The F50 was the Ferrari “extreme machine” of the nineties taking over the mantle from the F40. As with the F40 it was also a celebration model, this time heralding fifty years of Ferrari as a car manufacturer, albeit in reality a little early. At the unveiling of the new model at the 1995 Geneva Salon, Ferrari President Luca Di Montezemolo stated that only 349 examples would be produced, one less than they thought that they could sell. A definite change in marketing strategy, brought about by the change in market conditions, after the slump at the beginning of the decade.
Whereas the two previous “Supercars” had been powered by turbocharged V8 engines, the nineties variant used a normally aspirated V12 engine as the motive force, albeit more than fifty per cent greater in capacity than its predecessors. Similarly the earlier models had introduced increasing degrees of technology learned from the Formula One cars, particularly in the field of composite materials.
The F50 took this crossover technology to the limit, with the utilisation of a composite construction monocoque chassis, and used the engine, derived from that of the 1990 Formula One car, as a stressed member. It was described as the closest you could get to a Formula One car for the public roads. The carbon fibre passenger cell had the front suspension mounted directly to it, with a tubular substructure projecting forward to support the radiator and ancillary equipment. To the rear of the cell was bolted the engine, which was a load bearing member for the transmission and rear suspension, just as on current Formula One cars. The 4.7-litre engine was derived directly from the Formula 1 unit used on the 1989 F1-89.
The Pininfarina styling didn’t have the raw beauty of the F40, and bore little in common with any other Ferrari model, apart from the satin black finished side indent line and traditional paired rear light treatment. It had plenty of curves, intakes and exhaust slots, and an even more radical rear wing than the F40, but the body shape was more one of aerodynamic function than aesthetic pleasure. It did have a removable hardtop, so that the occupants could come even closer to the F1 experience.
There was nowhere to stow the hardtop on the car, so a small canvas canopy was provided if one ventured out without it and the weather turned inclement. When fixed the hardtop gave the car a greater fluidity of line, as when removed two small roll hoops and an aerodynamic surround section flowing into the sail panels added to the number of complex body curves. Between the sail panels was the clear plastic louvred engine cover, which afforded a good view of the carbon fibre intake plenum atop the engine, and the surrounding mechanical components.
There was a more generous choice of colour options on the F50, than on the “red only” GTO and F40, with clients having a choice of five colours to chose from, two different shades of red, yellow, black and silver, most opting for the racing red scheme. Once again a USA market version was produced, and as with the previous two “supercars”, all market models were left hand drive.
As with the F40 air conditioning was fitted as standard, and the composite shelled seats were trimmed in leather with cloth centres, together with the option of “standard” or “large” seat sizes. The instrument panel moved from traditional dials, to a multicoloured illuminated display panel in the binnacle in front of the driver, otherwise the spartan streak initiated with the F40 was prevalent, the occupants still having to wind the windows manually.
Production ran from 1995 to 1997 in the chassis number range 101919 to 1107575, whilst a GT1 prototype was also produced but never raced, with a total of three examples being made carrying their own chassis number sequence, 001, 002 and 003.
The mid mounted engine was a 65 degree V12 unit fitted longitudinally and rigidly mounted to the rear bulkhead of the monocoque cell. A lightweight nodular cast iron block was used that featured integral Nikasil coated cylinder liners, whilst the connecting rods for the special forged alloy pistons were manufactured from titanium alloy. The total cubic capacity of the engine was 4700cc, with an 85mm x 69mm bore and stroke, and factory type reference F 130 A. It had five valves per cylinder, twin overhead camshafts per bank, each bank having its own chain drive, dry sump lubrication was provided, and a Bosch Motronic 2.7 combined ignition/fuel injection system, to provide a claimed power output of 520bhp @ 8000rpm. The differential assembly was mounted on the back of the engine in unit with the rear mounted six speed all synchromesh gearbox.
The bodies were mounted on a 2580mm wheelbase chassis, with a 1620mm front track and 1602mm rear track. The Cytec Aerospace carbon fibre chassis had factory reference numbers F 130 BD, and were numbered in the continuous chassis number road car sequence. The construction incorporated the rubber fuel cells within the structure between the passenger compartment and engine mounting points, and as with the F40 the body panels were all constructed from composite materials.
The road wheels were new style convex spoke “star” pattern Speedline units attached by a single nut to a Rudge hub, 8.5″ wide x 18″ diameter at the front, and 13″ wide x 18″ diameter at the rear. These covered large cross drilled ventilated disc brakes with twin hydraulic circuits, without servo assistance.
Four wheel independent suspension, via wishbones with a pushrod system to horizontally mounted spring and damper units, again analogous to the system used on F1 cars, was employed, together with an electronic damper control system, to optimise damper performance dependant upon road speed and other considerations.