Among the plethora of fabulous cars produced by Ferrari, the 550 Maranello certainly must rank among the very best. Ferrari’s return to a proper front-engined, two-seater touring coupe made its introduction in 1996 and 3,083 examples were built through 2001.
The 550 Maranello was designed by Lorenzo Ramaciotti at Pininfarina. Ramaciott’s fabulous design ushered in the first front-engined Ferrari V-12 coupe since the 365 GTB/4 Daytona as Ferrari concentrated on mid-engine flat 12-cylinder layout Berlinetta Boxer coupes from 1973 with the 365 BB to the Testarossa series which ran through 1996 culminating with the 512M.
Styling & Debut.
First, the 550 Maranello just looks the part. Long, bullet shaped, dramatic and luxurious, every bit a Ferrari touring coupe in the great Ferrari tradition. The shape is as timeless as it is functional, a more modern incarnation of the iconic 365 GTB/4 Daytona and a long-awaited return to Ferrari’s front-engined roots after twenty-three years.
Unveiled to the motoring press in July of 1996 at the historic Nurburgring circuit in Germany, the car’s name refers to the 5.5 liter displacement and to the Italian town of Maranello, the fabled home of the Ferrari headquarters and factory. Pininfarina carried out the exterior and interior design and the 550 Maranello shared frame and main engine components with its slightly older brother, the 456 2+2 which was likewise designed by Ramaciotti.
The unusual move of Ferrari debuting the car at a racing circuit, much less a German one, was a good indication of the direction Luca di Montezemolo was taking the model as the company’s racing aspirations were all but a forgone conclusion with the 550 Maranello.
Body & Chassis.
The 550 utilized a front-engine, rear wheel drive transaxle layout, with the 6-speed gearbox located at the rear axle together with the limited slip differential. The chassis is tubular steel space frame to which the aluminum body panels were soldered.
The body has a drag coefficient of 0.33. Suspension was of the double wishbone type with coaxial coil spring and damper units on all four corners, and anti-roll bars front and rear.
The steering was rack & pinion with variable power assist. The vented disc brakes are 13.0” at the front and 12.2” at the rear. Magnesium alloy was used for the 18” wheels.. Electronic driver aid systems included anti-slip regulation which could be adjusted on two levels or switched off completely, and four-way anti-lock braking system.
Engine & Performance.
The engine is a naturally aspirated 65° V12 with four valves per cylinder, dual overhead cams and a variable length intake manifold. It displaced 5,473.91 cc (334.0 cu in) and produced 478BHP at 7,000RPM.
According to Ferrari, the 550 Maranello had a top speed of 199MPH and could accelerate from a standstill to 62MPH in 4.4 seconds. While testing the 550 Maranello in 2000, Motor Trend recorded a 0 to 60MPH acceleration time of 4.2 seconds, a 0 to 100MPH time of 9.6 seconds, and a quarter-mile performance of 12.5 seconds at 116.9MPH.
The Ferrari 5.5 L F133 V12 engine won the Over 4 Liter class of the International Engine of the Year award for 2000 and 2001.
In 2004, Evo Magazine ran a “Greatest Drivers’ Car” showdown with the greatest cars from the previous ten years, including the Porsche 911 GT3, the Honda NSX-R and the Pagani Zonda C12S. The 550 Maranello won that challenge. The magazine stated that “As with all great cars, there’s no one facet that dominates the experience. Yes, the engine is mighty, but the chassis is its equal. There’s never been a supercar that’s so exploitable and so rounded in its abilities.”
Ferrari 550 GT Maranellos in Racing.
All the motoring specialist magazine cover accolades aside, it is on the world racing stage where a car’s true performance (or lack thereof) is on display for the world to see and the 550 GT Maranello delivered, eventually.
As it turned out, and rather surprisingly, Ferrari never offered the 550 Maranello as a factory-built GT contender. Independent teams had to take on the task of building and racing their own interpretations of the model with little to no factory support other than engine and electronic upgrades.
Per the rules, aerodynamically the 550 GTS Maranellos had to be stock from the bottom of the windscreen, over the cockpit to the bottom of the rear window. Other than those stipulations, everything else on the cars was hands-off (save for BoP splitter and air restrictor dimensions) and thus the different interpretations of the car were produced.
The first racing 550, known as 550 GT, was built for French team Red Racing to comply with international sporting regulations. The project was developed by Michel Enjolras and assembled in the Italtecnica workshop. The car was first tested in April 1999 and was used in the GT3 class of the French FFSA GT Championship. In 2001 the car was then sold to XL Racing which continued the development and built a second car, known as 550 XL entering the FFSA GT and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) The older 550 GT also made an appearance at the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans in the ACO GT class but failed to finish due to technical problems.
