I never liked the Ferrari 550 very much when I was growing up. I should have. It was a powerful, stylish, front-engined not-quite-supercar with a gated manual transmission, a V12 and, unbeknownst to me at the time, one of the most pointless and luxurious options a sports car can have.
Now, it’s a little difficult for me to talk about this feature with any kind of certainty. Ferrari is always a little secretive or selective about who can buy what, and how many of each car or option made it out of the factory. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Ferrari 500 was a sporty car, but it was luxurious as well. These things cost $204,000 when new, so I guess they had to be. It should come as little surprise then, that when Ferrari offered an interior roll bar, it wrapped it in leather.
This is, to me, the perfect blend of functionality and uselessness. Yes, it makes sense to put an integrated roll bar in a car that can knock on the door of 200 miles per hour. No, it makes no sense to line it in leather other than it fits in with the rest of the leather-lined interior.
And you’re not wrong in noticing those four-point belts in this picture, either. Those are the optional sport seats for the 550, which apparently could be ordered with those extra-safe belts. There’s no fifth point to prevent you from submarining into the dashboard, but a belt in your crotch isn’t the most luxurious thing imaginable.
The reason why I was cagey about this information is that it was initially offered on two special editions of the 550, the Michael Schumacher edition and the World Speed Record edition. The first commemorated Ferrari’s not-yet-all-conquering F1 driver.
Here, in fact, is a picture of Schumacher doing some testing in a 550 at Fiorano, Ferrari’s test track.
The second commemorated Ferrari’s production car record for average speed over 100 kilometers, which the company set at the track where Honda now tests its cars in Ohio. I honestly don’t know if the picture I have of that interior is a Schumacher car or a WSR car; I believe that WSR cars only had red interiors, but I can’t find any definitive proof of that.
Only a few dozen of these cars were ever made out of the few thousand 550s built in total. That said, it’s not hard to find 550s popping up for sale with the optional seats and four-point belts. There may be other leather-cage 550s out there, but I don’t know about them.
But I can say that I do love them, quite a bit.