It has been two years since I last wrote an article solely on our Ferrari F40. There are a few reasons for the long sojourn, including a complicated move, but the main one is the poor F40 hasn’t been well for most of that time. The last blog in March 2019 on the F40 had it returning from its first service in the US at Boardwalk Ferrari in Dallas (F40 1st US Service). While it went into the service running well, it didn’t come out that way.
Fast forward to June 2020. With everything going on with the move, Covid-19, and winter, the F40 had only covered a couple hundred miles since its service at Boardwalk and it still was definitely not running well. Power was down, the engine sounded off, and there was an excessive amount of smoke at start up. By sheer luck, I had been introduced at an event the prior December to John Tirrell, who might just be the best classic Ferrari mechanic in New England (Independent Ferrari Service). John has over 43 years of experience servicing all types of Ferraris and lots of time working on F40s. So, I gave John a call, explained the situation with the car and a couple of weeks later, it was off to his workshop for a through diagnosis.
John’s initial report on the F40 was not pretty. The left-hand phase sensor was not properly connected, and the smoke volume was excessive. Compression & Leak Down Tests were next and the results indicated major issues with the left bank.
In addition, one of the turbos was blown, resulting in it pumping oil into the exhaust and melting the catalytic converter in the process. The exhaust cam seals were leaking, on both banks and the engine oil was incorrect. The F40 should have been filled with 10W/60 racing oil, not the 10W/40 oil Boardwalk Ferrari used. In addition, the oil sump was overfilled. There was also a bolt missing from the cam cap.
At this point we decided that it would be easiest to pull the engine, dismantle the top end of the engine, and then begin addressing each one of the individual issues. What I thought would be two of the most straight forward, rebuilding the turbos and catalytic converters, turned into a Covid complicated saga that took a few months to sort out. Most US specialists were shut down at this point in time so we decided to see if we could get the work done in Europe. My first call on the Turbos was to the great guys at Carrs Ferrari in the UK (Great Dealerships). Back in 2012 Carrs had arranged to have both the turbos rebuilt and cats cleaned. Unfortunately, in turns out that the small specialist that did the work back then has long since gone out of business. My next call was to Sportec in Switzerland as they had fabricated the custom exhaust system on our F40 many years ago. Sportec responded immediately that they would be able to rebuild both the catalytic converters and the turbos. Turned out getting the turbos and cats to Sportec was going to be nearly impossible. Covid had immensely complicated the shipping and the costs where now either prohibitive or insurance was not available. The risk of the package containing nearly impossible to replace parts going astray without any insurance coverage killed Sportec as a viable option. Eventually a few US based suppliers reopened in the fall and we were able to get the work done then.
The turbos and the cats turned out to be the simple part of the job. Going back to the high leak down number of the left bank, the diagnosis indicated that broken particles from the melted catalytic converter were being drawn back into the exhaust ports and compromising the valves. To address the issue, John had to pull the cylinder heads, decarbonize the valves and seats, and then reseat them. The “while you are at it” list ended up running almost 4 pages of checking, cleaning, repairing, reconditioning, replacing, and finally reassembly. In addition, a number of hoses and gaskets were replaced due to age and condition. Once this was all done new cambelts were fitted and all the accessory belts were replaced. Brake fluid, motor oil, gearbox oil were all changed and new air, fuel, and oil filters fitted. The missing cam cap bolt was found in the oil sump so that had to be first removed, then reinstalled and resealed.
All of the above took several more months but by Christmas 2020 the engine was finally back in the F40 and right before New Year’s it was up and running again. After a couple of more weeks for fine tuning, the F40 was finally back in the garage in mid-January, almost exactly 7 months after it had departed. Not only was it running beautifully again, but the engine bay and overall car has never been so clean. I don’t think it was even this pristine when I originally acquired it a decade and a half ago.
Once the F40 was back, I did have another round of correspondence with Boardwalk Ferrari as I had promised to let them know what the final outcome was on the car. This turned out to be not a particularly good use of my time. I believe the final conversation ended with my informing the Boardwalk representative that there was zero chance I would ever do business with them again.
As winter and F40’s are not a wise combination, it wasn’t until this past week, that I finally had the opportunity to take the F40 out for a good long run. The now due state vehicle inspection gave me the perfect excuse to take the F40 out. As the Team at McLaren Boston have been great and I trust them, I gave the service manager a call and asked if they would be able to do the inspection on the F40. They were more than happy to oblige, and this gave me the perfect excuse to take off in the F40 for the better part of a day. All in we did 130 wonderful miles which reinforced just how epic a driver’s car the F40 is and how much I had missed having mine for most of the past year. The steering at speed is perfectly weighted, the sounds coming from directly behind you are mechanical brilliance, and the almost violent surge forward when the turbos spool up is still spine tingling after all these years. Thanks to John Tirrell, it is running beautifully again and should continue to do so for many years to come.
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