Today is Oversteer‘s first birthday. That means it has graduated from crawling around on the floor and spitting up to crawling around on the floor and making a few sounds. At least, I think so. I don’t know much about babies, except that I’d prefer not to sit next to them on an airplane.
To mark the occasion of Oversteer‘s great milestone, I’ve decided to give you readers a real treat: I’ve driven and reviewed a Ferrari F40. For those of you who don’t know about the Ferrari F40, well … I refuse to believe you exist. Everyone knows about the Ferrari F40. It might just be the single most revered and beloved Ferrari in the entire history of the brand; Enzo’s last car; the usual “favorite” Ferrari supercar; maybe the most recognizable Ferrari ever built. It was amazing.
But you already knew it was amazing, so I’ve left all my thoughts about the F40’s driving experience — and its odd quirks — to the video, which is attached above. What I’m going to tell you about instead, today, is the experience that goes along with getting to drive a Ferrari F40. If I had to sum up that experience in two words, I’d say sheer terror.
OK, that’s not quite true. Here’s the whole story.
A few months ago, I got a call from my friends at LBI Limited, a local exotic-car dealership here in Philadelphia that seems to have the very best inventory. I mean the very best inventory. Over the years, I’ve filmed with a Lamborghini Jalpa of theirs, an ultra-pristine Acura NSX and a Ferrari F430 Challenge car. So they called me up and said they had something really impressive: an F40. A Ferrari F40. A FERRARI F40! Did I want to drive it? I told them, in no uncertain terms: I will drop whatever I’m doing, at any time, on any day, to drive that car.
So we set it up for a Saturday, or maybe a Sunday, and as the day grew closer, the dread set in.
LBI Limited has this F40 listed for $1.3 million, which — in case you’re unaware — is a lot of money. With $1.3 million, you could buy a very nice home here in Philadelphia. You could buy a mansion in St. Louis. You could buy all of Binghamton, New York, and turn it in to a giant ant farm. So on Thursday and Friday of the week I drove the F40, I started thinking: Am I really going to do this?
All of the cars I drive are insured, either through the dealership’s own policy, or — if it’s a private owner’s car — through a special policy I set up with an insurance broker named Jon, who is one of the great humans in existence (“You want to insure cars owned by other people who you’ve never met, driving on roads you’re unfamiliar with, with values that go well into the six-figure range? Yeah, that should be no problem!”). But when you get to the F40 level, it isn’t about insurance. If I crash a Huracan, yes, that’s bad — but it’s replaceable. An F40 is an icon. There are very few of them, they’re all truly amazing, and crashing one would be like damaging a truly valuable piece of art. They aren’t making any more. They’re all going up in value. They’re all really special.
So I arrived at LBI, and I walked inside, and it’ll be a long time before I ever forget the feeling I got when they pulled the cover off the F40. Here’s a car I’ve seen in countless images, videos, movies, TV shows, Concours d’Elegance lawns, t-shirts, whatever — and now they’ve just removed the cover so I can drive it. I’ve driven a lot of cars in this job, and even a lot of expensive ones — the Porsche Carrera GT, the new Ford GT, the Porsche 911R at the height of its value craze. But when the cover came off this car … I was struck with this chord of nervousness and awe that I’ve never felt before. This is how baseball players feel when they’re called up to the majors.
And, honestly, I felt the same amount of pressure. In the next few hours, I’d have to deliver a review on this car that millions of people are going to watch — a review about a car that no longer gets all that many reviews, meaning millions of people are also going to get all their F40 information from me and my review. Accuracy would be key. But so would be delivering good information about the car’s driving experience, its ride and handling, its steering feel, its performance … all while piloting a $1.3 million car for the very first time — and doing my best not to crash it. I know most people think my job is awesome, and I generally agree — but this isn’t one of the awesome parts. This is difficult work, and there’s absolutely no doubt that the best part of a day like this is putting the cover back on the car after you’re done with everything.
But I wasn’t there yet. Instead, we were just taking off the cover, and bringing the car outside. And then, after a long warm-up, it was time for me to get behind the wheel.
And after all this build-up, and all this worry, and that feeling when they pulled off the cover … suddenly, I was right at home. When you get behind the wheel of a car, any car, even a very special car, you surely have a sense of what you’re driving — but at the end of the day, it’s still a car, with a steering wheel, and two or three pedals, and an engine, and some seats. My first thought, upon letting out the clutch and getting out on the road, was: I’ve done this before. And even though I hadn’t done it before in an F40, my life had prepared me for this moment. My fears quickly melted away, and I focused on doing my job.
In the end, everything went flawlessly.
The shoot took about 5 hours, between driving the car, getting exterior and interior shots, and filming all its “quirks and features.” It was an amazing 5 hours; a truly incredible day, spent in the company of one of the greatest cars ever manufactured — and I’ll never forget the feeling of driving down Interstate 95 through Philadelphia, sharing the road with semi trucks and Kia Optimas and Ford Windstars while I was piloting what many people consider to be the single greatest car ever manufactured. It was a treat, a joy and an honor.
Nonetheless, when the shoot was over and it was time to drive the F40 back, I handed the keys to the guys from the dealership. It was an amazing day, where I truly got up close with the F40; where I truly experienced every little touch, every cool quirk; where I mashed the accelerator in a car whose accelerator has been mashed by a very small select few; where I climbed out of a seat and looked behind me to see that I had just been driving … that.
And yet, the best moment of the whole day came as I was driving down the highway in my Defender, a lane or two away from the F40, knowing that I was no longer responsible for it.
Happy birthday, Oversteer. Find a Ferrari F40 for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.