Our F40 is now over 30 years old. Like most elite athletes, it’s now at an age where you need to train a bit harder to remain competitive. The F40 (and my wallet) has suffered through its share of “internal injuries and operations” including one major engine rebuild, two new clutches, and a couple of sets of fuel cells. We’ve driven it 30,000 miles across 11 different countries. Our various adventures together are well documented both on Karenable and in a few issues of EVO Magazine. I’ve taken the F40 on the track in several different countries and have run it flat out down the autobahn. The longest single day drive I have done in it was Nice to Madrid in a bit under 9 hours. The F40 has been driven across the Swiss Alps and up a goat path in Wales. Needless to say, our F40 has led a full life (1st Four Days in the F40) and is about as far from being a garage queen as you can get.
As our F40 isn’t a garage queen and I intend to continue driving it regularly, we have always planned its maintenance around making sure it was in great road ready condition. This has effectively translated in the F40 undergoing a rolling restoration process over the last decade. Other than one brief period in which I made the mistake of allowing odious Boardwalk Ferrari in Dallas (F40 1st US Service) near it, the F40 has been in great condition and servicing is currently entrusted to a great classic Ferrari mechanic in New England at IFS (Independent Ferrari Service). He has over 43 years of experience servicing all types of Ferraris and lots of time working on F40s.
As the calendar flipped to 2023, we were faced with another major F40 servicing milestone. The fuel bladders were now 10 years old and due for replacement again. Unlike last time we replaced the fuel bladders, this time we had a couple of options to chose from. The first option was to source a pair of new 10 year fuel bladders from Ferrari and do a straight replacement. The 2nd option was to order a set of alloy fuel tanks and permanently replacing the rubber fuel bladders with the alloy tanks. While this might seem like a major modification, it really isn’t as all US spec F40s were originally delivered with alloy tanks. After discussing the pro & cons of both with a number of other F40 owners who have recently faced the same decision, we decided to go with the alloy tanks. One of the key decision drivers was the elimination of any worries about the bladders leaking. While it isn’t something we have had happen, I do know of a couple of other owners that have had problems with the bladders leaking as they age. At the recommendation of a friend and major collector, we ordered a set of tanks from Bell Sport and Classic in the UK. Bell’s service was outstanding, and the tanks arrived well packed and in good time.
Right before I was about to ship the F40 off to IFS to have the tanks installed, I ran across an Instagram post from another F40 owner documenting his ceramic brake conversion. This immediately got my full attention as the one major weakness on the F40 is the brakes, and it’s not one that gotten better or more charming with age. The post indicated that the ceramic brakes were supplied by DK Engineering in the UK. DK has a sterling reputation in the classic Ferrari world, and I’ve been familiar with them for well over a decade. Hence, I was sure if they were supplying a ceramic brake upgrade kit for the F40, it had to be good.
I reached out to DK on the F40 ceramic brakes and immediately got a response. Lead time to order and ship the brakes to the US would be 4 weeks. After getting input from IFS, the order was placed. As DK promised, a very impressive custom case with the ceramic brakes arrived 4 weeks later.
With the alloy tanks and ceramic brake upgrade kit now in hand, off the F40 went to IFS for its annual service and to have both fitted. In terms of the annual service, it was completely routine. The tanks and brakes took a bit more time to fit but within a couple of weeks the work was completed. The F40 was then returned along with all the parts that had been swapped out. If ever needed, we can easily replace the alloy tanks with fuel bladders and refit the steel brakes.
As I was quite excited to get the F40 back and very interested to see how the new brakes would perform, we headed out for a test drive almost immediately. After 20 minutes navigating back country roads and to give the F40 time to fully warm up, we ventured out onto a very lightly traveled stretch of long straight and well sighted highway. It was the perfect place to be able to spool the turbos up and then work heat into the ceramic brakes. After about half an hour of testing them, I am completely sold. It’s almost strange having an F40 that actually stops when you want it to. My rough estimate is the ceramic brakes have increased the F40’s stopping ability by at least 30%, if not more. At a minimum, I now have a lot more confidence in the cars ability to scrub off speed when needed. The ceramic brakes have definitely made the F40 more drivable without changing what makes it such a special and rewarding car to drive.
While I doubt I will track the F40 again, road trips will certainly continue to be a major part of the F40s life and these two modifications will make it that much more useable. The ceramic brakes address the F40’s one major weakness and the alloy tanks simply provide long term peace of mind. For the Ferrari traditionalist, these modifications can always be reversed and the F40 returned to stock condition. However, I can no more imagine parting with it than I can selling off any of the other family heirlooms.
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