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by Thanos Pappas

In the year 2000, Pininfarina S.p.A, one of the biggest names in the automotive design industry, celebrated its 70th anniversary in a fitting way – revealing a Ferrari concept car at the 2000 Paris Motor Show.

The Ferrari Rossa (which simply means red in Italian) was not only an anniversary prototype and a modern reinterpretation of the Testa Rossa (1958), but also a sign of things to come, showcasing the future design language of Ferrari models that followed. But before we move on to the actual design of the concept car, here is a little bit of the background story…

The partnership between Maranello (home of Ferrari) and Turin (home of Pininfarina) started in 1951 after Enzo Ferrari himself met with Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina. It seems that the meeting of minds was a success as since that date, Pininfarina took responsibility for designing the vast majority of Ferrari’s models – from the Ferrari 212 (1951) up to the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta (2012).

During that time, Pininfarina shaped the style and identity of the Prancing Horse, creating some of the most beautiful and iconic cars of all time. After 2017, design work was taken in-house (Centro Stile Ferrari), however besides the gorgeous LaFerrari, there are many who miss the continuity of the lines and the purity of Pininfarina’s design language in the contemporary Ferrari models.

Back to the concept. The Rossa was built on a modified 550 Maranello (1996-2002) chassis, fitted with a front-mounted naturally aspirated V12 5.5-litre engine producing 357kW. Power was sent to the rear axle through a manual open-gated gearbox, and even though Ferrari didn’t announce detailed performance data, the car’s specs shouldn’t be far off from the production 550 Maranello which accelerated from 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds and could reach a top speed of 320km/h.

Responsible for the design was Ken Okuyama, Creative Director at Pininfarina, who had previous experience working for Porsche and General Motors.

The front end of the Rossa is characterised by the protruding grille with curved edges which defines the shape of the bonnet (like on the original Testa Rossa) complemented by two large air intakes on the sides. Above those, the slim and vertically arranged headlights have a distinctive teardrop shape following the lines of the fenders. On the top of the bonnet there is an opening, showcasing the power source of this sculpture.

Looking from the side, the most interesting part of the car are the front fenders which resemble a reincarnation of the ‘pontoon fender’ of Scaglietti’s Testa Rossa. Underneath the characteristic crease of the bodywork is a floating fin which stops the eye from moving downwards following the lines of the profile, while at the same time channelling the air coming from the front wheels.

Proportions of the Rossa are forward oriented with its long bonnet and front overhang contrasting with the short rear overhang. The profile consists of two main volumes intersecting through the main character line which significantly raises towards the rear fenders, changing direction in all three dimensions. A similar treatment can be found on the Ferrari Mythos (1989) concept, however in the Rossa, the transition looks a lot more three dimensional. 

Finally, the frameless wraparound windscreen in combination with the two arches behind the seats give a classic Barchetta look to the car.

At the back, which is curved and clean by today’s standards, for the first time in a modern Ferrari, the signature quad circular taillights protruded from the curves of the rear fenders. Below, we find three air intakes housing circular quad exhaust pipes which matches the number of the rear lights. 

The middle part of the bodywork sits a little bit lower than the sides, and is defined by the continuation of the character line. On the top there is the classic Ferrari emblem made from a single piece of aluminium with the proud Prancing Horse sitting beneath, above the plates. The small rear overhang of the concept sits high with a relative large ground clearance bringing lightness to the overall shape.

The cabin is designed like an extension of the bodywork with the same material and two arcs creating room for the driver’s and the passenger’s feet. Design was simple with a very basic central console featuring only the screen for the rear-view camera (due to the absence of mirrors), Ferrari’s emblem and the traditional gated gearbox made entirely of aluminium. 

Other elements include the three circular analog instruments behind the polygonal steering wheel, the aircraft style start-stop switch on the left and the buttons for the operation of a front mounted camera on the right side.

So, what happened next?

The Ferrari Rossa (2000) was well received by the press, even though some people found its styling too revolutionary for a Ferrari. Two years later, the flagship Enzo Ferrari (2002) would be the first production model to incorporate the new design language. The Pininfarina-designed Enzo was a lot more angular with pure and strictly shaped surfaces, however many aspects of the Rossa were retained. Later models like the 599 GTB Fiorano (2007-2013) would also pave on the same road continuing its legacy.


Designer Ken Okuyama with the Kode57 (2016)

At the 2016 Monterey Car Week, designer Ken Okuyama presented the Kode57 – an open-top supercar based on a Ferrari 599 chassis – which would be produced in a limited number of five units by his own firm. Kode57 was essentially a redesigned Ferrari Rossa with sharper styling translated to the present, an F1-style nose (Ferrari Enzo), front splitter, a large diffuser and single circular taillights at the rear (Ferrari P4/5).

In 2018, Ferrari Special Projects unveiled the Monza SP1 and SP2 – two gorgeous barchettas with a V12 engine mounted at the front, initiating the range of Icona limited edition models aimed at dedicated clients and collectors.

Verdict

Ferrari Rossa was a rather interesting concept showcasing Pininfarina’s ideas and bringing the cool factor of an impractical barchetta to the supercar scene of the 2000s. This is the kind of car that if launched today, it would definitely be a one-off proudly sitting in a private collection. Back then, and before the recent flourishing of coachbuilding and Ferrari’s own special projects division, it wasn’t intended for production but rather served as a design study. 

With the Rossa, Pininfarina tested the world’s reaction to the upcoming design language of Ferrari. Details like the shape of the tail-lights and the vertically arranged headlights eventually found their way to all models in Ferrari’s range. In contrast, the softer and more feminine side of the Rossa was gradually replaced by a more masculine look, which was better suited for the fast and technically superior supercars from Maranello.

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