This past Saturday was a glorious day. Not a cloud in the sky, temperatures in the mid 70sF, and with Mrs. SSO booked into a local spa for half a day of pampering, I was left with the perfect opportunity to pull a couple of cars out of the garage and just go enjoy a drive.
First up was the Ferrari F40. After last year’s trauma (Resurrection of the F40), we have been slowly getting too know each other again. In my mind last year’s engine and turbo rebuilds are the equivalent of open heart surgery so for the first few months, I’ve taken the approach that the F40 is in rehab, slowly regaining its strength, and driven it with that philosophy in mind. This might be unnecessarily cautious but it’s a lot better than the alternative.
Getting the F40 moving is as much an exciting event today as the first time I sat in the car. First open up the front clam shell, unplug the battery conditioner, open the driver’s door, step with right foot into the driver’s footwell, swing your tushy into the driver’s seat, and then pull your left leg in. Key into the ignition, turn it two positions to the right, wait for the fuel pumps to pressurize, then give the black rubber start button a good firm push. The starter motor whirls for a second before the engine catches with a deep baritone growl, and then settles quickly into a slightly excited state at 2000 rpms while the catalytic converters warm up. Next step is to turn the fairly anemic air conditioner on and wait for the revs to drop down around 1000 rpm. Once the F40 has settled into its normal idle, then its left foot down on the heavy clutch, hand on top of the cool metal gearshift ball, push it over to the left and up into reverse, release the clutch while slightly flexing the right ankle, and then begin to slowly roll backwards. Once clear of the garage, the upper body work out begins. With hands on the wheel at 9 & 3 o’clock, it takes a bit of muscle to get the steering wheel around to the right. Foot back on the clutch, gearshift slotted back into first, right ankle rolled forward again, and we are off. Slowly trundling down the driveway is done with only the slightest touching of the accelerator. At the bottom of the drive, look both ways quickly and then if it is clear, down goes the right foot carefuly and we are off. The revs climb to about 3500 rpm and then it’s a quick up shift to 2nd. Same into 3rd and then we stay there waiting for the water and oil gauges to begin their slow sweep north.
As the F40 is slowly warming up, I notice that the clutch pedal feels a bit spongy. This is one of the F40s lesser understood and appreciated traits. It’s caused by the magnesium housing. This happens when the car has not seen a lot of use and then been sitting for a couple of weeks. I’ve found that a dozen or two good pushes firms the clutch right back up. I found a quiet place to pull over and gave my left leg a bit of extra exercise.
With the F40 now fully warmed up and the clutch feeling right, it was time to just go drive. Over the next hour and a bit, we cruised down back country lanes, stopped once for a quick picture, and hit the highway to give the turbos a chance to fully spool up (briefly). Hearing the turbos whistle behind your head never gets old. I didn’t push the F40 hard, nor did I feel I needed to. Getting it flowing down the windy back country roads is a wonderful, highly enjoyable feeling. It was all 2nd gear, 3rd gear, glaze the brake pedal, then back down into 2nd for the next curve. You get into a rhythm as the steering lightens up, the nose goes exactly where you point it, and you set up each curve properly to keep the car moving smartly. The F40 is a slow in fast out turbo lag beast in which you need to make sure all 4 wheels are headed in the same direction before seriously getting back on the power. Get it wrong and there is absolutely nothing to save you, except you. Most F40 accidents are related to a situation that suddenly exceeds driving talent.
The route I took resembled a 3-year old’s version of a circle, it started and ended at the same point but had lots of side excursions as I headed down a number of new roads that just looked inviting. After a bit more of an hour, it did put me right back near our house. The F40 seemed to be quite happy with its time out and would likely have been happy continuing our drive to nowhere for the rest of the afternoon. However, given the cloudless sky and perfect temperature, I decided to give it the rest of day off and exchange it for something with an open-air option.
With the Ferrari F40 keys becoming the McLaren 675LT Spider key fob, it was back out to the garage again. Like the F40, the first step in getting the 675LT Spider on the road, is unplugging the battery conditioner. Once that’s down, you swing the driver’s side door up and forward, put your right foot in the driver’s footwell, then then basically drop as elegantly as possible into the driver’s seat. Once in, the left leg gets lifted over the large sill and slides under the steering wheel. With the right foot firmly on the brake pedal, you press the starter button in and the 675LT Spider roars into life before settling almost immediately into low rumble of an idle around 1000 rpms. Next raise the small left hand stalk twice to activate the nose lift and then pull the roof button up on the central consul to let nature in. Poke the reverse button on the center consul, touch the gas pedal lightly and the gloom of the garage is replaced by bright sunlight. Once well clear of the garage, it’s a quick pull on the right hand paddle, steering wheel all the way over to the left, give it a bit more gas, and we are off down the driveway.
Once out into the wild, the transmission setting gets moved to “Sport”, and we follow a very similar route as per the one taken in the F40. As the 675LT Spider is also a twin turbo V8, I tend to follow the same pattern of slow in, fast out in the curves, but with the big carbon ceramic brakes, braking comes later, and we are back on the power earlier. The steering is razor sharp and gives great immediate feedback which just builds confidence. Get it all right and you get a nice big “bang” on each upshift. The 675LT Spider is another rhythm car. When driver and automobile are in sync and flowing smoothly down the road, it’s a wonderful deeply rewarding feeling.
Driving the same roads provided for a wonderful comparison between these two iconic cars. One of the things I did notice was that I was driving the 675LT Spider 3-5 mph faster in almost all locations. In neither case was I trying to push the car, but that bit of extra confidence of having massive ceramic brakes, modern traction control and ease of drivability just naturally turned into carrying a bit more speed. That having been said, I do believe that fitting ceramic brakes and a modern low lag turbo set up on the F40 would utterly ruin it.
The 675LT Spider drive ended up being a bit shorter than the F40 jaunt as I did promise Mrs. SSO that I would meet her on the boat for lunch. As I parked the 675LT Spider back in the garage and reattached the battery condition, I couldn’t help but think how fortunate I am to own and drive these two. My inner 8 year old petrolhead was thoroughly indulged and satisfied. Its these sort of drives that make the whole supercar experience so special.
While the pleasure of owning a supercar can be realized in multiple ways from road trips to track days to group gatherings, sometimes all that’s needed is just a peaceful solitary drive.
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