The natural function of viruses is to deliver their genetic material to cells. Among the most effective of viruses in doing that is Simian Virus-40 (SV40). The properties that make SV40 a successful virus make it an attractive candidate for use as a gene delivery vehicle: high titer replication, infectivity for almost all nucleated cell types whether the cells are dividing or resting, potential for integration into cellular DNA, a peculiar pathway for entering cells that bypasses the cells antigen processing apparatus, very high stability, and the apparent ability to activate expression of its own capsid genes in trans. Exploiting these and other characteristics of wild type (wt) SV40, increasing numbers of laboratories are studying recombinant (r) SV40-derived vectors. Among the uses to which these vectors have been applied are: delivering therapy to inhibit HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV) and other viruses; correction of inherited hepatic and other protein deficiencies; immunizing against lentiviral and other antigens; treatment of inherited and acquired diseases of the central nervous system; protecting the lung and other organs from free radical-induced injury; and many others. The effectiveness of these vectors is a reflection of the adaptive evolution that produced their parent virus, wt SV40. This article explores how and why these vectors work, their strengths and their limitations, and provides a functional model for their exploitation for experimental and clinical applications.