|Vehicle:||2001 Ferrari 550 Barchetta|
|Original List Price:||$258,000|
|Tune Up Cost:||$6,500|
|Club Info:||Ferrari Club of America PO Box 720597 Atlanta, GA 30358|
|Alternatives:||2010 Ferrari California; 1999 Lamborghini Diablo VT roadster; 1993 Aston Martin Virage Volante|
This car sold for $156,750, including buyer’s premium, at Gooding’s Scottsdale Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, on January 22, 2010.
Ferrari propaganda announced the 550 Barchetta as a car to mark Pininfarina’s 70th anniversary. Luca di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari, said, “I asked Sergio Pininfarina to present a design for a front-engined 12-cylinder Ferrari roadster that would capture the spirit of the classic road races of the past and cars such as the 166 MM, 250 GT California and 365 GTS/4 Daytona.” This lofty charge was answered with a chop-top 550 Maranello. The Barchetta may be an impressive car, but it is hardly a California Spyder.
The 550 Barchetta, or more correctly, the 550 Barchetta Pininfarina, was introduced with great fanfare. A carefully qualified group of potential customers was invited to a private party at the estate of di Montezemolo in Italy for the introduction of this new limited-production model. There was little disguise to the script and both sides knew the pitch; this was an insider’s opportunity to get in on the Daytona Spyder of the future.
The hype was high but the risk was low-the Barchetta could be a hit or it could end up as just another Ferrari. Either way, owning one was not a bad prospect. After viewing the car, the customers were allowed to place orders. As expected, the edition sold out immediately and only history will decide if the car was a smart investment or a just a fun purchase.
Practicality be damned
The name Barchetta is a bit of a misnomer for the car. A common interpretation of barchetta is “little boat,” and while the name may have fit the small, sparse 1950s-era barchettas, the 550 version was neither small nor sparse. The 550 Barchetta was, for all practical purposes, a convertible version of a 550 Maranello. It has the obligatory stiffened chassis and a sportier interior with leather-wrapped carbon fiber racing seats, carbon fiber trim, and some roll hoops.
It also had some three-piece wheels that look overly sporty on the car and the ugliest top known to man. The top was both challenging to erect and offered only marginal rain protection. Ferrari’s later Superamerica version of the 575M Maranello is a much more practical solution to the open top question, but then practicality was not the rationale behind the Barchetta.
Despite my skepticism of Ferrari’s motivation in building the car, the Barchetta is one cool ride. The open top adds zing to the 550’s rather understated lines. The soft top may be a joke but a person who buys a Barchetta isn’t buying it as a daily driver. It’s an incredible fair-weather driver, with great acceleration, excellent handling and none of the cowl shake inherent in many convertibles. Even if history doesn’t reward the 550 Barchetta the same status as it has the original 166 barchetta, the California spyder, or the Daytona spyder, it is still a significant car. Owners are rewarded with every sunny day ride, and it’s only the owner who never uses his car that may regret his purchase.
Result due to its gray-market history
As an investment, a bet on a Barchetta has not paid out, but buyers, on the other hand, can hardly be called losers. Disregarding taxes and options, buyers put around $260,000 on their new toys. Nine years later, the market is just under $200,000 and seems to be holding. A $60k to $75k hit is a big number, but percentage-wise the Barchetta has fared better than most of its contemporaries. It may be the individually numbered plaque carrying Sergio Pininfarina’s signature, rather than the car’s virtue that determines the Barchetta’s future, but I don’t see it as a bad choice for a spot in the garage.
The subject Barchetta’s unusually low result can be attributed to it being a gray-market car. There’s seldom a day when an as-new, well documented, American-market Barchetta can’t be found for sale. Buyers are choosy and any kind of story will disqualify a car unless it is bargain priced. That’s what happened here. Once the key is turned, this gray-market car is the equal of its American counterparts. While it will always have a lesser value, it still drives the same. The new owner bought in low so putting some miles on the car won’t hurt him a lot. Hopefully he figures out he’ll get more enjoyment from sunny day drives than any money he’ll get by keeping the mileage low.