Michael Sheehan's Article

How many 599 SA Apertas

The collectability of anything, be it Ferraris, coins, stamps or whatever, is in large part inversely related to the number built.

As appeared in:

Online Exclusive—April 2013 issue


by Michael Sheehan

1 of 80, this should be a short article; right?
1 of 80, this should be a short article; right?

Collectability versus volume

Every column has its inspiration and this column is the response to one of the oft-repeated questions that crosses my desk “Will the modern Ferraris, such as the Scuderia, the 16M, the 599 GTO or the 599 SA Aperta become classics like the Lusso, the 275 GTB or other collectable earlier Ferraris”? Sadly the answer is “no”. The collectability of anything, be it Ferraris, coins, stamps or whatever, is in large part inversely related to the number built and far too many modern Ferraris are now being built to ever be anything more than the latest-greatest exotic, and then only until the next newer-and-faster model comes along. The numbers tell the story.

The Joys of Trainspotting

Trainspotters began as a unique English subculture of individuals who first wandered out into the moors in the rain, sleet and snow in the Victorian era, when the rapidly growing British railway system personified British industrial power, recording the numbers painted on the sides of passing freight cars, passenger cars, and locomotives. These numbers were dutifully entered by hand into databases and spreadsheets so that the numbers, locations, and travels of virtually every train car in Britain could be carefully tracked. Once recorded, this information was then swapped by mail with other trainspotters to build obsessive-compulsive databases of trainspotting information. Today true “trainspotters” are to be found in virtually every major country.

The Ferrari world has a similar tiny subculture of only a few dozen hard-core spotters worldwide, including yours truly, who have dedicated much of their lifetimes to recording race results, ownership data and other arcane information on their favorite Ferrari models. Today that data is in computer databases and information is traded within our group in seconds, by e-mail. This obsessive-compulsive knowledge had been the basis for our business model for the last two decades.

One serial number, one Ferrari

In theory every Ferrari is singular, one serial number, one Ferrari. Alas the world of Ferraris is not that simple, as Ferrari has a long history of complicating the lives of Ferrari spotters. In the 1950s up to the 1970s all European-based race cars needed a government issued “Carnet” or passport with a basic description of the car, a serial number, and registration (license) plates to cross national borders as every country had extremely high import duties. If the latest Ferrari race car was scheduled to race outside Italy and was wrecked in a previous race or in testing, it was easy to simply stamp the Carnet’s chassis number on a spare car and swap the registration plates to the spare car. Once that car returned to the factory race shop, it was usually re-stamped with the original number, but not always. Additionally if a client had a contract that specified a chassis number to buy a new car and the pre-sold “new” car was wrecked and the client’s arrival was imminent, another car would get the needed chassis number. Another example of s/n swapping would be a car sold to Mexico, Brazil or Argentina, all of which had a highly protected domestic auto industry and extremely high import duty. If a car was sold to these counties and was wrecked, it would go back to the factory and a newer car would replace it, but with the old chassis number, to avoid again paying the very high import duty and road registration taxes. I first covered this subject over two decades ago in 1989, in an 8-page article in Cavallino #57, pages 20-27. We had sold 375 MM s/n 0362 to a Japanese customer who was more than miffed to learn that Ferrari had once swapped serial numbers on his race car. I had to explain that in the 1950s Ferrari was firstly a race team whose goal was to win top level international races, and secondly to cover the payroll by selling last month’s slightly-used race car to privateers who could win national level races. Because both factory and privateer drivers have a nasty habit of breaking parts and hitting things, demand often exceeded supply. The imminent arrival of a paying, (or Heaven forbid, pre-paid) client to pick up his Factory-new steed guaranteed that swapping serial numbers to get a car and client out the door was a necessity of business. To overtly simplify, in period s/n 0362 was numbered from 0362 to 0374 and then back to 0362, while a second 375 MM, s/n 0376, was renumbered to 0362 so that today two 375 MMs exist with a period factory claim to s/n 0362!

The well-researched Enzo-era.

The Enzo-era Ferraris have been tracked since the 1960s thanks to early spotters such as Stan Nowak and Gerald Roush, and begin with s/n 01C in 1947. The Enzo-era cars end with the last of the 365 GTB/4 and 246 series, in mid-1973. The 365 GTB/4 Daytona ended production at s/n 17615, and every other GT Ferrari (odd s/ns only) was (in theory) a street car, so about 8,807 cars from the first 125 Sport to the last Daytona. Add in another 3,700 Dinos for a total of about 12,500 street and GT racers. The even-numbered race cars end with s/n 896, the last of the 312 PBs, so about 448 pure race cars, plus another 50 racers with unique s/n sequences such as the 206 SPs (s/n 002 - 036) and 512Ms (1002 - 1050) for a total of just under 500 even-numbered racers and Sport racers. Add in the F1 cars, from the first 1.5 litre supercharged 125 through the 375s to the last of the 312 B3 series gives us another 65 or so F1 cars for a total of just over 13,000 or so Enzo-era Ferraris.

