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Thread: Sweeni - 550 Maranello

  1. #1
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    Default Sweeni - 550 Maranello

    As you will all now no doubt be aware my beloved 308GTB Ventricina (Have I spelt that correctly?) was exchanged for something a little different recently when I collected a 2002 550 Maranello from Monks Heath Motors near Macclesfield.

    So why did I do that? Perhaps some background on the 308 is required. This was my first Ferrari and was bought as a 50th birthday present to myself at the start of 2006 from Auto Italia in Meltham. I had been looking through the adverts for some time prior and had intended to go view a car at a well known southern dealer when yet another trawl on the net found this. I cycled over to Meltham (yes, that is correct, I turned up to view a Ferrari by bike) to have a look and of course fell for it straight away. I made all the classic mistakes - didn't drive it (ever tried to drive in cycle shoes?), didn't get it professionally checked, there was lots of history missing, first car looked at etc But is was red, it was beautiful and I was smitten. So money duly changed hands one week later on the 27th Jan 2006 and one very dewy eyed bloke drove home through the winter rush hour in a Ferrari.

    Jesus the clutch and steering were heavy. Couldn't get the hang of gear changing and frankly didn't much like it, the car was very noisy and was uncomfortable. After about an hour on a motorway I got backache and headache. We needed time to bond and it all came together one wet day at Donington, my first track day. It was with considerable trepidation that I let the instructor, a guy who looked just about old enough to have passed his driving test, drive me around the teeming wet circuit. Now I have been lucky enough to have been taken around Silverstone in a slick shod 308 and an F40 many years ago but that was nothing compared to being taken out in your own car when you are as bad a passenger as I. Did this guy not know where the bloody brake pedal is, he sure knew where the accelerator was. Brake, for Christs sake man brake.

    Well eventually he did and I have to say I was extremely impressed with not just the instructor's ability but that a car built in 1976 could handle so well in such bad conditions. I went on that day to thoroughly enjoy myself and probably learnt more about driving a Ferrari in that one day than I could ever have done otherwise. If you have not done an FOC track then do so.

    The wife however never did bond with it and there was never the possibility of taking it "home" to Italy as I wanted to so something else was required, but what?

    In 2007 I organised a trip up through the dales to the Theakston brewery and Robert W came to stay at Todd Towers the night before with his rare shade of green 550. Watching and listening to it come up the road was a defining moment, sitting in it and looking under the bonnet was the clincher. The wife also liked it. On other trips I got to know Simon (Nero 575) and his lovely car, which just made me even more sure this was the way to go. Simon was also good (Mad?) enough to offer me a drive, an offer I never actually got the opportunity to take up. So late 2008 and I had to wherewithal just need to start searching.

    I went to see a titanium/bordeux car which was priced at a level which would have enabled me to keep the 308 (Wify didn't want me to do that....) but it was tatty. I did however drive it, my first drive of a V12 and this had a sports exhaust. Oh my word, if I wasn't sure before I was now. As an aside this very car turned out to be the ex Maranello demo car of 1996 which had been used by Top Gear for a special on "The Best Handling Car in the World" by Jeremy Clarkson. It won.

    More trawling of the web and I came across the car I eventually bought, above my original budget of course(does anybody ever buy a used Ferrari and stay in budget?) but in very good condition with all the right stamps. I paid 46k for the car which had 25800miles with a full Stratstone history with just one owner from new. Well I say one owner, the car was registered to the first owner on 10.4.02 and its second, the last, owner on 11.4.02. I could probably have got a 575 at this price but I like the car, the colour is very rare (according to Mr Tremlett) and the wife said yes, so I made the deal with the 308 going in px.

    Andrea of Route 324 enthusiastically arranged for a ppi by AE Performance. This showed up a small number of items, including that the belts were soon up for changing which I had already said I must have done. To their credit and despite having already agreed the price they undertook each item requested without quibble. Well worth the price of the ppi. The invoices showed that at the last service, just prior to sale, had included all new brakes and pads (Fiorano/Pagid) and a fresh set of P Zeros. The bill came to 4450, glad I didn't cop for that.

    As Monks Heath are near Macclesfield there was only ever one way home - the Cat & Fiddle. Despite the Sat afternoon traffic I very quickly found that this is a rather more powerful than anything I have driven before and the traction control is nothing like I have experienced before. First overtaking manoeuvre - pull out, put foot to the floor in 3rd. Oh Jesus, the back end squirmed, the tyres squealed then it dug in and oh my lord did it go. Mm, might get to like this. Oh, and the brakes are quite good too.

    Did about 200miles to get back home which was only 70miles to get there by motorway. Well I had to try it out didn't I.

    Fraccie came all the way over from the Red county on Sunday just to have a look and take some piccys so I took him on a trip over the Pennines on a beautiful spring day, then called to see Chris (TED191) to compare toys. Went for its first tank fill up during the trip. When I announced that it was running on fumes and it has a 114lite tank Ade decided to have a kip, and for me to wake him when filled. The tank however only took 87.32 litres despite the low fuel light being on? So just how big is the tank on a 550? With the mileage at 275.20 I worked this out at 14.32mpg. I`m satisfied with that. (The 308 did 15~17mpg).

    Looking forward to some nice Ferrari weather over Easter for some bonding, I`ll let you know how we get on.

