1999 Ferrari 550 Maranello
1999 Ferrari 550 Maranello. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

Everyone’s bucket list is a little bit different: go bungee-jumping, tour the Vatican, white-water-raft the Grand Canyon. Something you should have on yours, set in bold-face type and underlined twice – drive a Ferrari.

Here’s how to do it properly, with a 5.5L twelve-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, and the whole thing draped in genteel Tour de France Blue, a decathlete dressed by Brioni and Valentino. The key stands ready in the ignition.

This particular car can be found on autoTRADER.ca and is offered for sale by the Urban Garage, a hidden gem of a dealership tucked away along a busy street in West Van. If you’re not looking for it, it’s possible to drive right past the place as most of the cars are stored inside in a narrow older building that once operated as a service garage. There are no velvet ropes, no slick-suited salespeople, simply gleaming machines – Aston Martin, Porsche, Bentley – and a small, enthusiastic staff, all of whom are consummate car-guys.

Dealership owner Duncan Pearce relates why the Maranello ranks among his most favourite speed machines. “There’s nothing like the sound of a V12, and the unbelievably flat torque band which makes for effortless acceleration in any gear. Then there’s the timeless beauty of the car. Finally, it’s relatively rare and I think, increasingly collectible. With only 3,600 ever produced worldwide, there are few good ones left.”

At launch in 1996, the 550 Maranello had some pretty big shoes to fill. Effectively the replacement for the iconic, side-straked 512M Testarossa, it sat between the somewhat-gauche F50 supercar and gorgeous, mid-engined F355 as Ferrari’s grand touring option. As the first two-seater Ferrari to have a nose-mounted V12 since the 365GTB/4 Daytona, it also was laying claim to a bloodline that stretched all the way back to the iconic 250GT.

Turn the key and there’s a brief electric whirr as the starter-motor saddles up the thoroughbred 485-hp twelve-cylinder and then gives it the spurs. The engine comes to life with a deep thrum, a low, sombre tone like a basso profundo clearing his throat before delivering a Montiverdi aria. I slide into the Daytona-style ribbed and heavily side-bolstered seats to find them surprisingly comfortable. Step on the leg-press-heavy clutch and guide the heavy metal shifter into first – with the gear oil still cold, this has the industrial feel of releasing the brake lever on a steam locomotive.

1999 Ferrari 550 Maranello1999 Ferrari 550 Maranello1999 Ferrari 550 Maranello
1999 Ferrari 550 Maranello. Click image to enlarge


The burly V12 gently pulls the car forward with zero throttle application and we’re off.

This is a big car with a big engine, and the first surprise is how easy it is to drive, docile even. The steering is light, the sightlines are excellent, the nose might be long, but it’s actually easier to maneuver than something like a BMW Z4.

For all you might have heard of Ferrari 12s screaming like banshees and raging against being held in harness, the 550 disposes of heavy traffic with colossal torque (419 lb-ft of it) and can pull like a draft horse in pretty much any gear. Climbing up the hill out of West Vancouver, it doesn’t seem bothered at all by the herds of pachyderm-sized luxo-SUVs. Gliding to a halt at a four-way stop the 550 starts off uphill without a jerk, displaying impeccably well-bred manners.

Oh look, an on-ramp.


The Ferrari fills its enormous lungs and begins a crescendoing bellow – only to be cut-off mid-note by a Bentley Flying Spur that merges into the lane with minimal attentiveness and scant forward velocity. The Upper Levels highway is thronged with traffic, so the 550 quickly finds itself plonked into sixth and proceeds to pootle down the freeway. I’m pootling. In a Ferrari.

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