Once upon a time, progress in the automotive world was modestly paced, glacial in some instances. The contemporary obsession with significant updates every couple of model years just didn't happen, manufacturers instead being happy to let a product remain on sale for as long as buyers were seemingly content to buy them. It might be fair to say that attitudes have changed somewhat.
But then, sometimes, things don't need changing much. When the Ferrari 550 Maranello was launched in 1996, many saw it as the indirect successor to the Daytona of 20-something years previous, reinstating as it did a front-engined V12 at the head of the range, where the mid-engined boxers had been for so long. And yet, despite the decades that had passed between the two, the Maranello produced only - all things being relative - 130hp more than the 365 GTB/4. Of course, it was a drastically different car underneath, but the Maranello still had a fairly subdued look, a V12 out front, a manual in the middle with lots of leather, a steering wheel, a radio, and drive going rearwards.
Fast forward 20 years from the 550 Maranello and you're at the F12 Berlinetta, with 730hp, a phenomenal dual-clutch gearbox and chassis electronics so advanced that any old numpty could drive it. For better or for worse, the rate of automotive progress in the past quarter of a century has been absolutely remarkable.
The 550, then, stands as perhaps the pinnacle of the classic V12 Ferrari. It was the last to be offered solely with a manual gearbox (the 575 facelift ushering in the F1 option) and would appear almost startlingly simple to anyone familiar with a 21st century car. There's a Sport mode for tensing the dampers - yes, even in the 1990s folks - and that's about it. The front-engined, V12 Ferrari, par excellence.
At least, that's how it was. The Maranello was raved about at launch, then endured a period in the relative doldrums, presumably as it seemed a little too restrained and demure against both the more outlandish modern Ferraris that came after and the mid-engined drama of the Testarossas that preceded it. That's been addressed in recent years, though, with Maranello values buoyed by the manual's resurgence in collector popularity, and by examples like this one.
It's Tour de France Blue with tan leather which, surely, has to be up there with the best Ferrari V12 colour schemes. It just always works. More than that, though, this was Ross Brawn's 550 Maranello. A 2000 car, the advert stating it was "delivered new to Ross Brawn in the year that Schumacher won the Drivers' Championship and Ferrari the Constructors Championship." It doesn't make clear whether it was a gift or not, but what a time for Ferrari: the first F1 driver's title for more than 20 years, with the Brawn/Schumacher duo working the same wonders it had done for Benetton a few years prior. And this was Ross Brawn's road car to travel around in at the time, as the Scuderia proceeded to dominate Grand Prix racing with him and Schumacher working together so well.
This car's history gets more interesting, too: it was sold to Rod Stewart. With the car three years old, and Ferrari F1 sailing to consecutive championship after consecutive championship, it became part of Rod the Mod's collection.
That only lasted a year, however, at which time it went to a Mr Dolphin, before reaching its current owner in 2008. Who happens to be the chairman of the dealership selling the car. He has upgraded the car to run Enzo wheels and brakes, with the original rims included in the sale; otherwise the Maranello is how it left, erm, Maranello in 2000 and how it arrived with Ross Brawn, only now with 24,000 miles recorded and the history file to support it.
How brilliant is that? One of Ferrari's finest, in a fantastic colour combination, with history linking it to both one of the F1 team's most successful eras and Sir Roderick David Stewart. And while any prospective buyer will pay for the privilege - it's for sale at £130,000 - it should be noted that there are a host of Maranellos for sale at six figures now, and even reasonably well used right-hand drive cars on offer at £90,000. So it's hardly extortionate. Yet it must be, surely, as interesting a specimen as all the others put together. Most importantly, though, wherever cars may have ended up in 20 years' time, there's never, ever going to be a time again when a 550 isn't cool - which is more than good enough for us.
SPECIFICATION - FERRARI 550 MARANELLO
Engine: 5,474cc, V12
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 485@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 420@5,000rpm
First registered: 2000
Recorded mileage: 24,500
Price new: £143,685
Yours for: £130,000