    The Sweeni

  2. #2
    Moderating Team Guest


    Its been a while but thought it time for an update on the 550.

    Since my first report, which was written not long after acquiring the car, I have done my first track day with it and driven it to Berlin amongst the 5500 miles so far travelled in it.

    The track day was the FoC event at Oulton Park, and as with my first track day with the 308 it rained, so the traction control stayed very much on. Even so the rear was decidedly twitchy in places but easily controlled - just keep it smoooooth. The sun eventually made a visit so the traction control was turned off. Now either I am very steady or very smooth (or both?) because I couldnt detect any difference but in my own mind I think that I was giving it some welly if only because very few cars kept up and most got passed - 360`s easy peasy, 430`s just play things, Scuds & CS`s more of a challenge but so they should be as track focused cars (The 599 was another matter entirely however).

    Pity some more members from CS were not there to make comparisons with but, as with my first track day with the 308, it did give me a whole new insight into this amazing car. The 550 is after all a Grand Tourer so to be able to give the mid-engined cars a run is impressive.
    I cannot be bothered to always check the fuel consumption except for specific trips or events and this was one of those occasions and the figure, which includes driving to and from the circuit was a sobering but expected 9.5mpg.

    One of the reasons for choosing this particular 550 was the unusual colour for a Ferrari, Grigio Alloy, a sort of metallic powder blue. I expected that this might even help to disguise what it is to the non-car man or woman but I was wrong. I still get drivers pulling drawing alongside to take photos, get swamped at petrol stations and if they get the chance am invariably told "nice colour", indeed the one and only person who has been negative was a cycle club mate who thinks all Ferraris must be red. Oh well!

    My daughter works for Rolls Royce (Aircraft engines, not cars), and sometimes works at their Berlin office where she was during October so any excuse to go there is taken. This time though I fancied driving. The map showed that it would be a flat, straight, featureless drag and in most cars it probably would be, but not in something with a top speed of nearly 200mph. Got the overnight ferry from Hull~Rotterdam and decided to go via Arnhem to see the infamous bridge and possibly get a photo of the car on it. Well that was just a waste of an hour, so pressing on in deteriorating weather we stopped for lunch closely followed by a coach full of teenagers. I think you can imagine the scene, all wanted their photos taken leaning against it and some were lucky enough to get to sit in it. I`m a sucker for letting complete strangers sit in it but just look at their faces when they do.
    More time lost but the roads were getting a little quieter so the average speed started going up from the 100~110 to 120~140mph and how easy was it. This is what a 550 is for, why 12 will always be better than 8, mile after lazy mile of number crunching. Then we hit the road works............
    The rain came down, it got dark and entering the outskirts of Berlin is just as bad as London. The only highlight of this part of the trip was following a German registered Bristol for quite some time, and the driver was certainly using it whenever the traffic allowed. Must be a very rare sight over there.
    Whist in Berlin I got the chance to photograph the car in front of the Brandenburg gate and perhaps more significantly at the Nord Curve of the Avus racing circuit where the original grandstands and race buildings remain. Not possible to get the car in front of the grandstands for photos as this is now the start of the autobahn.

    The journey home was in much better weather and the roads were quieter so settled into a steady 110~120 cruise. Got tailgated by a dipstick in one of those pug ugly Audi Q7 trucks at 110mph and was getting more & more pi$$ed off with him when, like Mosses with the Red Sea, the traffic just cleared, not a vehicle to be seen for a good 2 miles, straight flat road. Well it would have been rude not to wouldnt it so the foot went down. 140, 160 in a flash, still with a shove in the back, 170 went by still oh so easy. By this time I was very quickly approaching traffic ahead just as 182 came up on the speedo, the car still accelerating at a pace which left me and my (by now very quiet) wife in no doubt that the claimed 199 top speed may if anything be under quoted. A personal best that is unlikley to be bettered I expect and a thrilling moment, even the wife seems to enjoy dinning out on it since we came back.

    Didnt see the Q7 again.

    Now for those without experience of the German speed limit system it seems to work like this. The general speed limit is 130kph, this being reduced at junctions. This is signed with normal permanent circular signs, where the derestricted areas are however the signs are electronic on overhead gantries with the limit changing in relation to the traffic levels. Very clever.

    The trip was a total of 1100 miles and this was of course one of those runs where the consumption was checked and I was very surprised indeed to discover a figure of 17.25mpg, very comfortable with that. Just where do the horror stories of V12 Ferraris not bettering 10mpg come from?

    Did the Dream Rides for the Sporting Bears charity last weekend and one of my passengers was the owner of an Aston Vantage, 6.0l V12, so a direct competitor to the 550. He stated that he wasnt a particular Farrari fan but wanted to take a ride to compare. Well he was a fan by the time he had his allotted 10miles worth, praising the interior (often lambasted by some on here) and the engines torque. He made the comment that the Ferrari V12 pulls at any revs, in any gear and just builds up whereas the Aston only seems to pull when its in the higher rev band.

    The 550 and me are bonding very nicely thank you, think a long loving relationship is on the cards.
    Any extranious costs to date - no just fuel. Total reliability, nothing rattles, nothing has broken and nothing has fallen off. Now wheres a piece of wood...

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