They say you should never meet your heroes, as you will only be disappointed. Nothing ever lives up to the hype. For me it couldnt be further from the truth.
On Friday I was told that the next day, for the princely sum of £20, which would be donated to a charity, I would be getting a ride in a Ferrari F40. Not Just any Ferrari F40, this was an ex Alain Prost Ferrari F40.
The charity event had all sorts of other automotive Exotica - a new Nissan GTR, Lambo's of assorted colours, a Porsche 911 GT3RS, Aston Martins, Ferrari 348 with a straight through Tubi exhaust, Testa Rossa and 550 Maranello, the list went on and on. But there was only one car I was interested in - the one that is single handedly responsible for my obsession with the house of Maranello.
The owner of the car had flown his own helicopter from a historic car race, where he was racing a 70's F1 car, to take a handfull of lucky lucky people for a spin round a "private test track" in the middle of nowhere
When we arrived, quite a few of the cars were parked up with people milling around, the owners proudly showing off their prized posessions. Then the F40 pulled in to the car park and every single person their turned to look. It oozed menace like no other car I have ever come accross.
This is the first view I had of the beast:
I was due to have the last run of the day and was duly invited to climb in and strap myself in to the passenger seat. To say I was excited was the understatement of the decade - I just about climbed over the sill and into the bucket seat, closing the door gingerly as I got in- I really did not want to damage a £200k+ hypercar! At this point the owner had to reach across, open the door and close it with a huge thud just to make sure it was shut properly- so much for treating the old girl with kid gloves!
He started her up - Wow, what a noise. Even on idle it sounded fantastic - then he blipped the throttle, every single hair on my boody stood on end. We turned left out of the car park and off we went - 20 mins or so of sheer terror mixed with elation, heart stopping acceleration and phenomenal car control.
The first thing I clocked was the sheer spness of the car- no compromise to comfort was made at all with this thing- no stereo (not that you need one), no wind down windows, not even a door handle.
As the owner changed gears you could sense how heavy the clutch was and how much hard work it was for him to swap cogs. At this point we had reached about 60 mph and the sound was glorious. He looked accross and asked if I was ready for what was about to happen and I said yes!
He dropped down a gear and floored the throttle, and for a split second it was as if nothing had happened, but behind me I just about clocked the sound of Turbos spooling up and then BANG!!! massive massive acceleration, it was as if a heavy weight boxer had put both his hands on my shoulders and was pinning me back into my seat - I have never felt anything like it in my life - I just about craned my neck over to the speedo - 130 mph, and still he was accelerating! It was a phenomenal feeling.
What followed was yet more savage acceleration and if I am honest some absolutley heroic car control as it was becoming clear that it was one hell of a hard car to drive, expecially in the damp conditions we were in. But the smile on the owners face said it all.
We returned to the car park after our stint, and I got out still shaking at the experience I had just had. All that was left was to have my picture taken besides the old girl, and stand and listen to it tick itself cool in the summer rain.
This chap had quite a car collection, which he reeled off to me afterwards, and when I asked him what was the ultimate car in his collection, with a smile he said the f40 everytime. It is a snarling brute of a car, but if you master it the rewards are incredible.
For me it will always be the ultimate- the perfect combination of pedigree, power, menace and theatre. I had a poster of one on my bedroom wall as a kid, I have a scale model of one on my desk at work and now I have had the pleasure of hearing, seeing, smelling and feeling one in full, magnificent flow. For me it represents Hyper Car genesis, the starting point for all that came after it, with a sense of personality that nothing since has been able to match. What a machine, and what a legend.