We assumed this Ferrari F40 was a fauxrrari at first, but with further digging we realized that this was in fact, a bonafide, true-to-life Ferrari F40 based on an ex-IMSA GTcar. Let's find out more on the story, shall we?
Children of the late 70's and early 80's were enamored by the audaciously wedged Lamborghini Countach, but for those who came a little bit later, the Ferrari F40 was the car to fall in love with. It was Enzo Ferrari's final commission and was built as an extension of the 288 GTO Evoluzione that was intended to race in the Group B racing class. The F40 was heralded as the replacement for the 288 GTO and sits second in a continuing line of Ferrari super cars that would later feature the venerable F50 and the Formula One-inspired Enzo.
The Ferrari F40 featured much of the same technology in its build construction as its predecessor, mainly consisting of a tubular steel chassis with bonded composite inserts and featured a mid-longitudinally mounted engine for its utterly insane performance. The Tipo F120 A 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 was a derivative of the 288 GTO Evoluzione's 650-horsepower Tipo F114 CK, but was limited to produce a still-healthy 478-horsepower @7000 rpm; up 80 from the GTO, but down 172-horsepower from the GTO Evo. Power was made thanks in part to the 2936cc V8's bore and stroke of 81.9 x 69.5mm, 7.7:1 compression and the twin water-cooled IHI turbos set at 1.1 bar (16psi). The F40 also shared identical Behr intercoolers and Weber-Merelli IAW electronic fuel injection/ignition as the GTO. When all was said and done, the F40 could rocket to 60mph in 4.4 seconds and was able to reach a terminal velocity of 201 mph, giving it the title of first production car to reach the double century mark.
With the initial success of the F40 program, Ferrari decided that it would hire Michelotto, a long time Ferrari race car builder, to prepare the F40 LM. The untimely death of the Group B racing class could have potentially killed the F40 LM before it really got off the ground, but fortunately the car was able to be retrofitted to run in the North American IMSA GT series. The stock chassis was fully worked over, reinforcing much of it with carbon fiber, fitting a completely revised suspension with Koni springs and dampers, thicker anti-roll bars, 355mm Brembo discs and 17-inch OZ Racing alloys. Replacing the stock F40 engine was the Tipo F120 B which retained the same 3.0 liter displacement, but its twin IHI turbos were boosted to 2.6bar (38 psi) and compression was increased to 8.0:1. Michelotto also equipped the F40 LM with larger Behr intercoolers, revised camshafts and an all-new Weber Marelli engine management system that could control dual injectors per cylinder. All of this amounted to a healthy increase in power over the stock car, getting closer to rivaling a Formula One racer with 720-horsepower on tap at 7500 rpm. Without the mandated 38mm air restrictors, it was estimated that 760-horsepower was ready to be unleashed. The F40 LM was able to touch 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds and finish off the sprint at an impressive 229 mph, making it quite a bit faster than its production kin.
The F40 LM was eventually turned into the F40 GT, then the F40 GTE and finally the F40 Competizione to remain competitive in other racing series throughout the world. Little was done to the cars to adapt the initial F40 LM to other series other than necessary safety changes and power restrictions, but one of the inital F40 IMSA LM models slipped out and away from the racing spotlight for a few years.
Ferrari F40 LM, serial number 79890, was a factory prototype that was built and sold in 1989 to Jean Sage for Ferrari of France. In that same year it was raced by the famous F1 driver, Jean Alesi in a one-hour IMSA GT race at Laguna Seca finishing 3rd and it also qualified 7th in its second race at the Del Mar Raceway, but saw mechanical failure in the tenth lap. During the 1990 IMSA GT Championship, Jean Pierre Jabouille took the wheel at the Road America one-hour, finishing 2nd. Overall, this chassis was fairly successful in its racing life and was eventually bought by Belgian-born billionaire, car collector and some-time racer, Jean Blaton, who raced under the alias, Jean Beurlys. Jean had a fairly storied racing career himself, finishing multiple Le Mans 24 hour endurance races throughout the 50's and 60's, favoring mostly Ferraris when he hit the track.
Jean, being a billionaire, wasn't happy with having a car that any other collector was able to attain and contacted Tony Gillet, who later built the Gillet Vertigo, to propose a seemingly simple upgrade to F40 LM chassis number 79890. Jean proposed that they lop the top off his newly acquired toy, something that was thought to be blasphemy in the collector community (they obviously hadn't heard of James Glickenhaus and his Pininfarina P4/5 yet). The transformation began by completely re-engineering the car's double-wishbone suspension system with a push-rod actuated coilover, 4 wheel independent setup, similar to what's used in the Enzo, FXX and most modern racing cars.
The biggest and most noticeable changes were made in Gillet's workshop under the supervision of the original builder, Michelotto. The project went through a design stage that brought forth many different proposals on how to remove the roof and once a final direction was chosen, the roof was sliced off and clay was then applied to the original car in order to finalize the design before body molds were taken. Aside form the roof removal, the exhaust system was re-routed to exit just before the rear wheels, so a new rear fascia was also fabricated.
With the roof section removed, the car lost much of its rigidity which was made up for by installing a strong, tubular steel support cage around the driver cell, including roll over hoops, should the unthinkable occur. The windscreen was created from a single piece of laminated and formed lexan to give some protection to the driver. The interior was left pretty much intact with the exception of the new shorter door skins.
The new roadster was never given an official name, but in Ferrari circles it's either known as the Ferrari F40 LM Barchetta or simply the F40 Beurlys (named after its owner). Whichever name you choose to call the new roadster, it won't change the fact that it's a bad-ass, beast of a ride. While participating and adding its expertise in the build, Michelotto took the opportunity to remove the restrictor plates that limited the overall power of the F40 LM, allowing it to breath again and helping it unleash the full 760-horsepower from the Tipo F120 B twin-turbocharged V8. Could you imagine a blast to 229 mph with no roof? We imagine it feeling something like ripping the eject cord in a jet cruising just under mach speeds with the added bonus of grabbing a flying snack on the go.
On February 13th, 2005 the F40 Beurlys was put up for auction in France along with 41 other cars in Jean Blaton's collection. There were high hopes that it would fetch anywhere between $190,000 and $245,000, but unfortunately it was not sold and the historical paper trail has since gone cold. It's not known at this time if Jean still owns the car or if ownership was transferred through a private sale, but it did pop up during an official Ferrari track day a couple of years ago.
There have been other stories stating that the F40 Barchetta is not an actual Ferrari F40 (*gasp) and that it's actually a tube-framed, fiberglass replica with an unspecified Alfa Romeo engine feeding its fury. Another story is that the car was commissioned by Jean Blaton and was built by an Italian-Swiss team under the supervision of Argentinian-born engineer, Mario Navarete and former technicians from the Coloni F1 team. The powertrain came from a wrecked F40 but in this configuration produces 650-horsepower.
Whatever the true story is (we're hoping for the story we told), the F40 IMSA Barchetta / F40 Beurlys is an interesting historical anomaly that has slipped through the cracks and although Ferrari doesn't recognize it as an official model, we do, if for nothing more than the cool factor of an F40 roadster. Automobilismo felice!