Articles

Michael Sheehan's Ferraris-online.com Article

F50 GT, A Very Exclusive Club

As appeared in:

Sports Car Market—March 2000 issue

Sheehan Speaks

by Michael Sheehan

Mike Sheehan

F50 GT S/N 003 was the feature car at the RM Classic Car Auction at Scottsdale, Arizona, on January 23, 2000. With standard F40s selling in the $250,000–300,000 range, and production F50s bringing $600,000–650,000, the F50 GT’s selling price of $1,430,000 had the Ferrari world buzzing.

The F50 GT is one of the great “what ifs” in Ferrari’s history. The car was developed in late 1995–96 to be raced by privateers in the 1997 BPR Global GT Championship series. Developed as a competition coupe version of the F50, the F50 GT was meant to be a replacement for the F40 LM and its later variations, the F40 LM GTE, which had been a relatively successful car in the (now defunct) BPR GT series. Two F50 GTs were to go to Scandia racing, two more to Ferrari Club Italia which was going to run with Benetton sponsorship, and a fifth car was going to be supplied to MomoCorsa. Other cars, if built, were to go to various European privateers.

While the street version F50 will go from 0–60 mph in 3.7 seconds, and has a top speed of 202 mph, the racing version F50 GT will launch itself from 0–60 mph in 2.9 seconds, and has a top speed of 235 mph. The normal engine in an F50 street car, designated the Tipo F130, is a de-tuned F-type V12 engine expanded to 4.7 liters and rated at 513 hp at 8,500 rpm. The F50 GT engine is designated the Tipo F130A and develops a tire-shredding 750 hp at 10,500 rpm.

The official reasons for the cancellation of the F50 GT program in late 1996 were the high development costs and Ferrari’s need to focus on Formula 1. Rumors in the Ferrari world included a refusal by Ferrari to go head to head with Porsche or Mercedes in GT racing, and/or that Bernie Ecclestone, head honcho of Formula 1, didn’t want Ferrari diverting its resources from F1, nor did Ecclestone want the Ferrari name in a rival racing series from which Bernie derived no profit. (Strange how we find this latter reason so easily believable.—ED.)

As an aside, the BPR series, named after its organizers, Jurgen Barth (of the Porsche Factory) Patrick Peter (now organizer of the Tour Auto) and Stephen Ratel (organizer of the Venturi and Lamborghini Challenge series) is now suing Ecclestone. They claim he stole their series and replaced it with the new FIA GT series, conveniently controlled by the afore-mentioned Mr. Ecclestone.

The owners of the first three F50s delivered have not been shy about showing off their hot-rod Ferraris. S/N 001 was sold to Art Zafiropoulo, a California collector. This car arrived in the US on April 18, 1997 and was introduced to the public at the Ferrari of North America-sponsored Rodeo Drive concours of April 19, 1997, held in Beverly Hills.

The second F50 built, S/N 002, was sold through Cornes, the Japanese Ferrari importer, to a Japanese collector, Yoshikuni Okamoto. The third car, S/N 003, was sold through Ferrari of Beverly Hills to Jim Spiro in Louisiana. All were sold in the $1,000,000 or “a little more” range.

It was S/N 003 that sold at the RM Auction in Scottsdale for $1,430,000 including premium and is now on its way to an Australian collector. With over 350 F50’s built, a 150% premium for an F50 GT, which is really just a race car without a racing pedigree (think 288 GTO) seems absurd. Add in the knowledge that there are three tubs left at the factory waiting for someone with the patience and checkbook to own S/Ns 004, 005 and 006 and the price seems even crazier.

On the other hand, in today’s dot-com economy, where a private 757, a fifty-room mansion or ownership of a Major League sports team doesn’t buy exclusivity, an F50 GT, the latest and most potent Ferrari GT race car ever built, does guarantee bragging rights in the club of young billionaires who are always looking for new ways to one-up their buddies. And paying a $400,000 premium? That just means their stock will have to go up another fifty cents a share to make that money back.

MICHAEL SHEEHAN has been a Ferrari dealer for 30 years as well as a race car driver and exotic car broker.