Meet the guy who services his own Ferrari F40
Kyle Fortune is a freelance motoring journalist who has written for a host of newspapers, magazines and websites including Motor1.com, Car Magazine and the Daily Telegraph.
“I like to do my own thing,” says John McGurk. That much is evident — it’s February, and instead of squirrelling away his classic car for the winter, he’s just had it out. Not just any classic, either, but a Ferrari F40. McGurk’s car is used as intended, out in all seasons, and actually driven.
“You get to the gates of heaven when you’re six foot under and St Peter says to you: ‘you lucky b*stard, you had that F40, what was it like to drive?’ And if you stand there and say ‘well actually I never got in it and drove it, I just stared at it’, he’s gonna say ‘go to hell you stupid boy’. I use it. What’s the point in having it otherwise?” he says.
McGurk’s not a typical F40 owner then. He doesn’t just drive it, he really enjoys it. “It’s all very well running it up and down the road, but you’ve got to take it out for a long run, get the turbos nice and hot and throwing flames out the back,” he says.
He bought it just over ten years ago, and has wound on 21,000km since. His business, McGurk Performance Cars, had sold a few of them before he took the plunge himself. “Every time I sold one, they were going up £50,000 a time,” says McGurk. This was at a time where you could have a 288 GTO, F40 and F50 and change, for about the money it’d cost you to buy the F40 today.
“It was the last F40 we had, and I phoned my wife and said we should buy it ourselves,” says McGurk. That’s one hell of an understanding wife he's got, as he re-mortgaged the house to put the red car in his garage. Having worked for TWR Jaguar and Ferrari previously, McGurk remembers when F40s could change hands for as ‘little’ as £100,000, so the F40 looked like a sound buy. “It was a wise decision buying it. Actually, it will be when we sell it, but until then it’s irrelevant,” he concedes.
“Thing is, I’m not a squillionaire like most owners, far from it,” says McGurk, who admits to having to save up if something big needs doing. Not that it’s too expensive to run though. McGurk reckons it costs him about £1,200 in a typical year to service, but if he sent it to a specialist, depending on where you go, it’d be about £5,000 to £6,000. Yup, that’s £100 a month to run an F40.
That’s largely because McGurk services it himself. It helps that he’s got a fully-loaded workshop, lifts and some technicians to help, but he gets his fingers dirty and does the spannering himself.
“But what about the service history?” cries the internet.
“I did a talk a few years back about investing in cars, and some people thought I was going to have trouble selling my F40 after looking after it myself. I don’t think so. It’s all part of the experience and whoever I sell this to eventually needs to know how much I loved and looked after the car. I could give it to a specialist who would throw huge bills at me each year, but I know more about that car than anybody,” says McGurk. He’s also got a file outlining everything he’s done to it. If he’s flummoxed by anything, he rings Ferrari specialist Bob Houghton, who’s something of an oracle on the F40, and always happy to help.
We’re in the workshop checking the brakes and giving it a once over as it’s been used a lot recently. McGurk is spraying WD40 everywhere, as he’s a “big fan of this stuff for protection and cleaning”.
“We changed the oil last week. It really couldn’t be simpler to work on,” he says. The F40 is built like a race car, so you really can just take bit sections off it. Today’s job is replacing the bagged fuel tanks that are due to be replaced. It’s not the nightmare you might imagine.
“I’ve done it twice now, it couldn’t be easier. Everything is just bolted together. Take six bolts off either side for the suspension, the tank is behind a wheel arch liner, drain them, disconnect the bypass line between them, unclip the tanks then you pull out the plastic casing, take the bag out and put the new one in. My young daughter could do it. It’s that simple.”
Cambelts? Every two years, and again, it’s a cinch, with an access panel behind the seats to get to it. The dampers need replacing says McGurk, adding: “they’re £1,200 for a set, and to replace them it’s just two bolts; you undo them, and put on the new one.” His F40 is a desirable, early non-adjust suspension example.
“I’ve replaced the fuel pumps and a knock sensor, but it’s all good otherwise. They need using to ensure all the seals don’t dry out and crack, that’s when they become troublesome.” Using it then is key, as is knowing it inside out, though use does result in the paint cracking, as the body flexes a fair bit and things like the headlights get shaken about, too. It’s worth it, though, and it’s in great condition because he looks after it and knows it so well. It’s Classiche Certified by Ferrari, but McGurk couldn’t resist replacing the exhaust, as the standard one is ‘almost silent’.
“I had it for a couple of years, then decided ‘stuff this’, so I saved up some money and had a new exhaust made by a race car exhaust fabricator down at Bicester. The quality of the work is absolutely superb. You want it to scream its head off.”
If only every owner thought the same…
We can't all own our own F40...
...but you can do what we do and scan Ebay for F40-related stuff. Warning — can get expensive.