To mark the world-renowned carrozzeria's 70th anniversary in 2000, Ferrari invited Sergio Pininfarina to submit designs for a front-engined roadster that would capture the spirit of past Maranello classics, such as the 166 Mille Miglia, 250 GT California Spyder and 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spyder. In its manufacturer's own words: "Ferrari has always created very special runs of cars, and the 550 Barchetta Pininfarina was developed with the aim of being a unique Ferrari-one that deliberately seeks to be more provocative and less rational than the rest of the range."
By "less rational" Ferrari was referring to the fact that the car was exclusively intended for open-air use, its only weather protection being a manually erected soft top for emergencies. The Barchetta's stylish interior emphasizes the car's sporting nature, featuring carbon-fiber race seats trimmed in leather, while the rear roll bar and specially strengthened windshield surround provide additional structural reinforcement. The all-alloy, 48-valve, 5.5-liter V12 engine is the same as that of the 550 Maranello, developing 485 hp at 7,000 rpm for a top speed of 185 mph.
As well as Pininfarina's 70th anniversary, the introduction of the 550 Barchetta celebrated 50 years of collaboration between Ferrari and Italy's most famous carrozzeria. Announced Ferrari: "As such, only a limited run of 448 cars will leave the Maranello factory gates during 2001, each individually numbered and carrying a plaque inside with the car's own serial number and Sergio Pininfarina's signature."
Chassis number 124036 was supplied by Ferrari concessionaire Forza SpA, of Turin, Italy, in May 2001. The total distance traveled to date is 7,500 km. Offered in as-new condition, the car is Italian registered and comes with cover, books and tools.
This car sold for $209,595, including buyer’s premium, at the Bonhams Olympia auction held December 2, 2002.
The 550 Barchetta was introduced with the slickest marketing plan in Ferrari’s history. It began with Ferrari announcing plans to make a small run of a convertible version of the 550 Maranello, which would be built in limited numbers and inherit the heritage of the special Spyders before it.
The supercustomers who made the list were invited to Italy for tours and events that included a lavish reception and unveiling of the Barchetta at Luca di Montezemolo’s personal estate. The marketing plan worked, and the entire Barchetta production was immediately sold out at the list price of approximately $258,000 each.
A darker view of the plan might note that the Barchetta was introduced at the tail end of the 550 Maranello’s production. Supply had begun to exceeded demand and prices were sliding. The 550’s replacement, the 575 Maranello, was not ready for production yet and something needed to be done to shore up the sales. The marketing department called for a “special edition” and the Barchetta was the answer to the call.
Although these handpicked buyers had to sign an agreement promising not to sell their 550s for one year, or to sell them back to Ferrari, in fact they began changing hands immediately. The feeding frenzy initiated by speculators and “gotta have one” buyers quickly drove prices upwards of $475,000.
Now, two years later, Barchetta spotter Greg Rossier recently noted 38 Barchettas advertised. The turnover is not unreasonably high for an exotic car, but it is more than expected considering Ferrari’s customer selection process. The lack of a serious top has been cited as a reason from a few owners who were selling their Barchettas, but it’s more likely profit taking and a “been there, done that, what’s the next flavor of the month car” attitude that’s actually fueling sales.
The price brought by this Barchetta is highly influenced by the fact that Europeans do not have the same appreciation for convertibles as Americans. An open car is an impractical vehicle for high-speed Autobahn travel and a topless car would be almost useless in rainy England. An equivalent Euro-spec Barchetta, with EPA/DOT paperwork, should bring $20,000 to $40,000 more in the US. A US car in the same condition, but with fewer miles, would bring $300,000 to $325,000.
The buyer of this Barchetta appears to have gotten a good deal. His purchase price was at the very low end of the presale estimate and surpassingly, less than the original purchaser paid for the car. This price trend should cross the pond to the States soon enough, but the sky won’t fall completely. There is always a good following for convertible Ferraris, especially ones that are attractive and have exceptional performance, like the Barchetta. It won’t be another Daytona Spyder in terms of value or long-term blue-chip standing in the Ferrari pecking order, but neither will it ever be a Straman-cut Testarossa.
As an aside, prior to the Barchetta, Ferrari had built fewer than 1,000 open V12 Ferraris in its entire history, with production runs from just a handful to 200. They have always enjoyed a good following and premium resale values. The Barchetta’s production of 448 cars was nearly 50% of the total of all the open-top V12 Ferraris produced in the previous half century, and as we all know, high production numbers and ultrahigh values never go hand in hand.-Steve Ahlgrim