Darin Schnabel ©2015, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

The 599 GTB Fiorano was a ground-breaking achievement for Ferrari. Although it was touted as a dual-purpose grand touring and sports car, the 599 could easily outmatch the performance of Ferrari’s iconic F40.

The 599’s engine was derived directly from the Ferrari Enzo supercar. The 6-liter V12 produced 620 brake horsepower at 7,600 rpm, sprinting the car from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 205 mph.

Like all modern Ferraris, the 599 is just as luxurious as it is fast. The interior is spacious and comfortable, with incredible attention to detail throughout. Carbon fiber and aluminum are utilized on the dash, which features Enzo-style instruments. The seats, developed by Recaro, are multi-functional and provide a tight grip during high-speed road or circuit driving.

The 599 GTB offered is equipped with an extremely rare 6-speed manual transmission. Only 20 such examples were delivered to the United States. Optional equipment includes Scuderia shields, 20-inch Challenge wheels, carbon-ceramic disc brakes and Daytona-style seats. The current owner acquired the GTB in November 2009, and the car has accrued less than 3,800 miles since new. It has been properly stored in a climate-controlled collection, and it is accompanied by its original books.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:2007 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano
Years Produced:2006–12
Number Produced:Approximately 3,500
Original List Price:$310,543
SCM Valuation:$135,000–$300,000
Tune Up Cost:$3,000
Chassis Number Location:Top left of dash near the windshield
Engine Number Location:Right rear above motor mount
Club Info:Ferrari Club of America, Ferrari Owners Club
Alternatives:2004 Porsche GT2, 2007 Aston Martin DBS coupe, 2007 Lamborghini Murcielago
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 193, sold for $682,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island, FL, auction on March 14, 2015.

Occasionally, I see a sale that defies logic, and I struggle to understand what the buyer was thinking. This 599 sale was an extreme test of my reasoning.

There are several low-mileage 2007 Ferrari 599 GTBs on eBay for under $175,000. While none were one of the 20 manual-shift cars, laying down $682,000 for this Ferrari seems to only make sense if there were $500,000 squirreled away in the trunk. Of course, there wasn’t a half million in the trunk, and there were at least two people battling for this car, so I’ve burned a few brain cells thinking this one through.

Well, it’s not about the money

The key to understanding why someone would pay an irrational amount of money for a car is understanding that the money is irrelevant. The argument that you could have bought a paddle-shift 599 GTB, a Ford GT, and a new Porsche for the money isn’t relevant. Your mindset has to be that the person who bought this car already has a Ford GT and a new Porsche — or any combination that you might think up. Unless you can accept the person has everything they want except a manual-shift Ferrari 599 GTB, you cannot understand why they picked this particular car.

GTB stands for Grand Touring Berlinetta. “Berlinetta” is an Italian word that means small, light coupe. When referencing a Ferrari, GTB represents a line of cars that occupies space at the pinnacle of the automotive world. Think 250 SWB berlinetta, 275 GTB, 365 GTB/4 Daytona, and Berlinetta Boxer. These cars were some of Ferrari’s biggest hits, and the 599 GTB is a modern extension of the line. Historically, the 599 GTB hasn’t been around long enough to share a sentence with the great berlinettas, but its time will come.

It might be about a third pedal

Few automotive arguments are as polarizing as the manual-shift versus paddle-shift debate. Traditionally, performance cars had manual-shift transmissions. This comes from the fact that torque-converted automatic transmission cars were not as fast as a well-driven standard-shift example.

Performance-car owners drive for pleasure, and the act of shifting enhances the driver’s interaction with the car — which adds to the pleasure. It’s easy to see why enthusiasts love manual transmissions. Racers, on the other hand, only care about going fast. If an automatic transmission makes them faster, they want an automatic.

Modern paddle-shift transmissions replace the clutch pedal and shifter lever with hydraulic actuators. The actuators are computer-controlled to shift either by input from a paddle or automatically by a computer program. The result is a transmission that shifts much faster — and with a greater degree of precision — than a human driver.

Automobile manufacturers are staffed with engineers, and like racers, they think faster really is better, so they have embraced paddle-shift technology.

Early paddle-shift mechanisms were stand-alone devices that were grafted on the existing gearboxes. Their operation was crude and the reliability questionable.

Current transmissions have been designed from scratch for paddle-shift operation, and they work flawlessly with excellent reliability. The advancements have been so successful that Ferrari has now discontinued manual-shift transmissions in favor of the paddle-shift models.

While the results are undeniably impressive, the removal of the driver from the shifting process has drawn cries of foul from the enthusiast community. Discontinuing manual-shift transmissions may seem like blasphemy to the uninitiated, but there is a real practical purpose to the retreat.

New cars are simply too fast for manual-shift transmissions. That is, modern engines rev so fast that manual shifting limits the performance of the car. The 599 GTB hits 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. If a manual shift adds 0.2 seconds, performance is reduced by 5%. In the performance car business, 5% is a big number.

The end of an era

There were only about 20 manual-shift 599 GTBs built for the U.S. market, with maybe the same number spread around the rest of the world. This makes the manual version rare, but rare doesn’t necessarily equal value.

The 599 transmission was designed for paddle shifting, and based on the mixed reviews of the manual edition, any premium paid for the manual driving experience might not be warranted. What could influence value is that the 599 GTB was the last 12-cylinder Ferrari offered with a manual transmission. It is a milestone car that closed the era when the driver’s skill controlled the car’s performance.

The buyer of the 599 got a rare example of a great car — and an interesting piece of history. As an automobile, the price paid was pure folly. The estimate was roughly one-third of the sale price, and even that was a bit optimistic. The buyer basically paid $500,000 for bragging rights to having a manual-transmission 599. I suspect few miles will be logged on for the manual driving experience, so there will be little return in the way of fun. There’s hope a future return could come from the car’s place in history, but that’s a stretch. The Steve McQueen Lusso or a Le Mans-winning Ferrari is a one-of-a-kind car, and a premium paid for them will probably carry forward. One of 20 isn’t a significant number in the serious collector car world, and little — if any — value will come from this association.

The clear winner in this transaction was the seller. Any expectation of taking home more than $200,000 would have been wishful thinking. Expecting the result he got would have been madness.

The buyer had to pay up for his prize, but he got what he wanted. We tend to fixate on values and forget about passion. I’m sure the buyer will get more enjoyment out of looking at his 599 than seeing higher numbers on his bank statement — and to him that may be all that matters. ♦

(Introductory descriptions courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)


Comments are closed.