08/07/2005 Ferrari Superamerica F1 GTC A Limited Edition Idea
Earning the necessary after-tax £198,800 - plus options - is just for starters. Obtaining a position on the list of just 559 cars that will be available worldwide is an altogether more difficult proposition.
Named after a series of super-exclusive cars produced in the late ‘50s/early ‘60s mainly for the US market, the Superamerica marries the performance of Ferrari’s front-engined flagship 575M Maranello with the innovative RevocromicoTM electric-powered glass roof - and our test car was also equipped with the F1 gearbox and Handling GTC Package.
The open car carries another 25 bhp (to 540 bhp @ 7,350 rpm) over its coupé cousin, courtesy of a new exhaust system and improved gas-flowing of the cylinder head and inlet tracts, while the GTC specification includes special springs and anti-roll bars, lowered ride height, upgraded power steering, advanced electronic suspension control, Carbon-Ceramic Brakes with red 6-pot callipers and a sports exhaust system. It also has 19" split composite rims as standard. In short: ‘The Works’.
So it’s a really specialised, bespoke machine, made in the long tradition of the company for a discerning luxury clientele. Even the publicity material is available in nine different versions limited to 559 copies of each, cleverly labelled with names such as ‘Carmel’, ‘Aspen’ and ‘The Hamptons’.
I think we know where they’re coming from.
From a performance point of view it is the ultimate 575 (although it carries weighty strengthening to make up for the lack of a fixed roof), and it possesses that essential ‘must’ for the beautiful people: an open top.
And it’s a clever roof design that does make you think "Why hasn’t someone thought of that before?" In fact it’s two clever designs in one. Firstly the glass simply revolves around an axis across the rear roof sail panels, with an inbuilt heated-glass rear window and brake-light that works either way round, and secondly, the specially-made St Gobain glass itself is electrochromatic, so adjustment via a transmission-tunnel dial allows different degrees of light into the spacious cabin. Operation of the roof is only possible with the engine running (and car stationary) but it quickly swivels over in less than 10 seconds.
Strong clamps on the boot hold it in place automatically, while a carbon-fibre lever is manually activated to release it in the first place - or clamp it in the closed position. A tonneau cover can be fitted to protect the underneath of the glass when ‘open’, and the storage space of the boot is unaffected roof up or down. The classic lines of the 550/575 series are refined just slightly from the side, and a few minor adjustments such as the heavier grille around the central bonnet intake and aluminium-coloured headlight cluster rims set the limited edition car apart.
The interior is also unique for the Superamerica. The leather is specially perforated, while on-board storage space has been enhanced and carbon-fibre abounds to match the roof architecture. A yellow, or red, rev-counter is an option, and of course the personalisation programme can (at a price) include even more carbon, special paint and trim colours, ‘Scuderia Shields’, and Daytona -style seat trim.
So it’s the world’s fastest (199 mph), and most desirable convertible, what’s it like to drive?
Our location for some of the photos you see here is the marina at Monte Carlo, and for many people this will be the sort of arena the car will inhabit, a simple accessory for the super rich, perhaps craned on and off the deck for a run to Nice, Cannes or St Trop, in cloying summer traffic. Driving hood-down in these situations will be a satisfying experience, and will set you aside from the Bentley Azures, Murcielagos, Range-Rovers and Porsche Turbos. But get up early, close the roof, set the adjustable suspension to ‘Sport’ and set course for a restaurant 200 - 300 kms away and you will be rewarded with the drive of your life.
The handling package, in conjunction with the fade-proof brakes and click/clack of the F1 gearchange complements the mightily powerful engine. The F430 may be more urgent, with its strident exhaust note and relentless acceleration, while the 612 Scaglietti has the air of the dominant mile-crushing express about it (with, unusually, a more mellifluous exhaust note) but the Superamerica is pure two-seater V12 Ferrari. Really gunning the 5,748 cc engine means the car simply flies. The nose does not rise, the rear does not squat, it just goes - like hell. And the brakes will haul it down from very high speeds with no fuss at all, which is just as well because the smooth V12 seems to give little engine-braking.
My driving was mainly autoroute, but a colleague entrusted with our photographer for the ‘Route Napoleon’ was full of praise for the GTC package. The active damping with proportional-valve shock absorbers and accelerometers of the standard car is helped by stiffer springs and rear anti-roll bar to produce a smooth, comfortable ride that in ‘Sport’ is firmed up to mean sublime front-engine/rear-wheel drive handling of the finest order. It was probably harder work than the F430, but it did it, and few cars will arrive in more style than I did at Chateau Tilques, near St Omer, after a very fast ride up from Grenoble, just eating up the autoroute.
And you can than slide to a halt, switch the roof open, and enjoy a glass of champagne while the metal ticks away and the world passes by.
It beats leaving it by the marina.
The Ferrari Superamerica F1 is priced at £198,800.00. The car tested featured options that include the GTC handling package (£14,455.00) and Scuderia Shields (£1,050.00).
Text - Steve Wakefield Photos - : Ferrari UK ALL STRICTLY COPYRIGHT
The other cars featured in our recent road tests of contemporary Ferraris are the 612 Scaglietti, and F430 F1.