The idea of making money by buying and selling an old car is seductive. Who wouldn’t like to drive a cool car and then sell it for enough money to have had the whole experience for free?
It’s the kind of thinking that leads people to a Ferrari, a once-in-a-lifetime purchase that has solid-gold status as a collectible. Suddenly you are following the trends in Ferrari auction sales as if you were tracking the stock market. But just as with the stock market, you learn that if you want to make a little money, it’s best to start out with a lot of money. There just aren’t many old Ferraris within reach for those who would like to own one, drive it a little, and then sell at a profit. (There are plenty of old Ferraris that can be sold for a loss.)
The Ferrari 550 Maranello could help you crack the code. At almost 20 years old, its value has stopped declining and started inching upward. More important, its value rests less on its collectible status and more on the goodness of the driving experience it offers, which is what you want in a car that’s meant to be more than a
Oddly enough, the Ferrari 550 Maranello was conceived to be a classic from the start. The U.S. economy was just emerging from the recession of the early 1990s, and heritage and lasting value had become crucial attributes when it came to coaxing people to spend big money on exclusive cars. Ferrari embraced the idea of a front-engine, two-passenger car that would evoke the first Ferrari 250 GT coupes of the 1950s, a line of cars that ultimately came to an end in 1974 with the Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona. It debuted the Ferrari 550 Maranello at the Nürburgring in the summer of 1996.
Like the cars that made Ferrari famous in the 1950s and 1960s, the 550 Maranello is a GT meant for high-speed, cross-country travel, with all of the essential Ferrari pieces present and accounted for. Its style comes from Pininfarina, penned by Lorenzo Ramaciotti, who created something classic from a Ferrari design vocabulary that seemed sleepy in the 456 GT, bland in the F355, and silly in the F50. Scaglietti built the all-aluminum bodywork, and the 5.5-liter DOHC V-12 under the hood produces 479 hp. The rear-mounted transaxle helps balance out this 3,726-pound car, and the six-speed manual features a classic gated shifter with a polished metal lever and knob.
Beyond the classic cues is an ultra-modern car, one with a sleek body that has a super-low 0.33 drag coefficient and underbody trickery that reduces aerodynamic lift. The tubular space frame is rigid, the suspension features electronically adjustable dampers, and the engine has lightweight titanium connecting rods. The 550 Maranello could sprint to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and reach 199 mph.
Then as now, the secret to this car’s appeal is its drivability. The cockpit is particularly spacious compared to Ferrari’s mid-engine cars, and two people can travel in chic comfort. The suspension is notably compliant, and the ride is completely modern even though you’re sitting nearly on top of the rear suspension. Despite its short 98.4-inch wheelbase, the car has terrific straight-line stability complemented by very direct speed-sensitive, hydraulically assisted steering.
The Ferrari 550 Maranello evolved a bit during its term in Ferrari’s new-car showroom. The Barchetta convertible was introduced at the Paris Auto Show in 2000, and ultimately some 448 were built. Meanwhile, Zagato built five specialty convertibles, each of which carried a price of $1 million. Prodrive, the British racing outfit, also built a series of GT-class racing cars for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which led ultimately to the great racetrack battles between Aston Martin, Corvette, Ferrari, and Porsche that we see today.
Finally this car became the 575 Maranello, and the proliferation of zippy cooling ducts in the 575’s bodywork betrayed the re-emergence of Ferrari’s fascination with speed, as more horsepower was accompanied by a single-clutch automated manual transmission and digital-style instrumentation. As Ferrari’s front-engine GT became the Ferrari 599 and now the Ferrari F12, the classic calibration of the 550 Maranello was left far behind.
As Ferrari fashions have swung back toward mid-engine cars, it’s ironic that the Ferrari 550 Maranello now seems more unique, not less. Just as Ferrari intended nearly 20 years ago, the 550 Maranello combines heritage, classic style, and modern drivability in a package that has enduring appeal. These are the things that make any car a collectible classic. The car pictured here came to us out of the storage vault at Ferrari Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, and just being near so many other examples of the red cars reminds you just how special it can be to own a Ferrari.
- Years Produced 1997-2002
- Number Sold 3,531
- Original Price $204,000 (NADA)
There are many events for classic cars around the country, but not many classic Ferraris can get you there with the modern drivability and reliability that the Ferrari 550 Maranello delivers. When new, this car was very reliable as Ferraris go, and it still promises to spend more time on the road than in the shop. Fortunately the V-12 does not need to be removed for service, unlike the powerplants in mid-engine Ferraris. At the same time, any Ferrari requires regular care, and just because a car has depreciated doesn’t mean that your mechanic will be depreciating his costs. Cars in exceptional shape are going for $85,000 or more. But don’t be discouraged: The values of cars in top condition are below $70,000. Meanwhile, unlovable cars with needs drag down the pricing average. Between 1997 and 2002, when the 550 Maranello was on sale, approximately half of Ferrari’s production volume was exported to the U.S., so the selection of cars from which to choose in America isn’t large, but also not prohibitively small.