Let's Explore Ferrari's Weirdest, Most Wonderful One-Off Creations

Let's Explore Ferrari's Weirdest, Most Wonderful One-Off Creations

There are Ferraris, and then there are these super-rare — and in some cases, super-secret — projects

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Ferraris by their very nature tend to be pretty rare cars. But there’s another echelon of rarity within the company’s storied history — a slate of one-offs and super-low-production models, only meant for a buyer or several with the funds to commission the car’s creation just for themselves, and them alone.

Unsurprisingly, these happen to be some of the most interesting cars Ferrari has ever produced. In the late 2000s, Ferrari launched its own internal effort, called the Portfolio Coachbuilding Program, to head up development of these uber-exclusive models, most of them designated with the “SP” moniker. Prior to this, venerated design houses, like Pininfarina, took it upon themselves to reimagine Maranello’s most celebrated metal for a lucky few. Let’s explore 10 noteworthy examples.

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Ferrari J50 (2016)

Ferrari J50 (2016)

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Intended to commemorate Ferrari of Japan’s 50th anniversary, the company built 10 editions of the J50 — a 488 Spider-based roadster that elegantly pulls cues from the brand’s past and present. One of the most notable examples is the black line curving around the bumper and upward toward the belt line, terminating right before the rear edge of the door, a memorable hallmark from the likes of the F40 and F50.

The J50 is probably most striking from above, where you can observe the bodywork stretching over the roll hoops, offering a nice contrast to the transparent engine cover and its black-painted surrounds. Speaking of which, that turbocharged 3.9-liter V8 is also punched up compared to what you’d find in a 488, here developing 690 horsepower — 30 more than usual.

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Ferrari SP38 (2018)

Ferrari SP38 (2018)

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The SP38 was sort of like the coupe version of the J50. That’s by no means a criticism; the J50 already looked phenomenal, though the SP38 might look even better by virtue of its simplicity. Ferrari’s designers were supposedly heavily inspired by the F40 in developing this car. I’m not quite seeing the resemblance if I’m honest, though I suppose the low rear wing integrated into the bodywork is a subtle callback. The star-pattern wheels are a more obvious nod to the F50; coupled with the black A pillars, they lend an old-school vibe. There is exactly one SP38 in existence, and it’s owned by Ronnie Kessel, son of Swiss racing driver Loris Kessel.

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Ferrari SP12 EC (2012)

Ferrari SP12 EC (2012)

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Eric Clapton could have commissioned Ferrari and Pininfarina to build him a tribute to any classic Prancing Horse, but his choice was the 512BB. The SP12 EC, so named for the initials of the car’s owner, uses 458 running gear, Enzo headlights and clever visual trickery to convey a modern take on Ferrari’s low-and-wide boxer-powered supercar. The slot right behind the B pillar and black vane-clad rear fascia complete the homage. There’s something weird about it, and those silver inserts in the hood really shouldn’t work, but the the SP12 EC’s melding of ’80s and conventional design trends makes it one of the most striking Ferraris of the past decade.

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Ferrari P540 Superfast Aperta (2009)

Ferrari P540 Superfast Aperta (2009)

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Take a 599 GTB, paint it gold, give it a rear end inspired by the 250 GTO and the headlights of a 612 Scagletti and chop off the roof, and you have what you see here: the P540 Superfast Aperta. The P540 was actually the second car the Portfolio team tackled after the F430-based SP1, and it happens to be one of the more distinctive undertakings.

From the front, this car is very evocative of the 599, even though it may not look exactly like it. But from the windshield back, the P540 takes on a very different, retro flair. Much like the SP12 EC, this one-off unifies old and new in a way that seems on paper as though it’d be jarring, but actually comes together quite nicely in three dimensions. And I can’t lavish enough praise about those side vents.

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Ferrari P80/C (2019)

Ferrari P80/C (2019)

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“The brief was to create a modern Sports Prototype inspired by some of the most iconic models in Ferrari’s history, such as the 330 P3/P4 and Dino 206 S.” That’s how Ferrari describes the P80/C — a car that, if it actually raced in any capacity, would instantly be included in any list of Maranello’s prettiest competition machines.

