FERRARI 550 BARCHETTA REVIEW

Ferrari introduced a convertible version of the 550 Maranello at the Paris Motor Show in 2000. Built and designed by Pininfarina and commissioned to be built by Maranello as a limited production model by Ferrari to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Pininfarina. A total 448 of the 550 Barchettas were produced. Each car was individually numbered and custom built which features a plaque with the car's serial number and Sergio Pininfarina's signature.

The Barchetta Pininfarina is a true roadster - the factory provided a soft top, but it was intended only for temporary use as it was cautioned against using the top above 65mph (110 km/h). 

 

VITAL STATISTICS 

Engine 5474cc V12, dohc per bank, Bosch Motronic M5.2 fuel injection

Power 485bhp@7000rpm

Torque 419lb ft@5000rpm

Top speed 199mph

0-60mph 4.2sec

Economy 14mpg        

Gearbox 6-speed manual, transaxle, rear-wheel drive

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

HISTORY & SERVICING

Service history is the single most important factor in assessing a 550 because it directly affects how much you'll need to spend in the near future.

It also reveals a good deal about the previous owner(s) and has a proportionately large influence on the car's value. Check the service book is the original and not a duplicate. It should be properly filled in and stamped, ideally with supporting invoices. A consistent history is the most important thing, even for cars doing few miles.

Th first page of the service book should show the supplying dealer's stam and the correct chassis number - be thorough. The interval for a cambelt change (not a big job by Ferrari standards at £500-£700 not including other servicing) is only three years, though longer is excusable on low-milers.

Potential buyers often overlook one thing when examining a car and its history file - who are you buying it from? Ask whether the dealer owns the car or is selling it on a commission basis, or whether they're brokering the sale for a customer. If it's the last, it has implication sof the amount of preparation you can expect, as well as your chance of redress. 

ENGINE BAY

Cam cover gaskets can leak oil and the coolant hoses in the middle of the vee should be replaced with silicone items, as they perish because of heat and then split. A kit replacing all seven hoses in the cooling system costs £620; swapping only the three that are most prone to failure is cheaper, but accessing them needs several hours of labour.

If you can hear of feel a vibration at idle that goes away when the engine is revved, the engine mounts may have sagged and let the engine rest on the crossmember. Budget £900 to have the mounts replaced; those from the later 575 are sturdier.

Replacing the HT leads can be even more expensive, if they're perished a replacement set costs £960.

Other visual checks include drips from radiators, which are prone to leaks. They're also insanely expensive to replace - so it's better to get them repaired. These are low-slung cars, so you also should check for damaged undertrays.  

SUSPENSION, BRAKES AND STEERING

The power steering reservoir can drip on to the nearside top and bottom inner wishbone bushes, causing them to perish. Replacement is around £600, mostly in labour costs.

If it looks low at the front, the springs have probably collapsed. They're £100 each plus an hour's fitting.

More expensive are the adjustable dampers, which have a solenoid actuator on the top to stiffen them when the Sport mode button on the dash is engaged. It tends to get left in one mode. When it is eventually used it can blow the fuse or the solenoid itself. The dampers are the same as those on contemporary Chevrolet Corvettes, but they're still £830 each (£560 for just an actuator).

If the fly-off handbrake seems weak or the lever stays up when pulled, without engaging the ratchet, you may need a new handbrake compensator (which sould be lubricated at service time but often isn't) and lever, costing a nasty £1300 to replace. In comparison, discs and pads aren't too costly, averaging £200 per corner including labour.

The OE-spec Pirelli P Zero tyres last as little as 5000 miles. To fit the standard 18in wheels they are 255/40 ZR 18 on the front (about £180 each) and 295/35 ZR 18 on the rear (about £300 each). Other makes with a harder compund last longer but grip less well. Check tread-depth indicators on all four wheels and examine the full width of the tread - uneven wear is common, especially on the front. 

INTERIOR

Many 550s suffer from leather shrinking back from the front edge of the dash. It also tends to let go from the airbag and instrument binnacle.

If the latter is peeling expect to spend £600-£700 on a fix and no more than £300 for the airbag. However, if the whole dashboard needs doing the bill can be a labour-intensive £4k-£5k.

Check the door and window seals thoroughly. Door seals cost £400 per side and the seals around the rear side windows crack - but a replacement is only available with a window, costing even more than the door seals. Also, the switchgear and interior handles have a rubber coating that goes sticky. The only solution is to strip each item and paint it black, which is very time-consuming.

If you view the car on a rainy day, check the bottom of each door card. If it's damp the seal inside it has failed and rainwater will be getting into the footwells. It's not a serious problem but is another reason to lower your offer.

GEARBOX

Some 550s made before 1998 sufffered tricky engagement of first, third or fifth, or sometimes all three. Most problems will have shown themselves by now, but there are checks you can make. With the engine running and the car stationary you can check the condition of the baulk rings by trying to push the gearlever gently towards each gear without pressing the clutch. It should baulk; if it doesn't and allows a crunch even with gentle pressure, something's wrong. Also check selection on the move in normal driving, when there should be no baulking at all once it's warm.

Poor selection can sometimes just be down to gear linkage adjustment, but it's a big risk to take because a gearbox rebuild will set you back £2k-£4k, while the cost of a new box will exceed £10k. Clutches are weighty, but beware if it seems excessively heavy because they get heavier as the release bearing starts to seize;and a new clutch, cover and bearing costs about £2500, including labour.

BODYWORK

Accident damage is the only major concern for a 550's structural condition. Sometimes the only way of discovering this is through an expert inspection, but this is the wisest way to proceed for any buyer. Get it done by someone other than a general inspection company. You need someone with marque and model experience who can offer not only a mechanical inspection but a detailed cosmetic assessment too.

 

OUR VERDICT

The extremely rare and expensive 550 Barchetta Pininfarina's current £150k-£300k market value renders it more of a novelty car for investors than a usable soft-top alternative to the Maranello.

Unsurprisingly, performance is astonishing with the Barchetta hitting 60mph from rest in only 4.2 seconds. The Barchetta is without doubt a highly collectable contemporary model in today's market place.

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