FIAT ramps up the numbers

The FIAT-era cars are less convoluted to track as the days of one-offs and small runs of pure racers had ended. Additionally, Ferrari published annual production figures making the job easier. The FIAT-era cars started in mid-1973 with s/n 17185, the first 365 BBs, up to s/n 75000 (a white 1987 Testarossa) using odd serial numbers only, or about 28,900 cars. From s/n 75001 onward both odd and even numbers were used, with the FIAT-era ending during the overlap of the last 348, s/n 99934 or the first of the 355s, starting with s/n 98395. Using s/n 98395 as the dividing line for the first of the Montezemolo era cars, the FIAT-era Ferraris ended their production run using every s/n from 75001 to 98395 or another 23,394 Ferraris. Adding 28,900 and 23,394 we get some number around 52,000 FIAT-era Ferraris. Add in the 208-308 GT4s with 3,666 cars built plus the F1 cars, from the 312 B3s through to the 640 gives us another 80 or so F1 cars for a total of about 55,750 FIAT-era Ferraris.

Montezemolo’s revenge

The Montezemolo-era brought Ferrari into the world of mass production starting in 1991 with 355 s/n 98395, and as of today, April, 2013, the most current VINs are in the 1946XX s/n range, for a total of about 96,000 Montezemolo-era Ferraris built to date. Ferrari has ramped up production from 4,487 cars in 1991 to over 7,381 cars in 2012, and will undoubtedly go to 10,000 cars a year as the world economy revives. Alas both word-count constraints and the need to sell a few older Ferraris to keep the lupine pest from the portals dictates that tracking each and every one of these cars is not for the faint of heart or possible in this column.

Fortunately for hard-core trainspotters, “the source” of newer Ferrari information is a fastidiously well-researched book, “Handbuch der Ferrari Seriennummern” by Matthias Urban, written in both English and German (in the same book). With 980 pages of fine print plus a 350 page supplement covering serial numbers from 001 up through s/n 194614, an F12 Berlinetta, Matthias lists not only the car built, but the cars not built. For those truly into the most arcane trainspotting, the book is a must-have. Contact Matthias at

All of this leads us back to the original question of the collectability of the newer cars versus the numbers built. As an example of Ferrari’s business success and sheer volume, total 360 Modena production is around 16,000 to 18,000 including the Challenge Stradale with around 1,288 “official” units. An educated guess on the 430s is in the 13,000 to 15,000 units, excluding the Scuds and 16Ms. Add in the Scuds and 16Ms gets one back to 15,500 to 17,500. Chasing down 15,000 to 17,500 F430s is impossible unless one has direct access to Ferrari’s production database. I don’t have that luxury so any guess is merely an educated one. For this academic exercise in a reasonably well-documented example of the true number of Montezemolo-era Ferraris built we first considered the recent 599 GTO with Ferrari’s claimed 599 cars built or the 599 SA Aperta, Ferrari’s latest very-limited production 599 chop-top, with only 80 claimed as built. Obviously the math dictates that tracking the Apertas, with a claimed 80 cars built is numerically easier than tracking the 599 GTO with a claimed 599 cars built.

What price exclusivity

The 599 GTO was introduced in April, 2010 as a limited-production road-going version of the 599XX with only 599 examples to be built and as only the second road-going Ferrari to carry the revered GTO suffix. Window sticker started at $426,843 plus lots of high-dollar options. The drop-top 599 SA Aperta was introduced shortly after in Oct., 2010, at the Paris Auto show with a Japanese market Aperta s/n 171212 in honor of designers Sergio and Andrea Pininfarina. Only 80 examples were to be built. Window sticker started at $456,000. Alas both the 599 GTO and 599 SA Aperta are merely the latest examples of Ferrari spiffing up a model before they are retired. Just as the 550 Barchetta was simply a 550 with a not-too successful chop job, the 575 Superamerica was merely a 575 with a recalcitrant electronic folding top. While both have depreciated to be good buys today, neither was a good investment for the first buyer. I opine the 599 GTO and 599 SA Aperta, with its dysfunctional top, will do the same and slowly depreciate as do almost all modern Ferraris.

