A man once told me he never saw a Brinks truck in a funeral procession. That’s reason enough to consider a 599

Chassis number: ZFFFD60B000167984 Presented in Rosso Corsa livery, the 599 GTB Fiorano offered here has covered a mere 22,000 km since it was purchased. Fitted with red piping matching the seatbelts, Scuderia Ferrari insignia, front and rear distance sensors, carbon brakes, 20-inch rims, Tubi exhaust and a six-speed manual gearbox. The car has been meticulously maintained by the Charles Pozzi garage.  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:2009 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano coupe

This car, Lot 134, sold for $185,567, including buyer’s premium, at Artcurial’s Automobiles sur les Champs in Paris on October 30, 2011.

A couple of years back, I had the privilege of attending Ferrari’s driving school at their Fiorano test track. My interest in Ferraris at that time was focused on vintage models, and my late-model experience was limited. I prepared for the experience by asking a friend for a tutorial on his F430. I quickly learned that new Ferraris are different from old ones. Starting is done with a button — not a key, shifting is done on the steering column — not on the floor, and the knobs on the steering wheel are there to save your butt. At the school I learned something else: The new cars are fast — make that bloody fast.

Ferrari’s school used an impressive fleet of F430s and 599 GTB Fioranos. They imposed a reasonable rpm limit, but otherwise speed was limited by talent. I easily became comfortable with the 430, but the 599, not so much. The school uses telemetry and graphs the student’s laps over an instructor’s lap. My 430 laps were respectable but my 599 laps were pitiful. I’d brake too soon, corner too slow and accelerate too slow out of the corners. The 599 was so fast that I wasn’t a good enough driver to keep up.

An expensive cutting edge

Many of my peers turn their noses up at modern Ferraris. They chide the F1 transmissions, the driver’s aids, and complain that Ferrari made too damn many of them. They’re missing the point. Ferraris have always been about performance, and the features they complain about are what keeps Ferrari on the cutting edge. And if Enzo were at the helm today, I’m pretty sure he’d be building one less than he could sell.

You have to double the wattage of an audio system to get an appreciable increase in volume, and automobile performance is similar. Big horsepower increases are needed to make an incremental improvement in performance. Ferrari chipped away at road car performance for decades, making small improvements with few breakthroughs.

Sports Car Graphic tested the 280-hp 275 GTB in 1966 and found 60 mph came in about six seconds, and the top speed was 156 mph. Five years later, Autocar tested the 352-hp 365 GTB/4 and hit 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, with a top speed of 174 mph. Add ten years, and Ferrari’s 360-hp 512 Boxer ran the same 5.4-second 0-60 mph time — but also adds an impressive 14 mph to top speed.

Five more years down the road, and the 380-hp Testarossa also bumps the bar —kind of — as 0–60 mph drops to 5.2 seconds, but the top speed dropped to 180 mph. All this tells us that 12-cylinder street Ferraris improved 0–60 mph time by only eight-tenths of a second over 20 years of intense development.

1991 ushered in a new era at Ferrari. Luca di Montezemolo, a former Ferrari Formula 1 team manager, was appointed president of Ferrari. Montezemolo immediately challenged Ferrari’s engineers to transform their V8-powered 348 into a world-class performer.

Using Formula 1 technology, the engineers made a technological breakthrough. The F355’s horsepower was increased nearly 20% over the 348’s. The structure was lightened and strengthened at the same time. A 6-speed manual gearbox was added with an F1-style paddle shift later offered. Aerodynamics and handling were fine-tuned, and the list goes on. The result was a 380-hp barn burner that reached 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds, six-tenths of a second faster than a Testarossa.

Also in the magician’s hat was the 456 GT, the most powerful non-turbo road Ferrari up to that time. The 456 hit 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds and topped out at 188 mph.

Then the 23-year-old family of flat twelve, mid-engined cars was axed in favor of an old-school, front-engined V12 called the 550 Maranello. The 550 silenced its critics with a blistering 4.2-second 0–60 mph time and a 199 mph top speed. The 550’s successor, the 575M, inched the top speed to 203 mph.

Enter the 599 GTB Fiorano. In a business where incremental improvement was the norm, the 599 GTB was a game changer. The 599’s 612 horsepower was an astounding 104 more than the 575’s, and all that added power rocketed it to 60 mph in a scant 3.4 seconds — on its way to a 205 mph top end.

The eight-tenths of a second it took Ferrari 20 years and four models to chop was equaled in one model change. What’s even more impressive, the 599 GTB is a full-size GT luxuriously trimmed and appointed with all the gadgets expected in a modern car. It idles smoothly and drives effortlessly with its magnetorheological dampers absorbing bumps, just as they did on the Cadillac they first appeared on.

More price drops ahead

The 599 hit the market with long waits and inflated prices. After years of offering few options, Ferrari perfected the business of making options a profit center. Fancy wheels, $18,000 brake packages, carbon-fiber trim, colored thread and an endless list of dubious trinkets added as much as 30% to the price of a base car, making the 599 a cash cow. It took a couple of years for the demand to cool, but when it did, it dropped fast. Ferrari countered by introducing special editions, such as the HGTE, the 599 GTO, the 599XX and the Aperta, but the bloom was off.

Artcurial’s 599 GTB had an original list price of nearly $375,000. It was nicely appointed with desirable options and featured a 6-speed gearbox. The $185,000 auction price represented a loss of $190,000 — more than 50% of its value — in two years. Now, $190,000 is a big number, but poor people don’t buy $375,000 cars. The seller probably wasn’t shocked and certainly will not be missing meals because of the loss. The owner had driven the car over 13,000 miles, which shows that he actually enjoyed the car — instead of hoarding it in the garage. I have no doubt he would tell you the experience was worth every penny.

There are a lot of 599s hitting the market, and prices continue to fall. Dealers are aware of the trend and are being cautious in their purchasing. Decreased dealer demand will further depress prices. Artcurial’s car sold a bit light for a 2009 model, but it was not far off the money. Buying a new 599 might be financial suicide, but driving one is good for the soul. A man once told me he never saw a Brinks truck in a funeral procession. That’s reason enough to consider a 599.

(Introductory description courtesy of Artcurial.)

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