Words by Richard Tipper
Aside from the Ferrari 599 GTB, the 550 Maranello remains my favourite modern front engined V12 Ferrari. It’s long, wide, low-slung bonnet is shark-like and they’re incredibly intimidating if you’re ever lucky enough to be approached and overtaken by one on the road. I’ve been very fortunate to have worked on each of the 550 road variants and even the 550 GTS Le Mans winner from Prodrive and exceptionally rare ‘World Speed Record’.
Back in 1998 Ferrari sent a slightly ‘fettled’ version of the 550 to an oval test track in Columbus, Ohio and set three new world records:
•Covering 100 miles at an average speed of 190.2mph.
•Driving for one hour at an average speed of 184mph.
•Covering 100 kilometres at 188.9mph.
To celebrate these records, Ferrari built thirty three road cars to the exact specification of the record setting car. The differences over the standard car are the Fiorano handling pack, leather trimmed roll cage, suede covered steering wheel and carbon bucket seats with Daytona stitching and race harnesses. Other changes included the Scuderia wing shields, sports exhaust, brake calipers in Rosso, Bordeaux carpets and a WSR plaque.
It’s long, wide, low-slung bonnet is shark-like
Given the 550’s popularity and recent World Record success there was growing demand for a roofless version. In 2000 Ferrari developed the 550 Barchetta. Although designed primarily to be driven with the roof down a rather complicated canvas roof was included within the design. However speeds over 70mph when fitted were not advised. Only 448 were produced. I’ve worked on no fewer than seven of them.
One of the highlights of my career was working on the Prodrive 550 GTS, here are some words about this magnificent creation from Prodrive, “In 2001, we turned our hand to sports cars, re-engineering the Ferrari 550 Maranello into a successful GT car and securing the ultimate accolade in sports car racing, by winning the GT class at Le Mans in 2003. This was a feat we were to repeat in 2007 and 2008 with the Aston Martin DBR9 and then in 2014 with the Vantage GTE through a full works programme with the iconic British manufacturer, a partnership which continues to this day.”
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