2002 Ferrari 550 Barchetta

Greg Jarem
0109 Ferrari 550 Barchetta 03

Enough lamenting. There's plenty to admire about the car beyond its obvious star quality. The body structure, for example, has been beefed up to compensate for the absence of a metal roof. The fit and finish are superior, too. From the driver's seat, the dominant surface materials are supple leather, a faux suede called Lorica, and bright metal accents, including drilled pedal surfaces and the trademark shifter gate. Other nice touches include the three-spoke Momo steering wheel and green-on-black Jaeger instruments. The bucket seats with safety-belt cutouts look almost too racy for a grand tourer but are unexpectedly comfortable and generously adjustable. Not many people have seen a 550 Barchetta with the roof in place. The canvas weather protection is best described as a bikini top. Ferrari says it's there only to get you home through an unexpected deluge rather than to act as serious foul-weather protection, and it doesn't look as if it would survive the sacrilege of an automatic carwash.

Mechanically, the Barchetta is pure 550 Maranello. The spring and damper ratings have been recalibrated, but the weight is unchanged, as are all dimensions except for height, which is three-quarters of an inch lower. The ragtop will sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, a tenth of a second slower than the coupe. Above 100 mph, however, a less favorable drag coefficient of 0.41 (compared with the coupe's 0.33) interrupts the picture, and top speed falls from 199 mph to a still-impressive 187 mph. The 48-valve 5.5-liter V-12 develops 485 horsepower at 7000 rpm and maximum torque of 419 pound-feet at 5000 rpm.

0109 Ferrari 550 Barchetta 04

The open-air Ferrari is not really a high-tech car by current standards. It features driver and passenger air bags but no side bags, its rollover protection is very passive, the standard traction control isn't accompanied by a skid control system, and modern conveniences such as high-intensity-discharge headlights, a navigation system, tire-pressure monitors, or an integrated cell phone just aren't available. Like the 550 Maranello, a six-speed manual is the only available gearbox on the Barchetta--neither the 456M GTA's four-speed automatic nor the 360's F1 paddle-shift gearbox has made it into Ferrari's V-12 flagship. The roof mechanism is said to require strength, skill, and patience, and there is no hard top available.

In many ways, the 550 Barchetta is the legitimate successor to such legendary open Ferraris as the 166MM, the 250 California Spyder, and the 365GTS/4. But Pininfarina's latest work also comes across as something of an afterthought, a stopgap that's a calculated moneymaker. Like the 550 Maranello donor car, the 550 Barchetta is guaranteed to be a great driver. But one suspects that the best reasons for buying one are to complete one's collection of milestone Ferraris or to really tell the world that you've made it. And indeed, perhaps no car on earth says you've arrived quite like the 550 Barchetta.

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