The Ferrari F50: History, Generations, Specs, and More
All things Ferrari F50 on Automobile.
Ferrari F50 Essential History
Ferrari faced quite the challenge in the mid-1990s. The booming 1980s had been kind to the Italian supercar manufacturer, having shifted an incredible 1,315 examples of the venerable F40 halo car. The viscerally fast F40 brought the marque droves of new buyers and new respect in an era increasingly focused on pushing the boundaries of performance via cutting edge technology. But by the mid-1990s, Ferrari needed a follow-up halo supercar worthy of taking up the mantle of the F40.
After the initial 400-unit production run of the F40 completed, speculators and hype-intoxicated buyers waved checkbooks at Ferrari until production was extended to capacity, only stopping in 1992 after the aforementioned 1,315 units left Maranello. Then, after Japan's economic bubble popped and a recession loomed in the mid-1990s, supply outweighed demand for the F40, and prices crashed. Couple these angry speculators with the death of founder Enzo Ferrari just a few years prior in 1988, and Ferrari found itself in rough waters.
To right the ship, Ferrari developed the enigmatic Ferrari F50, launching it in 1995. Where the F40 sourced inspiration from Ferrari's brief foray into rallying, the F50 pulled from the bottomless well of Ferrari's Formula 1 dynasty. Instead of the F40's small-displacement turbocharged V-8, the F50's mid-mounted F130B 4.7-liter naturally aspirated V-12 was a direct, road-friendly derivative of the 3.5-liter V-12 found in the 1990 Ferrari 641 F1 race car.
The F50's 512 hp output was an increase over the F40's 471 hp, but the move from turbocharging to natural aspiration saw torque fall from 425 lb-ft to 347 lb-ft, despite the increase in static displacement. If an owner worked the F50's six-speed manual transmission quickly enough, they would have hit 60 mph from a stop in the 3.8-second range, and could have carried on accelerating until they hit the F50's claimed top speed of 202 mph.
Wrapped around all this primo machinery is Ferrari's first use of an entirely carbon fiber tub in a road car. The V-12 was bolted directly to the tub via metal subframes, making the engine and transmission a stressed member of the chassis—great for weight reduction and rigidity, bad for vibration transfer into the cabin. As a result, the stripped-out, ultra-harsh F50 was not for the casual Ferrari customer who wished for something to pop down to the local pier for a casual lunch. Interestingly, Ferrari chose to offer the F50 only in targa configuration, meaning every single production F50 that went up for sale has a pop-out roof portion—all the better to hear that incredible engine.
Despite the immense popularity of the F40, Ferrari was unhappy with speculators, who drove the secondhand price of the supercar beyond the seven-figure mark. As a reactionary measure, only 349 F50s were made between 1995 and 1997, all of which were initially leased by customers for two years before Ferrari would sign the title over.
Ferrari F50 Highlights
Until just a few years ago, the F50 wasn't exactly a hot commodity in the collector market. That should sound like an absurd statement today, especially when you consider the incredible premiums commanded by any and all limited production Ferraris—even more especially since this is the second rarest of the five Ferrari halo cars; Ferrari produced 272 288 GTOs, 1,315 F40s, 349 F50s, 399 Enzos, and 499 LaFerraris.
The F50's previous relative undesirability boiled down to a few factors, chief among them being the perceived failure to effectively pick up where the F40 left off. To some, the F50 doesn't possess the same cachet as the F40, which was a 'roided-up evolution of a homologation special, and the final car developed under the oversight of Enzo Ferrari himself. The F50 was considered too harsh, visually ungainly (to some), and, perhaps more to the point, arrived squarely in the shadow of the McLaren F1.
As is the case with most controversial supercars, time has been quite kind to the F50. Values have rocketed into the healthy seven-figure range as collectors realized how undervalued this incredibly special car was. It remains the closest thing to a roadgoing F1 car Ferrari has ever created, and that should be reason enough to justify a mad dash for the nearest RM Sotheby's auction. All the correct componentry is there for a future eight-figure car: Limited production, halo supercar status, and the coup de grâce, a mid-mounted naturally aspirated F1-derived V-12 and a gated manual transmission.
Regarding the styling, we think it's one of the few 1990s supercars to have aged spectacularly well, especially with that low, wide stance and integrated rear wing. From some angles, it looks like an open-wheeled car with a body draped over it, especially from the low rear-three-quarter vantage point; nearly all of the rear mechanical guts and chassis mounting points can be seen through the porous rear grille.
Ferrari F50 Buying Tips
As is usually the case with cars at this level of celebrity and value, it will be difficult to find one with any significant problems save outright crash damage or rot from underuse. Yes, the biggest problem facing these older analogue supercars is a lack of regular exercise, and it seems the original owners of the F50 were more prone to leave their fresh supercar in the wrapper.
We've heard first-hand stories of warped rear decklid glass, shellacked and green-tinged carbon fiber trim, expired rock-hard tires, dried up seals, and gunked fuel systems. According to renowned one Ferrari expert, a mothballed F50 shipped to Maranello for simple reconditioning ended up with a bill for around $150,000. Drive your limited edition mid-1990s supercars, people!
Rumors about timed-out carbon fiber tubs that turned brittle have never been substantiated, but make sure you bring any potential F50 purchase to a marque specialist for mechanical appraisal. Aside from all the regular foibles that accompany a car of this magnitude, weak points include the digital dash panel, adjustable suspension, transmission seals, and a fuel bladder that needs to be swapped out every ten years. Trust us, this isn't going to be cheap.
Ferrari F50 Articles on Automobile
It's rare, expensive, and hardly seen in public, so it's no surprise we have had little to no recent interaction with an F50. Here's what we've written about it in the past.
Ferrari F50 Auctions
Sales of the Ferrari F50 have ramped up in the past few years as values climb.
Ferrari F50 Quick Facts
- First year of production: 1995
- Last year of production: 1997
- Total sold: 349
- Original price: $475,000
- Once underappreciated, now enjoys a cult following
- One of the purest V-12 driving experiences in the world
- A legendary supercar with a true F1-derived engine
Ferrari F50 FAQ
You have questions about the Ferrari F50. Automobile has answers. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked F50 queries:
How much is a Ferrari F50?
Depending on mileage, service history, and color, most run-of-the-mill low-mileage red F50s will cost between $2.5 and $3.5 million. If you hunt around for the right car with moderate mileage, prices drop to $2 to $3 million.
How many Ferrari F50 were made?
Just 349 Ferrari F50s were made between 1995 and 1997, making it the second rarest of the five Ferrari halo cars.
Is the Ferrari F50 GT street legal?
This is in reference to the prototype GT1-class F50 GT race car that almost-was. Only three were made before the program was cancelled, and no, you can't drive it on the street, even if you were to find one.
How many black F50s were made?
Just four F50s left the factory in Nero Daytona (black), compared to the overwhelming 302 units in Rosso Corsa (red), 31 in Giallo Modena (yellow), Rosso Barchetta (dark red), and Argento Nurburgring (silver).
Ferrari F50 Specifications
|ENGINE||4.7L DOHC 60-valve V-12/512 hp @ 8,500 rpm, 347 lb-ft @ 6,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD targa|
|EPA MILEAGE||7/10 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||176.4 x 78.2 x 44.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.7 sec|
|TOP SPEED||201 mph|