Ferrari’s latest masterpiece, the 488 Spider, is currently doing the rounds with journalists worldwide and to no one’s surprise, Maranello’s new open-top supercar has received a raft of rave reviews.
The 488 Spider is just one in a long line of Ferrari convertible models, with the first true Ferrari convertible - or Spider/Spyder - appearing in the late 1950s. In honour of the 488 Spider, we’re going to run down our top five convertible Ferraris; however, we’re too tempted to cheat and not strictly stick to the conventional Ferrari, as we explore targa tops and roadsters, too.
Ferrari 550 Barchetta
It could have been easy to dub the Ferrari 550 Barchetta a ‘future classic’ back in 2000, and for good reason. Ferrari made just 448 of the limited edition 550 and although it came with a soft-top roof, it was not designed to be used over 70mph, so the car acts more as a permanent roadster - a near 200mph roadster.
Armed with Maranello’s superb 5.5-litre naturally-aspirated V12, the 550 Barchetta was able to make the 0-62mph sprint in a mere 4.4sec thanks largely to the 478bhp going through the rear wheels. Over the years, the 550 Barchetta has aged majestically and has met any such claims of becoming a future classic, with that sleek, long front end two-seater configuration really hitting home 15 years on from its conception in the Pininfarina design house. Current classifieds prices north of £150,000 help its cause massively.
Ferrari Dino 246 GTS
OK, so again, not strictly a convertible but a targa top, the Dino 246 GTS has become one of the all-time classic Ferraris and in 1969 was busy duelling with one of Porsche’s earliest iterations of the 911. Enzo Ferrari himself lent his own son’s name for the 246, the ill-fated Dino, and the car wasn’t all about brawn but more about being a small, light mid-engined sports car for those who perhaps didn’t have the budget for one of Ferrari’s thoroughbred V12s of the time.
This resulted in the 246 GT and GTS models (and the 206 GT precursor) being made in much higher numbers than any Ferrari before. The GTS, although slightly inferior to its coupe sibling, had its angelic looks combined with a super-cool targa layout and is arguably one of the most well proportioned Ferraris ever built.
Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California SWB
The first true Ferrari convertible in this prestigious list, the 250 GT Spyder California SWB is perhaps the obvious car of choice for this run down, but there’s just no avoiding its lure and impenetrable coolness. Yes, it was the star of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but it was also owned by some of Hollywood’s ice cold clientele, including James Coburn and whose example was bought by the not-so-cool radio DJ Chris Evans for a healthy sum of £5.5 million.
The California was launched at the 1960 Geneva motor show and just 55 were built, making it one of the most exclusive Ferraris in history. The Spyder was graced with not just drop-dead gorgeous looks from Scaglietti, but also a 276bhp version of the marque’s 3.0-litre V12 and ran on an updated and more rigid chassis to ensure it handled at least nearly as good as it looked.
Getting back to targas, the Ferrari F50 was and still is an absolute beast of a supercar, but then any car with a Formula 1-derived 4.7-litre V12 sitting behind its two seats would be deemed a bit of an animal. Alain Prost’s Ferrari of the 1990 F1 season acted as the starting point for the monstrous 12-cylinder powertrain, with just 349 examples of the F50 produced between 1995 and 97 to celebrate Ferrari’s 50th birthday.
Although a successor to the F40, the F50 had a less of an edgy feel about it and wasn’t as focused for the track as perhaps its predecessor had been, while others criticised it for being slower than the F40 despite having more power. Despite this, the F50 still stuns with that huge fixed rear wing and that howling V12 peeking out its see-through plastic covering, while that targa roof line enables its occupants to enjoy its sensational aural offering 10-fold.
Ferrari 458 Speciale Aperta
To round off this list, we’ve got what is one of Ferrari’s greatest modern achievements in the form of the 458 Speciale Aperta, the convertible version of the awesome Speciale coupe. A send off for the 458 line, the Speciale Aperta stands as Ferrari’s fastest naturally-aspirated V8 Spider variant ever built, thanks to its 597bhp on tap from the 4.5-litre V8 sitting in the heart of the car and a 202mph top speed.
It will be highly likely that the Speciale Aperta (and its coupe sibling) will be the last in the line of NA V8s from Ferrari, with the 488 GTB and Spider models endorsing the use of twin-turbos and the mid-engined family looks to be staying that way for a long time to come. That free-revving V8 dialling all the way to 9,000rpm entertains one of the most visceral driving experiences on the planet, while the coupe Speciale was a mere 0.5sec from matching the F12’s Fiorano lap time of 1:23.0.
The Aperta is among the last of a dying breed within its whole sector of rivals, with many manufacturers now turning to forced induction in the name of economy and emissions, a sad but inevitable truth.