As they had done for their 40th anniversary with the F40, Ferrari ushered in their 50th in 1995 with another supercar, the F50. As with its F40 predecessor, the F50 would be inspired by Ferrari’s racing efforts, although the F50 had more direct Grand Prix connections. The new Ferrari F50 shared its layout with their contemporary F1 car by utilizing a carbon fiber chassis and having its F1-based 65 degree V-12 bolted directly to the chassis and acting as a load-bearing member for the rear suspension and transaxle.
The F50 was meant to be like a Formula One car for the road, and the 60-valve, 4.7-liter, 520-hp V-12 really was a direct development of the engine used in Scuderia Ferrari’s 3.5-liter Formula One cars 5 years earlier. The F1 connection continued with the four-wheel independent suspension that employed electronically controlled and horizontally mounted dampers and springs, and the omission of power steering, power brakes and ABS ensured a most direct road feel for the driver.
Distinctive (and often polarizing) Pininfarina bodywork enveloped all of this and a removable hard top was integrated into the design. Ferrari didn’t offer press cars for performance testing at the time, and by the time journalists got their hands on a car, the rumors of fantastic performance that included sub-four second 0-60 times and 190-plus mph were confirmed.
The Ferrari F50’s exclusive allure was aided by Ferrari’s scheme to offer cars only to pre-screened customers via a two-year lease arrangement in order to keep speculators out of the mix. Furthermore, to maintain exclusivity, Ferrari produced only 349 cars from 1995 to 1997. By Ferrari’s estimation, this was one less than market demand. U.S.-compliant cars were part of the production run and five colors were offered, although the vast majority of them were delivered in traditional Rosso Corsa. Today these cars are coveted by their owners and trade as commodities as much as they do as cars.
While it does and probably always will live in the shadow of the F40 (a true masterpiece) that preceded it, the F50 is still a pivotal car in Ferrari history that established the company’s tradition of super exclusive halo cars that has continued with the Enzo and the LaFerrari. It’s 1990s supercar royalty and indeed the last road car to have a Formula One-derived engine. Some testers have complained of the stiff, even jarring ride thanks to the engine being bolted directly to the carbon fiber chassis chassis, but the wail of that V-12 and the brilliance of the overall design, whether you like the styling or not, make it all worth it.