Jay Leno thinks the 2001 Ferrari 550 Barchetta is aging nicely, and in this episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage,” he explains why.
Unveiled at the 2000 Paris auto show, the open-top Barchetta was a limited-edition version of the Ferrari 550 Maranello coupe, and one of the last Ferraris launched before the era of smartphones and infotainment. It’s from a simpler time when, as Leno puts it, “all you could do was drive.”
With its front-mounted V-12 and 6-speed manual transmission with gated shifter, the 550 Barchetta recalls classic Ferraris of the 1960s. And like a 1960s sports car, it was designed primarily as an open car, with only a rudimentary tent-like roof provided for sudden downpours.
The 5.5-liter V-12 features dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, along with dry sump lubrication—everything you’d expect from an engine wearing the Ferrari name on its valve covers. It produces 478 hp and 419 pound-feet of torque, which Ferrari says is good for 0-62 mph in 4.4 seconds and a 186-mph top speed.
Beyond the numbers, the naturally aspirated engine, manual transmission, and lack of complex driver aids provides a purer driving experience than current Ferraris. It’s a genuine throwback that shows just how much things have changed over the past two decades.
Ferrari and coachbuilder Pininfarina built 448 of the Barchettas, compared to about 3,000 examples of the standard 550 Maranello coupe. The production run was completed fairly quickly, with the last car leaving the factory in December 2001. That wasn’t the end for convertible versions of this platform, though. After Ferrari refreshed the 550 Maranello into the 575M, it launched the 575M Superamerica, this time with a retractable hard-top roof. But that’s a story for another day.