- Chassis No.
The Ferrari F40
Announced in 1987 to celebrate Enzo Ferrari’s forty years as a carmaker, the 200mph F40 was the ultimate supercar of its generation. Inevitably, comparisons were made with the rival Porsche 959, but whereas its German nemesis represented a cutting-edge, technological tour de force, the F40 exemplified traditional Ferrari values. A relatively straightforward car evolved from the preceding 288 GTO, the F40 relied on enormous power, low weight, race-bred suspension, generously sized tyres and excellent aerodynamics to achieve a level of performance even better than that of the infinitely more complex 959.
After the runaway success of the 288 GTO with collectors, the F40 was always going to be much in demand, but probably nobody could have anticipated the frenzied interest which greeted its launch, and the extent to which buyers would go to secure one. Only Ferrari’s best clients were allocated an F40, which was built in limited numbers, and those not lucky enough to be on the list paid premiums of up to four times the factory price to own one.
The owner of this car didn’t have such worries: he was one of the America’s most respected businessmen, transforming the fortunes of a household name newspaper which had been in family hands for three generations, allowing him to indulge his passions on a scale impossible for most mortals. His name was Otis Chandler.
“His critics could not understand his enthusiasm for surfing, big-game hunting, motorcycles and sports cars — obsessions that several times nearly cost him his life,” said his 2006 obituary in the rival New York Times. Wikipedia detailed his achievements: “[Chandler] was the publisher of the Los Angeles Times between 1960 and 1980, leading a large expansion of the newspaper and its ambitions. He was the fourth and final member of the Chandler family to hold the paper’s top position. Chandler made improvement of the paper’s quality a top priority, succeeding in raising the product’s reputation, as well as its profit margins.”
His sudden retirement in 1980 at the top of his powers prompted surprise throughout the industry. “Otis has gone surfing, and he’s never coming back,” Noel Greenwood, The Times’ metropolitan editor, famously remarked about his boss’s unexpected abdication. Chandler was now able to devote himself fully to his hobbies including the Otis Chandler Vintage Museum of Transportation and Wildlife, which he built in Oxnard, California, to display his extensive car and motorcycle collection and trophy animals from his many hunting safaris.
Otis Chandler’s 1992 model year F40 is one of 213 originally built for the US market and, as a late production car incorporating the various developments made during the 1987-1992 build run, was delivered to Ferrari North America in November 1991: on the USA-version cars, the 10th digit designates the Model Year so ‘L’ is 1990, ‘M’ is 1991, ‘N’ is 1992 etc.
As one might expect knowing his larger-than-life character, Chandler did not buy his F40 just to look at. He drove it, and drove it fast. We have to thank Otis’ former son-in-law, automotive historian and photographer Randy Leffingwell for his help in unravelling the story: “I just spoke for 15 minutes with Otis’ former secretary Leslie Krause. Otis often took her for rides in his cars and this particular day - only a very short while after he had acquired the F40 - he offered Leslie a ride. He strapped her into her seat with the full five-point harness. He, however, did not belt himself in.
“They turned out of the museum and then from that side street on to a busier one. She said the car was absolutely going straight when Otis ‘gunned it’ and the car rapidly spun around and ended up nose first into a grassy berm. She had no recollection of a rear-end hit and only remembered coming to rest with the nose-piece dug into the grass.
“Otis was the only one hurt. He hit his head on the a-pillar and it quickly raised a ‘goose egg’ on his forehead. When [his wife] Bettina saw it soon afterward, she insisted he go to the hospital to have himself checked out.
“[Leslie] does remember Otis insisting that the car went to Ferrari for repair - she explained he was a stickler for using correct parts on everything in his collection. She remembered the car was gone for more than a year. She also said that while she couldn’t recall the exact repair price because the insurance covered it, she did remember it was between $100,000 and $200,000.
“From the woman in the passenger seat during the accident, you have confirmation. The only impact she recalls was the car went head-on into a grassy berm. Those grassy mounds exist to this day and are perhaps 24 to 30 inches tall. With the minimal front clearance on the car, it’s easy to imagine it stopping and getting stuck hard.”
Recently sent to the Ferrari factory for a comprehensive check-up, major mechanical service (including new exhaust, tyres and cambelts), and full Ferrari Classiche certification, the car has been given a clean bill of health with no sign found of any previous accident damage. Chandler died in 2006 and his world-famous collection was dispersed, mostly at auction where the record prices bore testimony to his stature in the automotive world. His F40 had already been sold, passing through several hands until it came into the present ownership in which it shares garage space with other significant classics of which Otis Chandler would doubtlessly have approved. It was awarded first place in the 2007 Los Angeles concours d’elegance.
The F40’s odometer reads just 4,996 miles and it retains the owners handbooks in their leather wallet (the warranty/ service booklet is blank), tool roll, tyre repair kit, spare belts and concours trophy. There are US servicing invoices dating back to 2007 totalling $35,392 on file, plus Ferrari’s recent work invoice for €20,430 excluding VAT and certification.
Our only regret is that we don’t have any more F40s available at this price…
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