PH buying guide: Ferrari 550 Maranello

Not every supercar from the 1990s has aged as well as the Ferrari 550 Maranello. The 550 may have got off to a slow start with those who expected sweeping drama from the styling of a Ferrari, but this front-engined replacement for the F512 has moved gracefully into its middle years. It has also proved the shrewder buy over its 575M replacement that simply didn't handle nearly as well until Ferrari introduced a handling pack to cure the 575's ills.

Old-school looks, new-school appeal
Old-school looks, new-school appeal
Launched in 1996 costing £143,000, the 550 is far more practical than the F512 thanks to its 485hp 5.5-litre V12 engine being mounted up front. Even with a six-speed transaxle gearbox, boot space was decently generous and the 550 offered much easier access to its roomy cabin than the F512.

The V12 engine propelled the 550 from 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds, topped out at 200mph and was powerful enough to help this Ferrari record two new production car speed records in 1998. On a track at Marysville, Ohio in the USA, the 550 covered 62 miles at an average speed of 188.88mph, while in one hour the same car covered 183.955 miles.

A total of 3,083 Ferrari 550 coupes were made between 1996 and 2001, with 457 right-hand drive models produced. There were also 457 550 Barchetta Pininfarina open-tops built in 2001, with 10 pre-production models included in this figure. Of this number 48 were sold in the UK with right-hand drive. Top speed of the Barchetta was 186mph due to its aerodynamics not being quite as slippery as the coupe's 0.33Cd figure.

Despite extra strengthening to make the Barchetta free from scuttle shake, Ferrari kept the weight down to 1,690kg, identical to that of the coupe. A manually operated soft-top helped here, though this roof was only every intended as an emergency option rather than a proper year-round hood.

If you find a Barchetta for sale, expect to pay upwards of £100,000, while the best 550 coupes will set you back as much as £80,000 in today's market. Higher mileage but still cared for 550 coupes can be found from around £35,000, but most sit in the £45,000 to £55,000 bracket from Ferrari specialists and franchised dealers.

Photos by Malcolm Griffiths and from Classic & Sports Car - for the in-depth feature on this car and more pictures see the December issue, out now! Additional photography from Ferrari.

PHer quote:
"The only way to buy these cars is with a proper inspection from a Ferrari specialist and on quality - the cabin is fairly fragile and if the cabin looks more worn that it should be for a 20K mileage car then walk away. In addition, I think it is crucial to drive at least two cars as some may be very shiny with low miles but actually drive dreadfully."

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Comments (55) Join the discussion on the forum

  • f328nvl 17 Jan 2013

    80085 said:
    It has 4 seats and a big boot!.
    Erm, no it doesn't, and the boot lid and opening mechanism is really badly designed.

    Yes I did have one.

  • caraddict 09 Jan 2013

    A friendly bump. Just wanted to say that I absolutely love this car.

    V12 front engined Ferrari with a manual shifter... That's an essential in my dream garage, and this one combine gracefully aged looks + it's modern enough (personally I'm biggest fan of the 90's cars).

    PS. IIRC there was a guy over in the US who had an F50. He got tired of waiting months and months for parts and swapped to a 550, and said it was the best thing he did because he got the comfort along with the power as well (and of course, much less rawness and even less exclusivity but then again how often do you spot a 550 in the wild?)

    PS 2. The gentleman who said that these have a lot of road presence is absolutely spot on. Whenever I see a 355/360/F430 I think "That guy's out having fun!". When I spot a 550 was comes to mind is "Man, that guy's really enjoying life!".
    THAT's the difference.
    I for one also love anonymity, so that's another +1 for it.

    Edited by caraddict on Wednesday 9th January 20:20

  • f328nvl 15 Nov 2012

    JazzyO said:
    Dave Hedgehog said:
    impressive that you where able to qoute me in the 15 seconds it took me to edit my post
    What a shame that in editing it you invented another Ferrari that does not exist, the 360 Scud....???

    Lots of keyboard warriors here it seems. Particularly the discussion about value is pretty uneducated. Every single V12 Ferrari has tanked in value in the first decade and a half. This process has gone on since the '50ies. So if you're comparing V12 Ferraris from the 1970's with one from the late 1990's then you're not very informed on how classic car values evolve. Also, you cannot compare build numbers across decades as the luxury market was much smaller back then, and annual production was much lower.

    Arguing about looks is silly. Personally I think the 550 is a brilliant design and I love it to bits. People that think of Toyota Supras surely must also think of an MR2 when they see an F355. Or be blind. But as I said, it is a moot argument. Looks are highly subjective. So what isn't?

    Well the facts are:

    A front-engined V12 Ferrari in the pre-Boxer tradition that has a fantastic weight distribution (if a bit too much weight). Huge torque available at low revs, but noretheless a free revving V12 that pulls very easily, and quickly, to the 7.7k redline. 485bhp with standard exhaust, around 500 with a Tubi. 0 - 60 in 4.2, 0 - 120 in 14.4. Still impressive numbers when read out, more impressive when trying it yourself. Understated, and to me, quite lovely, cabin. Almost all dials and displays are analog, and combined with the traditional gated gearshift it has a lovely "driver's heaven" kind of feel to it. Normal seats are very comfortable too, for long drives. Car is very reliable. Ownership costs (excluding depreciation) are very reasonable. Including de-/appreciation they are fantastic. And these days the entry price is very low too.

    Irritations? Well the ASR is next to useless. Normal exhaust too quiet but Tubi too loud when pottering through a village. Windows stop sealing and have to be adjusted fairly regularly. Window strips peel. Leather can shrink on dash. Sticker for the AC panel wrinkles with age. Trunk can only be opened from the centre console. Car is not modern anymore and if you want a decent stereo/satnav/ipod connection you are going to struggle.

    But the 550 is a car that most people won't get. You need a bit of class, sophistication and proper driver's touch to feel the subtleties of it. All great drivers that tried it have raved about it (Richard Burns, Derek Bell, Phil Hill, Michael Schumacher and many others), because at the limit this car is truly good. It is not a 456 with a bench less. This car is much more sporty and it wants to be spanked.

    How did you find the limit of a Ferrari 550 on Jersey?

    I had one and it was alright, a trip to Le Mans was memorable. However it had loads of irritations, some of which you list. Most annoying was that it kept having to be fixed (see the blog thing at Club Scud) and, due to wide long doors and a modern Ferrari girth, it was too wide to park almost anywhere on the planet and be able to get out of the damned thing.

  • 911stu 07 Nov 2012

    Ftumpch said:
    I'm going to buy one of these as soon as I can bear to part with my 246 Dino.

    That is, when the bloody thing stops appreciating!!
    Yeah, that must be really annoying

  • Ftumpch 07 Nov 2012

    I'm going to buy one of these as soon as I can bear to part with my 246 Dino.

    That is, when the bloody thing stops appreciating!!

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