Have you come across that meme on social media where people say they were ‘today years old’ and then proclaim a random fact they’ve just learned? It really is very annoying, but admittedly it’s the first thing that came to mind when discovering this particular nugget of automotive trivia: Ferrari set a world speed record with the 550 Maranello - and then made a special edition to commemorate it.
Obviously, being PH, there’s a good chance you already knew that, but there’s no harm in admitting gaps in your knowledge. And as random car trivia goes, this is a pretty niche one. Yes, the 550 Maranello is indeed a world speed record holder, though clearly not in the ballistic-missle-with-wheels sense. In October 1998, before marketers discovered the power of Nurburgring lap times, Ferrari decided the best way to show off the capabilities of its latest V12 flagship was to set a new average speed record using the giant oval at the Transportation Research Centre in Ohio. It would go on to set three records that day: an average speed of 190.2mph over 100 miles, an average of 184mph for one hour and 188.9mph for 100km.
For a 12-cylinder grand tourer designed to cover lots of miles very quickly, the world records essentially served as a seal of approval for the 550 (even if nobody really remembers it). However, to the surprise of absolutely no one, the car used to set the records wasn’t exactly stock. Word on the web is that the Titanium Silver 550M had been ‘lightly modified’ for safety reasons, though apparently it was fitted with the Carrozzeria Scaglietti suspension package which, according to this thread, featured on Michael Schumacher’s personal 550 and two others. And that’s it.
That being said, parts of the race-inspired Carrozzeria Scaglietti suspension would supposedly form the basis of the 550’s Fiorano Handling Package, which would feature on the ultra-limited 550M WSR built to commemorate the record attempt. The 33 examples of the WSR would also feature a leather-wrapped roll cage, suede steering wheel, carbon-fibre bucket seats and a plaque marking the record-breaking run. The 5.5-litre V12 was left untouched, but 485hp should be enough to comfortably cruise at 190mph for 100 miles - if the headline record is anything to go by.
As if the WSR wasn’t special enough, this particular example was once owned by Jodie Kidd. Now, the model-turned-YouTuber has owned all sorts of Italian exotica over the years, including a Lamborghini Murcielago and Maserati Gransport - but she recently wrote that her 550M WSR was ‘the one that got away’, having bought it in her mid-20s after making a few quid through her modelling work. No word on whether it still has the massive sound system she fitted, mind. Of course, you may have no interest in Jodie Kidd, but it’s at the very least comforting to know it was owned by an enthusiast (stereo system aside).
Interesting, it’s been properly used during its 23 years of service, too. The car is currently on 56,000 miles, so there’s no need to lock it away in a garage waiting for its value to go up. And on that note, it seems like a bit of a steal at £129,950. Not bad for one of only 10 examples produced in right-hand drive, not to mention one with such an interesting back story. If a manual 550M is all you’re after, you can pick this one up for around just shy of £90,000. But even if the Kidd connection doesn’t do it for you, the story of Ferrari’s peculiar record attempt certainly should.
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