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1995-1997 Ferrari F50 : Classic Cars

Ever since the FIA refused to homologate the 250 LM in 1964, Ferrari have focused their motor sport efforts on Formula One. After the sixties, this transition largely contrasted Ferrari's factory race cars from their road cars. To bridge this engineering gap, Ferrari have offered limited production road cars which both reflect Formula One technology and pay for Formula One efforts. The Ferrari F50 is one such car.

288 GTO to F40 to F50
The first special-series Ferrari road car was the 288 GTO. It was released twenty two years after the 250 GTO which was one of the last great dual purpose road and race cars. Like the original, the 288 GTO was homologated for racing. This time Group B rally was the target and five distinct GTOs were prepared. Unfortunately, the Group B series ended in 1987 without a 288 GTO ever seeing action.

Following the 288 GTO, a second limited production road car was built. Motivated by the 288 GTO Evolution, the F40 was released to celebrate Ferrari's fortieth anniversary. The car was packed with racing technology including twin IHI turbochargers, a Kevlar reinforced steel space frame and composite body panels. Following its race car tradition, few creature comforts were offered in the F40. There was no radio, carpets, power windows or door panels.

As released by Enzo Ferrari, the F40 was the fastest road-going car in 1987. Its performance figures from zero to sixty and top speed remained hard to beat even ten years after production. In fact, with such blistering performance the F40's dominance over the supercar market was total. Initially only 279 cars were to be built, but with such a high demand over 1300 examples were sold.

For Ferrari's fiftieth anniversary, another limited production supercar was planned. Following the release of a car like the F40 was no easy task and the F50 had to impress. Adopting Formula One technology would be a major selling point for the F50. As such, Ferrari made no compromises to comfort when designing the car.

Chassis
Providing a basis for the F50 is a carbon fiber tub incorporating the interior and rubber compound fuel tank. Attachment points for both the engine/transmission unit and front suspension are provided by aluminum inserts. Behind the rear bulkhead, the engine and transmission unit provide structural support for the car removing the need for a sub frame. As such, the rear suspension connects directly engine and gear box unit.

The F50 is suspended via double wishbones with inboard damping and springing. Damping is an area in which the suspension excels, especially for the technology available during the era. Electronic damper units continually modify the level of damping to suit the many dynamic states of the F50. An electronic control unit (ECU) manages damping rates in real time, monitoring lateral acceleration, longitudinal acceleration and steering angles to select the optimum degree of damping. Such a system reduces body roll and stabilizes the aerodynamics around the car. Electronic damping systems, like the one found of the F50 are currently being employed on regular production Ferraris including the 575M.

Direct links in the F50's suspension system yield precise wheel movement. This means the F50 has no rubber elements in the entirety of the system. These linkages offer a firm and accurate ride, and do not compromise to driver comfort.

For braking, the F50 uses Brembro vented discs with four-piston aluminum calipers. Reinforcing the serious nature of this car, the brakes do not have an anti-lock system and are unassisted.

Engine
Both the 288 GTO and Ferrari F40 feature turbocharged V8s. The F50 is unlike these cars as it uses a engine motivated by the 1994 Ferrari 412T Formula One car. It features a narrow angle V12 which is similar to the one in the 1994 412T. The F50's version has an increased capacity of 4.7 liters to offer increased torque and driveability.

The block itself is made from cast iron, with aluminum cylinder heads. Just behind the engine is a magnesium oil unit and longitudinal gear box. The oil unit provides the links to the suspension and is an integral part of the engine's dry sump system.

Inside the combustion chamber resides five valves, three for intake and two for exhaust. The idea being that smaller valves allow a higher flutter speed. In the F50's case, the valves can cope at speeds up to 10 000 rpm.

Body
While Pininfarina is responsible for the F50 styling, the wind tunnel largely shapes both the roadster and coupe version of the F50. The body is made completely of composites, specifically carbon fiber, kevlar and Nomex honeycomb. To remind the owner of was lurks under the red, yellow or black paint, the carbon fiber weave is visible in the texture of the body.

Conclusion
Many people have looked upon the F50 project as somewhat of a failure. I can see where they are coming from; the F50 didn't receive a race program and never set any precedents in performance. It is this attitude that is usually held by people how have yet to experience the F50 in person, on track or, better yet, behind the wheel. While in static performance figures the F50 even loses to its younger F40 brother, it is the dynamic driving, and especially handling where this Ferrari excels.


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Sources : 1995-1997 Ferrari F50 Photo | 1995-1997 Ferrari F50 Article

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