599 SA Aperta
599 SA Aperta

The Apertas were sold to very wealthy and very low-profile Ferrari owners who own all the latest-greatest Ferraris. Most do not own the older Ferraris which are more often tracked and rarely go to Ferrari-related shows or events. One can only take a guess at how many Apertas have gone to ultra-wealthy Chinese, or Japanese, or Koreans, or South Americans, or Russians, or middle-Easterners, all far off the usual radar screens. The Sultan of Brunei, for example, was buying the latest-greatest of anything in groups of five, so he will have at least one Aperta, if not more, far off the radar screens.

So how many Apertas

In 2011 our group had only 30 Apertas identified by serial number but by Jan., of 2012 that number had grown to 66 confirmed. By May 2012 we had enough Apertas spotted for me to mention in a column, Ferraris and the Euro that we then had 74 Apertas confirmed by serial number and another 30 or so spotted by trainspotting members of our Historian’s group. Two angry Aperta owners e-mailed me in response to the column. When checked, one of those Apertas was already in our database, one was not, adding another Aperta to the slowly-growing list. As of late April, 2013 we have 90 Apertas confirmed by serial number and another 30 or so spotted, some of which might be duplicates of confirmed cars so the guess is that the total number of Apertas will eventually prove to be in the 120 to 130 or more Apertas built. The 90 Apertas documented does not include the prototype, which amusingly carries the same serial number as a US model California Spyder. In the last few months several well-placed sources have confirmed that production was raised to 120 while still in production, with more probably built as production wound down. So much for the 80 car exclusivity.

We continue the Geek-Fest of analysis

As yet another obsessive-compulsive point of analysis, the US-Market normally takes about 27% of Ferrari’s worldwide production with peaks (above 40% in 1999) and drops (below 10% in 1996 and 1993). Both might be related to statistical errors, insufficient data or a “wrong” way of counting as the US-cars are marked as the new model year from the middle of the actual year but seem to be counted by the Factory as a car from production of the actual year. Furthermore, Americans are eager buyers of the limited series Ferraris, often more than European buyers. Checking by individual models the “fitting 27%-rule” usually applies.

Going through the Montezemolo-era “Specials” we have the following examples: 550 Barchetta, 460 produced (incl. prototypes), 135 to the US = 29.35% of the production, more or less in line with the “27%-rule”. Enzo, about 440 produced (incl. pre- and post-production), 119 to the US = 27.05% of the production, again more or less in line with the “27%-rule”. Challenge Stradale, 1,274 produced, 365 to the US = 28.65% of the production, again more or less in line with the “27%-rule”. 575 Superamerica, 559 produced, 214 to the US = 38.28% of the production, more than the regular figures, but no surprise as Ferrari’s marketing efforts had the American market in focus. Going to the 16M, 499 produced, 224 to the US = 44.89% of the production, more than the regular figures but the official number of 499 is probably far too low and is probably more than 700 cars. 599 GTO, 599 supposedly produced, 166 known to the US = 27.71% of the production, more or less in line with regular figures.

Last but not least in this analysis, the SA Aperta, with 120 or more produced to our knowledge, 45 of those known to the US, makes 37.50% of the production, so possibly another “catcher” with the “American Brand”. Both time and the 27% rule will tell how far final production exceeded 120 cars.

The miracle of depreciation

I will admit that every time I drive a 430, a 612 or 599 I’m awed at the sophistication and performance. Using the 599 as our example, the first few 2007 US model 599s sold for $150k to $175k over window sticker, so $450k-$475k. Thanks to the miracle of depreciation those same 2007 599s are today well under $200k and usually have less than 10k miles, offering a lot of car on today’s market. With a 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 205 mph I’ve never found an open stretch of highway long enough, or clear enough, to begin to unwind a 599 to anywhere near its potential. My first drive in a 599 was on a lonely stretch of the 73 Freeway with only a few cars mere specks in the distance. A quick twenty-second flat-out run through the upper gears was like the scene in Star Wars when the Millennium Falcon goes into Hyperspace as the once-distant specks suddenly raced towards me, seemingly in reverse. Bottom line, the extreme performance of the latest and greatest Ferraris is simply not usable in the real world and far exceeds the skill set of the average driver. The question, of course, is other than the pride-of-ownership from having your car parked in front of the best restaurants, where can one really use their potential? Needless to say the latest-greatest F12 with 729 hp and a 0-60 time of 3.1 seconds is even faster at 211 mph! Enjoy the rideā€¦.

Thanks to Stan Nowak and Gerald Roush for their inspiration decades ago and to Matthias Urban, Victor Gaillard and Matthias Kierse, Aperta spotters, and to the hard-core members of Ferrari Historians. We welcome any feedback, corrections or additions from any and all Aperta owners or spotters.