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Driving the sublime Ferrari 550 Barchetta and Maranello back to back

08 January 2021

by Alex Easthope

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What better way of exploring the nuances of the Ferrari 550 Barchetta Pininfarina we’re currently offering for sale than by driving it back to back with its closed-roof Maranello counterpart?

There’s an indescribable presence to the Ferrari 550 Barchetta. Whether it’s the vast length of its curvaceous bonnet, the pronounced humps behind the cabin that gently taper towards that pert Kamm tail, or the brightness of this example’s Rosso Corsa paintwork we’re unsure.

Perhaps it’s the simple fact that you’re standing in front of a genuinely rare modern-era Ferrari, one that unlike so many others – especially in recent years – is actually worthy of its ‘special-edition’ status.

Spiritually speaking, the Barchetta can be considered a successor to the eye-wateringly pretty 365 GTS/4 ‘Daytona’ Spider. Following up on that car was obviously no mean feat for Ferrari, which explains why it took the company 31 years to do it.

Just 448 individually numbered Ferrari 550 Barchettas were built to celebrate Pininfarina’s 70th anniversary. It differs from its closed-roof counterpart in a number of ways – some intricate, some obvious. It won’t take a detective to realise the windscreen is shorter and more aggressively raked, for example. The fuel filler cap hewn from aluminium and the Alcantara-trimmed dash top, on the other hand, are a touch more under the radar.

Swing open the noticeably light door, clamber in to the large racing bucket seats that pinch you in all the right places and buckle up the bright red harnesses. It’s pure theatre, which is only amplified by the loud idle of the V12 – this car’s on Tubi Style exhausts, the result of which is most obvious lower in the rev range – and the cabin strewn with tactile Alcantara and carbon-fibre. Sensory overload. 

Don’t get us wrong, the 550 Maranello is an incredibly special car. And in reality, the driving experience of both is fundamentally similar. It’s just the Barchetta turns everything up to 11. Here’s a car you need to see in the metal to truly appreciate.

“You suddenly understand why Michael Schumacher was roped in for all the marketing material. Because the car makes you feel like him.”

On the move, there’s something about the shorter windscreen which makes the Barchetta feel like a smaller car than the coupe. Whereas the airy and comparatively quiet confines of the coupe point obviously to its Gran Turismo credentials, the Barchetta feels inherently more racy. You suddenly understand why Michael Schumacher was roped in for all the marketing material. Because the car makes you feel like him.

As is often the way for 12 cylinder Ferraris, the engine dominates the driving experience. There’s oodles of torque, which fills you with confidence in every scenario, whether you’re loping along the motorway or hammering along a twisty country road. The open-gate gearshift is metallic and positive and every bit as satisfying as you’d imagine. And the noise is utterly intoxicating, evolving through a gruff bellow to a rich howl.

Admittedly, sub-zero temperatures and greasy British roads are not ideal conditions in which to enjoy such a car – the primitive ASR scrabbles frantically for grip and the analogue feel of the car really comes to the fore. But it’s an occasion, and the crisp winter breeze blowing through your hair only serves to heighten the experience.

A limited-edition, open-top, front-engined V12 Ferrari with a manual gearbox. Can the 550 Barchetta tick any more boxes? Ferrari said it would build no more than 500 of its Monza SP1s and SP2s, cars that cost in the region of three million dollars. Evoking the same spirit, the Barchetta is not only rarer, but it’s also got three pedals on the floor and a stick between the seats. Oh, and it’s a lot more affordable. What’s not to love?

Click here to find out more about the stunning 2001 Ferrari 550 Barchetta Pininfarina we’re currently offering for sale.

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