The Ferrari supercar world is a small one and as an owner, I get approached on a semi regular basis for advice on what to look for when buying either an F40 or an F50. I am not an expert on either model by any stretch of the imagination, I just drive them. However having owned both for several years now, I do have a bit of experience in terms of what issues might arise. Most buyers I talk to though seem much more concerned with mileage & history, and the impact of both on values, that anything else. The concern with mileage is really quite perplexing. It is a major focus in both the UK and US but much less so in other markets. Fortunately, this focus on mileage does seem have an expiration date. I have never heard of anyone being concerned about the mileage on a 250 GTO, 250 SWB, 275 GTB, or 365 GTB/4 Daytona. The only thing that counts on any of these great Ferraris is condition, as it should. Personally I think the same should apply to all the Ferrari supercars. In fact most of the ones that I have seen that run beautifully are used regularly. Two F40s and a F50 that I have seen stranded by the side of the road were all ultra-low mileage concurs garage queens. These are machines that were designed to be driven and run best when used regularly. One other factor that many buyers don’t realize in regards to the F40, F50, and 288 GTO is that they are easy to clock. So unless a specific car has a complete ironclad history from the day it first rolled out of the gates of Maranello, I would not put too much stock in the odometer reading.
Focusing specifically on the F50, history is another area that buyers tend to put a lot of focus on. As F50s are all LHD (exception being a small number of cars converting to RHD by Pininfarina for the Sultan of Brunei’s family), with the fluctuations in exchange rate over the last 15-25 years, many of these cars have moved through multiple countries. While in the US & UK, most supercar owners tend to keep detailed service records, in other markets it is much less common. As cars move across borders records can get misplaced. In Germany, Italy, & Spain, a stamped service book is more the norm than a box of detailed receipts. I have also seen a couple of F50s in Germany and Italy that had zero history with the cars as they had always been maintained by the owners private mechanic. I do like to see the detailed history on a car but from a personal standpoint, it is really only the last 4-5 years that matter. What happened 15 years ago is interesting but not really relevant to the current condition.
On any Ferrari, a detailed pre purchase inspection by a qualified mechanic is highly recommended. I would also insist on a compression and leak down test to insure that the engine is health.
Specific items to check on an F50 are:
– clutch, check condition and when it was last replaced, they are fragile and can be ruined easily if the car is not driven properly
– the gearbox seals dry out and fail if the car is not used regularly, if they do, oil will spray onto the clutch plate and ruin it.
– the fuel bag tank needs to be replaced every fifteen years, find out when it was done.
– tires, check the condition and date codes, ideally they should not be more than a few years old
– check the adjustable suspension, make sure it is working properly, if the car is stored with the suspension up, it can fail.
– the electronic digital dashboards are known to fail. Repair can be a six month job and cost $$$$$. Make sure it is working properly. Go through the entire start up procedure.
– it is possible to “clock” an F50, and many have had the dashboards changed from KM to MPH, When this is done mileage can get “lost”. Make sure the cars condition and history all matches.
– the fabric on the seats fades over time and is difficult to clean. Check condition. Likewise for the exposed carbonfiber on the doors. It can turn milky.
– if the air-conditioner is not regularly used and serviced, it will likely need replacement
– the water temp sensors & expansion bottle seals will eventually fail and need replacement, check if this has been done.
Make sure the following items are with the car:
– hard top in box
– emergency soft top (should be in a long thin bag attached behind the seats
– build picture book & letter from Luca Di Montezemolo
– 2 piece luggage set
– rechargeable flashlight
– tool kit, tire repair bottle, tow eye, wheel removal nut
– if the hard top is currently on the car, make sure all the items for the Barchetta set up are present: 2 roll hoops, rear deck lid, bolts, etc.
– owner’s manual & service book
– a few of the early cars were delivered without any sound deadening between the rear firewall and drivers compartment. These transmit significantly more noise into the cockpit and can be very grinding to drive long distances.
The above list is what I have picked up from living with an F50 for many years.
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Another terrific piece!
I would add – for anyone who cares – that the pedal boxes on F50s can be a problem area requiring rebuilding and clean. I had to do this on both examples I had (104799 and 103494). Maybe I just got ripped off for service by my servicing dealer charge me an arm and a leg for that detail work.
I did make sure to buy examples with recently replaced fuel bladders but I would also add that the date of manufacture of the bladders installed matters too! The company who makes them (ATR or ATF or some similar name) gives them a shelf life of I believe 10 years maximum – so any prospective owners (or current owners) don’t just assume the bags / bladders were brand new when installed – check the expiry date. A reputable shop should have it on hand with the paperwork.
Other areas where I encountered issues on both cars were the electrical system (fuse box seemed extraordinarily prone to moisture contamination, including actuation of the fan switch). More significant wear items as the miles rack up included plugs and plug wires which can lead to misfires and raw fuel running down the cylinder walls – to be kept in mind. And last I had a shock tower go on the first car (at about 55.000 miles). The electronic shick actuators needed replacement as well but as they are a 355 cross over part they are easy to replace.
And the best quote I learned from your piece:
” few of the early cars were delivered without any sound deadening between the rear firewall and drivers compartment. These transmit significantly more noise into the cockpit and can be very grinding to drive long distances.”
I guess neither of mine had this as they were very grinding indeed!
Last but not least, for US spec car owners / purchasers, I would recommend checking that the catalytic converters are in good operative condition as they can easily be contaminated by bad fuel. The f50 more so than any other car I had tended to generate large amounts of patent heat including from the cats and this should also be kept in mind!