In 2000, with financial support from some investors led by Stéphane Ratel, Italtecnica created another 550 race car meeting the more powerful GT regulations in the FIA GT Championship the car being named 550 Millennio. The first car debuted in the 2000 FIA GT Championship season entered by First Racing. The 2001 season saw two cars fielded by Team Rafanelli. The 550 Millennio was also developed to meet ACO LM-GTS regulations allowing Rafanelli to enter a single car in the 2002 ALMS season.
Team Rafanelli, led by the irrepressible Italian team owner Gabriele Rafanelli, was no stranger to the U.S. sports car racing scene having raced LMP1 prototypes in the ALMS with some success, notably winning the 1999 Road Atlanta spring event with a wild looking and very fast Judd V8 powered Riley & Scott.
Rafanelli landed full time sponsorship from Olive Garden restaurants and Coca-Cola creating Team Olive Garden Rafanelli. The 550 GT was resplendent in beautiful all green livery and covered with Olive Garden logos. Rafanelli brought over a couple of veteran Italian touring car drivers including Mimmo Schiattarella and Emanuele Naspetti whom were joined by Colombian Formula One veteran Johnny Cecotto for the long-distance events.
The Olive Garden Team Rafanelli Ferrari 550 GT Maranello project contacted Don Panoz’s Atlanta-based Elan Motorsports as its engine builder but the car was beset with early teething problems from the onset, most notably at Sebring where the team could only manage a handful of laps throughout the entire race weekend and DNFing early in The Race.
Development of the Rafanelli 550 GTS saw improvements in the results culminating with the outstanding 2003 Miami Grand Prix of the Americas race where the team took third place in a huge 1-2-3 finish for the Ferrari 550 GTS Maranellos which swept the GTS class podium.
Commissioned by Frédéric Dor’s company Care Racing Development, in 2001 Dave Richards’ Prodrive team, famous for their exploits winning three World Really Championships for Subaru during the 90s, built a racing version of the 550 for various sports car series but targeting the 24 Hours of Le Mans and ALMS in particular. Initially known as 550 GTO and then renamed 550 GTS, a total of ten cars would be built over the next four years and campaigned by the Prodrive team with a few sold to customer teams. The cars were built entirely by Prodrive very little support from the Ferrari factory.
The Prodrive team would win two races (A1 Ring with Peter Kox and Rickard Rydell and Jarama with Rydell and Alain Menu) in their 2001 FIA GT Championship debut. For 2002 the BMS Scuderia Italia team would take over in FIA GT recording four wins (Jarama, Anderstorp, Oschersleben and Estoril all with Andrea Piccini and Jean-Denis Deletraz) while the Prodrive squad would take a single win in the ALMS at Laguna Seca with Tomas Enge and Peter Kox.
2003 would be the best year for the Ferrari 550 GT Maranellos, as Care Racing Prodrive took an outstanding win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans after the heartbreaking DNF result while leading in 2002 with Enge, Kox and Jamie Davies. Care Racing/ Prodrive finished second in the GTS class championship in the ALMS with four wins (Road America and Laguna Seca with Jan Magnussen and David Brabham, Miami with Darren Turner and Brabham and Petite Le Mans with Menu, Enge and Kox). Meanwhile, BMS Scuderia Italia gained the FIA GT championship winning eight races (Catalunya, Magny Cours, Pergusa, Brno, Donington and Oschersleben with Thomas Biagi and Matteo Bobbi, Spa-Francorchamps with Fabrizio Gollin, Luca Cappellari, Enzo Calderari and Lilian Byner, and Monza with Gollin and Cappellari).
Following the success of the Prodrive’s 550 GTS, the Ferrari factory would develop the 575 GTC racecar based on the 575M, offering it as a customer car for privateers but surprisingly not with the success experienced by the 550 GTS.
When one of the top Ferrari mechanics in the world tells you that the 550 Maranello is the best car ever made by Ferrari, you tend to listen. The cars are simply phenomenal, all of the great looks expected from a Ferrari. The big V12 engine, the great sound and everything works, the A/C works, the radio works, the lights work as they’re supposed to.
This Ferrari 550 Maranello (#1830) comes in luxurious Blu NART/tan with 6-speed manual, Tubi exhaust, fully serviced and documented and showing only 10,995 miles. A greatly undervalued car which has nothing but upside especially for an example of this quality.