Maranello, Italy Anything with a prancing horse on it seems to sell like crazy these days--Ferrari flags, Schumacher caps, fire-engine-red scale models, embroidered polo shirts, and, of course, sports cars. The waiting list for the U.S.-market 360 Spider stretches into the first quarter of 2004, factory-fresh 360 Modena coupes call for at least twelve months' patience, and even the V-12-engined heavyweights aren't available on short notice. So when Ferrari announces a limited-edition model, the importers can be very picky about whose order they accept. Being rich is obviously a must, being famous helps, but being a loyal, longtime collector is the strongest argument in the case for delivery. In the instance of the 550 Barchetta, it took only a few weeks to select the 448 lucky aficionados who are now entitled to part with $245,000 for a powerful and exclusive two-seat sports car that has a rudimentary part-time roof.
The official name of this new Ferrari is the 550 Barchetta Pininfarina. Pininfarina's name is included because this car is intended to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the design house and coachbuilder. The company has a long association with Ferrari, dating back to 1952, and has shaped a bunch of milestone open-top Ferraris, among them the 500 Mondial, the 375MM Spider, the 250GT Spider, the 330GTS, and the 365GTS/4 Daytona. Pininfarina's latest creation is a first-rate crowd-stopper, but in some ways, it's also one of the company's weaker efforts. Simply stated, the 550 Maranello is not particularly suited to such a conversion.
When you lop off the roof of the coupe, the car's proportions suddenly look funny: The wheelbase seems a little short, the overhangs are too long, and, robbed of its greenhouse, the broad-shouldered body appears cluttered and busy. We like the lowered windshield, the A-posts with body-color roots and jet-black uppers, and the aluminum fuel-filler cap. But, at the same time, we could do without details such as the tacky yellow Ferrari badges on the flanks and the two-piece, five-spoke alloy wheels.