end doesn’t give problems as long as it’s properly looked after. However, it’s likely that the top end will need some TLC every 25,000 miles or so, thanks to its F1 roots.
• Some of these cars cover few miles from one year to the next and most get specialist attention, but it’s worth delving into the service history to ensure there have been regular fluid changes at the very least.
• The twin-plate clutches don’t last long, so see if it’s slipping. If it is, budget plenty to get it replaced. It doesn’t help that the gearbox seals dry out then fail on cars used sparingly. When this happens, oil gets sprayed onto the clutch, wrecking it.
• See how old the tyres are; any F50 should be on at least its third set by now but many of these cars have done just a handful of miles so their tyres don’t get replaced.
• When laid up, an F50 must be hooked up to a battery conditioner. If not, the battery will go flat and the back-up battery in the digital dash will then fail. When it does so, the dashboard has to be refurbished, which is hugely expensive.
• The seat trim tends to fade if left exposed to the sun for too long, and once it’s faded it’s impossible to revive. The exposed carbonfibre on the inside of the doors also turns milky when left in the sun – and again, it can’t be revived.
1995: The F50 debuts and goes on sale, priced at £329,000. All cars come with a 4.7-litre normally aspirated V12 rated at 513bhp. As standard there’s a removable hard top, an emergency soft top, a two-piece luggage set and a book that details the car’s construction.
1997: The last F50 is built and delivered.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
Summary and prices
All Ferraris have moved significantly in value over the last five years, and the F50 is no exception. It might not quite be the icon the F40 is, but extremely limited production of just 349 cars means that values currently sit just above its turbocharged predecessor. Prices range from £750,000 for a higher mileage ‘rough’ example, while you could potentially pay £1.3million-plus for one of the absolute best.