Make no mistake, though — this is a serious racing car, as evidenced by the fact it’s based on a 488 GT3, and that it took Ferrari four years to develop because of all the engineering work required. In terms of the design, the silver wedged-shaped aluminum louvers shrouding the engine evoke the open-cockpit 330 P4, while the air intakes — which trail off at the point where the side windows terminate — are one of the coolest design features I can recall seeing on any Ferrari ever. The Scuderia will be competing in the top class at Le Mans with a hypercar entry beginning in 2023, and while that’s surely exciting for fans, the actual prototype won’t look anywhere near as gorgeous as this.

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Fioravanti F100 (1998)

Fioravanti F100 (1998)

Now for something completely different. The F100 — sort of a Ferrari and sort of not, if you squint at the badge up front — was penned by Leonardo Fioravanti, who worked on such classics as the 365 GTB/4 Daytona and the original Dino. And it wasn’t a one-off commissioned by a deep-pocketed client: The F100 was a gift from Fioravanti to Ferrari, to commemorate what would have been Enzo Ferrari’s 100th birthday.

It’s a peculiar concept — precisely one of those strange ’90s one-offs that doesn’t really fit within the brand for which it was intended, but is far more interesting for it, just like Italdesign’s Lamborghini Cala. The original F100 was a coupe with a large rear wing and airbrakes integrated into the deck, though there are comparatively few pictures of that version compared to the roadster that came later, seen here.

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Ferrari P4/5 by Pininfarina (2006)

Ferrari P4/5 by Pininfarina (2006)

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Photo: Pininfarina

Typically, Ferrari is very restrictive about what cars are and are not allowed to wear its badge, even if they’re designed by world-famous studios and built with the utmost respect for the brand. The P4/5, however, was one of those rare scenarios where the result was so successful and immediately impressive to anyone that saw it, that Ferrari wasted no time in formally recognizing it as one of its own.

The P4/5 started life as an Enzo purchased by James Glickenhaus, which Pininfarina set about transforming into a modern reinterpretation of one of Ferrari’s P-series prototypes. A separate racing version based on a Ferrari 430 Scuderia, called the P4/5 Competizione, was campaigned in the Nürburgring 24 Hours in 2011 and 2012.

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Pininfarina Sergio (2013)

Pininfarina Sergio (2013)

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The Sergio is another weird case of a car that is both a Ferrari and not. The original concept that premiered in 2013, seen above, was not branded a Ferrari, though it was based on a 458 Spider chassis. A tribute to the studio’s chairman, Sergio Pininfarina, it’s one of the most elegant designs the company has ever produced — mighty high praise considering the body of Pininfarina’s work. In 2015, Ferrari worked with Pininfarina to make six road-going versions of the Sergio with more conventional, road-legal bodywork. It’s certainly not the stunner the show car was, especially from the rear, though it’s a nice gesture all the same.

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Ferrari Mythos (1989)

Ferrari Mythos (1989)

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The Pininfarina-designed Mythos started life as a concept, though Ferrari later built two more examples — one in turquoise, no less — for Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, a dude known at this point pretty much exclusively for his collection of obscure late 20th-century exotics. The Mythos was based on the Testarossa, as if the massively flared rear arches and huge intakes didn’t give that away. But this concept was even more extreme, measuring five inches wider and six inches shorter than Ferrari’s classic droptop.

In a sense, the Mythos was a preview of the softer, more rounded design Ferrari would adopt throughout the ’90s, in a number of models also envisioned by Pininfarina. The original Mythos concept now resides with a collector in Japan, though it ran for the first time in decades just two years ago at the Monaco Concours.

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Ferrari F90 (1988)

Ferrari F90 (1988)

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Image: Pininfarina

What more appropriate super-exclusive Ferrari to end on than one the company never showed in public and refused to acknowledge for nearly two decades? The Pininfarina F90 predated the Mythos by a year, but was even more radical. Like the Mythos, it was based on the Testarossa, though the hyper-curvy design and egregious wheel spats certainly don’t lend any perception of familiarity. Edges begone — this was to be a Ferrari for the ’90s.

The car was commissioned by — you guessed it — the Sultan of Brunei and his brother Prince Jefri, who ordered not one, not two, but six examples of the F90. Adding to the mystique, it’s said that not even Ferrari had knowledge of the car’s development as it was being prepared. Pininfarina’s Enrico Fumia, who managed the project, reportedly called the F90 “the most complicated and sophisticated prototype” the firm ever undertook at the time of its creation, in part due to the car’s sliding, targa-style roof.

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