It takes a brave soul to ask an obvious question. God bless whoever was brave enough to ask one at the end of that monthly Ferrari ‘town hall’ meeting a couple of years ago, then, concerning exactly why it is that the company doesn’t make a car like the much-loved, big-selling 550 Maranello anymore.
That, in my head at least, must have been how the new Ferrari Roma came into being - not that the company is letting on. There will have been a prevailing will from the management to make more of the firm's modern front-engined V8 platform architecture shared with the Portofino convertible, of course. An enthusiasm, too, from Ferrari’s design team to seize the opportunity, once it was presented, to bring some classic, coupé-bodied elegance back into showrooms.
But I reckon the bold arm-raiser at the back of the ‘big team get-together’ should get most of the credit here. Perhaps it was Giovanni from accounts. Since he doesn’t look great in red trousers, they don’t let him out of the office much, but he runs a mean Excel sheet, he makes a mean Chicken Cacciatore and he’s been biding his time, puzzled by the 550 question, for a while.
Haven’t we all. The 550 was one of Ferrari’s modern high watermarks for front-engined GTs. Smart-looking, usable, soulful, fast, involving and, most of all, really well sorted for the road, it was followed up by increasingly wild and expensive front-engined, twelve-cylinder successors that incrementally became less and less about everyday usability and accessible handling appeal and more and more about outright pace, grip, noise and lurid performance thrills as the years passed.
The void that strategic shift left in the Ferrari model range has evidently taken some time to become apparent to the company’s product planners, but we’ll let them off on that score. It was a bit of a mental leap to invoke the spirit of a car like the 550, not to mention so many other of the company’s V12 grand touring greats of the 1950s and 1960s, with a reimagined fixed-head version of the turbo V8-powered Portofino – itself not the most revered of modern Ferraris, after all.