PH CARPOOL: FERRARI 550 BARCHETTA
Roofless 550 is ruinous to run, useless when it rains but fabulous nonetheless says this week's Carpooler
Car: Ferrari 550 Pininfarina Barchetta (to give its full name)
Owned since: Jan 2002
Previously owned: Lotus Elise S1, Lotus Esprit Sport 350, Ferrari 550 Maranello, Aston Martin DB7, Bentley Conti GT, Audi RS6 Avant and whole load of "normal" stuff (Ford, Mazda, Mercs, other Audis (A4, A5, Q7), Land Rover Defender)
"I always loved the shape of the 550 and dreamed of owning one from the day it was launched. I did eventually own one, but then the chance to buy the Barchetta arrived. It was brand new, ordered for someone else who then pulled out. Long story short, I got the chance to have it and, perhaps foolishly, bought it. Having the Maranello made its impracticality less of an issue and the chance to hear the V12 "roof down" (or missing in this case) was too much to resist. And just look at: gorgeous!"
What I wish I'd known:
"It was an impulse buy. I hadn't had the Maranello all that long (a year?) so I still wasn't into the costs of running them. Ferraris are seriously expensive to run, let alone buy! Servicing, fuel, tyres, insurance ... ouch. Given that in the early years the Barchetta perhaps did 1,500 miles in a year, it still cost a lot just to sit in the garage.
"I also wished I'd know how crap the Ferrari supplied roof was. I have a Ferrari UK designed tonneau cover which looks good but you can't drive with it on. The Ferrari roof is utterly useless and ugly, requires two people to put it on, and it flies off at 70 mph and crashes into the boot causing damage (I never used the original roof, ever!). So, a "proper" roof is a must. There was the option of an aftermarket hard top but it was also ugly, expensive and couldn't be carried in the car. In the end, I got an aftermarket soft top like an original Elise which works really well (German engineering!). My advice would be never buy a Barchetta without the Michalak roof as you will hardly ever be able to drive it without getting wet.
"Like the 550 Maranello, it has the same mechanical/electrical issues: coolant leaks from the V, failing alarm sirens, the wipers WILL hit the bonnet no matter how much adjustment you give them... You can crack the windscreen by lowering yourself into the car holding onto the top of the screen surround. I did it once, a friend did it the second time (see below on costs)."
"The look. I really do love the lines and how it flows. The noise. I fitted a Tubi sports exhaust so the V12 rumble is really amplified. It spits on overrun and echoes off buildings & tunnels ... all enjoyed without a roof.
"The way makes you feel. An old cliche but I have driven it to the shop for a pint of milk, never got out a 3rd gear and arrived home with a HUGE smile on my face."
Things I hate:
"Ironically, the lack of a roof! The Barchetta is a compromised vehicle, especially in the UK. When its dry, its brilliant. When it *could* rain you are constantly looking at the clouds and looking for a spot to pull over so you can pull the roof out of the boot. That can spoil the driving experience and driving home sitting in a puddle is no fun - I speak from experience!
"Running costs, especial labour rates at dealers (what a rip off). Tyres, which last about 3000 miles if you're lucky.
"Attitudes of some drivers: petrolheads are great, others will deliberately cut you up. One guy swerved into gravel and pebble dashed the front causing a lot of stone chips (grrr)."
"I bought it new, £178,000 (ouch). Insurance was 'reasonable', about £1,500/year on a limited mileage policy. I am over 40, which helps. Fuel: it's a 110 litre tank and you get a maximum of 300 miles from it (a lot less if you drive it properly). Tyres: £350 each, 3,000 miles from the rears, fronts a bit better. Parts/Servicing: Ferrari money - eye watering expensive.
"I cracked the windscreen twice - the Barchetta screen is unique to the vehicle (ie. it's NOT a Maranello screen). The first time they got one within a week but it cost £2,500 plus VAT plus fitting. The second time I was told there was only one in the whole world (in the USA) according to Ferrari so I had to wait a while for that ... so maybe there are none left? I wouldn't want to wait for a new screen to be made.
"I used the various Ferrari dealers in and around London when I lived there but they are all much the same. I eventually settled on Autofficcina near Chessington, Surrey. Those guys really know their stuff. However, I live in Somerset now so I use the main dealer in Exeter, Carrs - servicing is pretty good there (haggle!)"
"Brooklands Auto Italia Days - climbed the test hill several times, with my then two-year-old in a rocket seat! Drove from Madrid to Nice via Andorra. Drove into the old city of Carcassonne with it echoing around the streets. Drove from UK to Milan via Germany and Austria, and back via Switzerland and France. Mountain passes, tunnels. Autobahns (see pic!), UK to Barcelona and back via the Bordeaux and the Pyrenees, which are some of the best mountain roads anywhere.
"Toured French Wine Regions - fast D roads! Le Mans 2009 - got to do some laps of the full circuit before the race. There is a video on youtube somewhere (mostly me swearing at the slow Aston in front of me!)
"It's also been on the RAC Supercar run (Tourist Trophy) twice."
"Selling it, unfortunately. After 11 years I really don't drive it much; it's only done 400 miles in the past two to three years. I can't justify the running costs for something I hardly use, despite how brilliant it is. Its become a solo pleasure (oo-err!) as I have two kids.
"Right now, no plans to replace it with a toy, for the same reasons. I also ride bikes so I still have those for high speed fun (despite crashing my MV last year). I'm one of the strange people who quite likes the look of the FF and the four seats appeal to me - but not until the price is a little closer to earth."