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Enzo's legacy lives in last great supercar

IN 1987, I WAS NINE. It was the era of Lego sets, cap guns, Optimus Prime and Thundercats. The Indiana Jones movies were still good, Jar-Jar Binks had yet to ruin Star Wars, and Justin Bieber wasn't even born yet. It was a magical time.

IN 1987, I WAS NINE.

It was the era of Lego sets, cap guns, Optimus Prime and Thundercats. The Indiana Jones movies were still good, Jar-Jar Binks had yet to ruin Star Wars, and Justin Bieber wasn't even born yet.

It was a magical time. Of course, like any small boy, I was very much into cars. Be-louvered Lamborghinis, whale-tailed Porsches, racespec BMW M3s; I loved them all. But then, in 1987, along came the King, the last true supercar ever to be built. The Ferrari F40.

The roads today are different. They're clogged with traffic and the average family car can have as much as 280 horsepower. Compare the Honda Accord of 1987 to the V-6 Honda Accord of today: the '80's Honda would have managed a 0-100 kilometres per hour on-ramp in about 10 seconds. The current Accord will make the sprint in about half that time, all the while cranking out "Party Rock" through a premium audio system in a degree-perfect climate-controlled cabin.

Our modern supercars? Well, there's always the big, fat Bugatti Veyron and all its AWD-gimcrackery. Or perhaps you'd like something like the Lamborghini Gallardo or the Ferrari 458; angular, fast and precise. These cars are all about twice as fast as that Honda V-6.

But travel back in time with me to a land when the Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill was in the middle of going platinum, people were dirty dancing, and the Simpsons were appearing as short cartoons on the Tracey Ullman Show. Ferraris were things you saw on Magnum P.I.; as flashy as Tom Selleck's Hawaiian shirts, but perhaps not all that fast.

It was a difficult time for Ferrari. Used to racing dominance, the prancing stallion had fallen a half-step behind in competition. Enzo Ferrari, the patriarch of the company, was nearing 90 years of age. The silver-haired "Il Commentadore," as Enzo was known, was still as stern, focused, and sharp as ever, but he knew his time was coming to an end. The company he founded was approaching their 40th anniversary and he intended to celebrate the occasion with a car that would encompass his legacy.

Porsche already had a world-beater in the twin-turbo 959. Even today, this uber-911 could hang with some very fast cars, and it set the precedent for fast, capable, all-wheel-drive Porsche turbo cars. It had comfortable seats and air-conditioning. You could drive it every day if you wanted.

Then there was the Lamborghini upstart, the Countach. Famously founded as the result of an argument with Ferrari, Ferrucio Lamborghini's company had built an angular V-12 monster that could unleash serious power - in a straight-line. In other respects it was as cramped, hot and dangerous as an early rocket-plane prototype.

Ferrari's supercar would be so much more than the clinical precision of the 959 or the hairy-chested bellowing of the Countach. Taking its roots from a failed racing homologation program based on the 288 GTO, the F40 blazed onto the scene in 1987 and shocked the world.

The first production car to go more than 200 miles per hour; 0-100 km/h in a little more than three seconds. Racetrack lap times that would put modern hyper-exotics like the Pagani Zonda in their place.

How did the F40 manage all this? Well, power was certainly part of the equation, and with 471 h.p. coming from a twinturbo V-8 engine, the primo Ferrari had plenty of go. More importantly, it weighed less than a modern MX-5, thanks to a combination of lightweight carbon-fibre construction and obsessive weight-savings.

The F40 has no air-conditioning, no stereo, no carpets and not even any interior door handles. It's got no cup-holders, no satellite navigation, no fancy stability control and certainly no heated seats. What it does have is the ability to melt your face right off.

Let me throw another number out at you: $400,000. That's a lot of money, even by today's standards. By 1987 standards, you could have bought up large tracts of False Creek for that kind of scratch. What's more, with such a limited production run, some F40 buyers were reported to have ponied up as much as $1.6 million.

As such, don't expect to see one hanging around in your car park any time soon. I've seen a Veyron downtown, I've seen a Washington-plated 959 on the Trans-Canada, I've even seen two Countachs chasing each other over the Lions Gate Bridge. Never seen an F40.

And that's OK because it's a legendary car, a hero of my childhood, but the world is a different place now. The Nissan GT-R might not have the top speed of the F40, but it would crush the Ferrari in almost any real-world application, and all for the same price as a basic Porsche 911.

What's more, you'd have to be crazy to drive either one of those cars at anything like three-quarters of their potential on the street. Today's supercar is something more like the Fisker Karma, where style and efficiency are more important than all-out speed.

In 25 years, there has never been a car like it. In the next 25, I seriously doubt there will be. It's the last of a breed, the last car to have Enzo Ferrari's personal touch upon it. The King is dead; long live the King.

Brendan McAleer is a freelance writer and automotive enthusiast. If you have a suggestion for a column, or would be interested in having your car club featured, please contact him at mcaleeronwheels@ Follow Brendan on Twitter: @brendan_mcaleer.