It’s not easy to balance the romance of the past with contemporary tastes. Hit the wrong note, and things get schmaltzy or, even worse, become forced and uncomfortable. And a neo-retro car tends to work well in its moment, and then age badly (see: Chevrolet SSR). Make the car in question a Ferrari, and the stakes get even higher. That’s why these three cars you see here—all front-engined, V-12 masterpieces—are all the more remarkable. They pair timeless good looks with just enough modernity to work as well today as they did when new.
Moreover, as we’ve said recently, these modern classics’ appeal lies more in their overall proposition rather than their collectable status. And while they’re not cheap, per se, they’re a better balance of attributes than the most inexpensive Ferraris—and they seem to be getting better with age. All of the Ferraris here are listed as part of RM Sotheby’s Driving into Summer online auction, going on right now.
2001 Ferrari 550 Barchetta Pininfarina
Sale Estimate: $280,000-$320,000
Spiritual successor to the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona, the 550 was an instant classic on its debut, with more curb appeal than the too-understated 456 GT 2+2—as well as the intoxicating combination of a V-12 and just two seats. The Pininfarina shape has aged well, friendlier and less frenetic than later cars—and the Barchetta preserves, rather than perverts, the best aspects of the handsome coupe while accentuating the rear deckled with sporty headrest cowls. And there’s a 5.5-liter, 479-horsepower engine paired to a gated shifter for its six-speed manual transmission. Who cares that the top is a minimalistic contraption and hideous to look at? This is the sort of car you own because you can choose to drive it when the weather suits (meaning no top, no worries), and feel great doing it.
2002 Ferrari 575M Maranello
Sale Estimate: $225,000-$275,000
The 575M successor to the 550 is more of an update than a clean redesign, but can be considered an improvement on its predecessor—particularly when, like this example, it’s painted a bold color and paired with a sporty manual transmission and the upgraded suspension and brakes found in the Fiorano Handling Package. The 575M Maranello, with slightly more engine displacement, has a bit more power on hand. Very few were made with the manual, so this one has a bit of an edge in the collectability department. But the 575M’s true purpose is to bring joy to a driver, and hopefully this one will be exercised appropriately.
2005 Ferrari 575M Superamerica
Sale Estimate: $260,000-$300,000
The Superamerica seen here sort of splits the difference between the 550 Barchetta and the 575M, with one caveat. For one, its rarer than either. It’s got a slicker and more useful top mechanism, a translucent panel that flips backwards, than the Barchetta’s goofy soft-top. It also packs even more power from its V-12 than the early-production 575M. But, being newer than either, and following trends that have continued to this day, it’s not a manual. The “F1” automated manual gearbox was a technological marvel when new, but it’s far less traditional and involving than the gated manuals and likely nowhere near as good as today’s best automated manuals or dual-clutch automatics. Eh, its potential drawbacks may give the car that “classic” feel.
That said, it’s even harder to find a manual Superamerica (by percentage of production) than the 550 Barchetta or 575M, so maybe you just have to go with what you can acquire. Either way, it’s a striking Ferrari whose novel party trick doesn’t distract from its formidable shape or spec.