It may be too soon to mention immortality but if ever a Ferrari can be expected to become an enduring classic, it’s the fabulous 550 Maranello. Why? Because this was the supercar that returned to its roots. Forget the mid-engined stuff that always made old Enzo Ferrari so nervous — the 550 Maranello was a top-of-the-line two-door V12 front-engined coupe of the kind not seen since the Daytona was discontinued back in the 1970s. No doubt II Commendatore would have been thrilled to see the return of the configuration he loved — and delighted by the fact it bore the Maranello name to symbolize its connection with all his company’s traditional virtues.
The styling of the 550 Maranello steered a skilful course between tradition and modernity, and was overseen personally by Sergio Pininfarina. The long bonnet had a pleasingly rounded front with a businesslike air scoop set between the angled glass headlight covers. The fastback passenger cabin had a roomy leather interior of the highest quality, set well back behind its sharply raked windscreen. The short flanks with air vents had an accentuated dihedral line. The boot was tall and wide and offered adequate space for a set of golf clubs.
The 550 Maranello’s restrained look was based on the appearance of classic Ferraris from times past, but the aerodynamics were superb and this vehicle was one of the most technologically advanced cars ever to wear the Prancing Horse badge with pride. It had underpinnings in common with the Ferrari 456 GT, but had a shorter tubular chassis. It shared the 465 GT’s double-wishbone independent suspension and coil springs, electronically controlled shock absorbers and antiroll bars, but in addition the 550 Maranello boasted a sensational three-phase traction control system (normal, sport and off). All this, coupled with the splendidly responsive engine, made the 550 Maranello a splendiferous car to drive.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1996 (until 2001)
5,474 cc V12
Top speed of 199 mph (320 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.2 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
An open-top Barchetta version of the 550 Maranello was introduced in 2000. The original production run was to be 444 cars (one less than the 445 Ferrari thought it could sell) — but when it was pointed out that 444 was an unlucky number in the important Japanese market the run was upped to 448… which all sold anyway!