5 min
June 27, 2024 | Luke Ponsford

Open For Summer

5 min

The sun is out, so now is the season to hail some of Ferrari’s rarest, fastest and most alluring open-top cars…

Luke Ponsford
June 27, 2024

Along with a plethora of automotive innovations made since the company’s inception, Ferrari has spent over 75 years in a quest to perfect the retractable roof and create the perfect convertible, or spider. Enzo Ferrari himself had always harboured a fondness for drop-top cars. Indeed, the very first Ferrari – the 125 S of 1947 – was a roofless racing barchetta and followed in the footsteps of open-top racers from the 1920s and ‘30s.

Over the years Ferrari successfully experimented with ever-more complex folding roof mechanisms, removable roof panels – first seen on the 1972 Dino 246 GTS – and automatically-operated soft-tops, the first of which appeared on the F355 Spider in 1995. The Ferrari California of 2008 was the first Prancing Horse to feature a fully retractable folding metal roof, and since then further innovations have been made, culminating in the 15 seconds it now takes to fully retract the hardtop of the latest 12Cilindri.


The 166 Inter cabriolet of 1948, with bodywork by coachbuilder Stabilimenti Farina, was the first Ferrari to have a retractable fabric roof

But back to the late 1940s, and the first ‘proper’ Ferrari spider was the convertible version of the company’s first GT car, the 166 Inter. Based on the 166 sports racing models such as the 166 MM barchetta – which was completely roofless – the road-going 166 Inter cars were produced between 1948 and 1950 and were mostly configured with coupé bodywork. However, the 166 Inter cabriolet, which was built by the coachbuilder Stabilimenti Farina in 1948, was the very first Ferrari to have a retractable fabric roof. Only three examples of this beautiful convertible Prancing Horse were ever made, making it a particularly rare model.


The 365 GTS from 1969 featured elegant bodywork, created by the Pininfarina works in Turin, and a powerful V12 engine that delivered the performance to match the car's timeless, stunning looks

For the ultimate in sheer elegance and pure refinement, fast forward 21 years to the 1969 Ferrari 365 GTS. With bodywork created at the Pininfarina works in Turin, the 365 GTS was remarkable not only for its timeless beauty, but also for its muscular V12 engine and torque-laden performance, which took the car to a top speed of 245km/h. Its simple folding roof, which could be dropped down by hand from within the cabin, had a clip-on protective cover which cleverly disguised the hood when it was lowered and folded behind the seats. Production of the 365 GTS ceased midway through 1969, with only 20 examples being built.


The 308 GTS, which was developed together with Pininfarina, made its debut in 1977 and went on to become one of Ferrari's most popular models

Much less of a rarity, but just as appealing to fans of open top driving, was the Ferrari 308 GTS. One of Ferrari’s most popular cars, the 308 GTS was developed together with Pininfarina and made its debut at the 1977 Frankfurt Salon. Very similar to its hardtop stablemate the 308 GTB, the GTS model had a removable glass-fibre roof panel that involved manually lifting the panel out of the roof aperture before storing it away behind the seats. The 308 GTS offered impressive performance from its 2926cc V8 engine, with 255 cv on tap and a top speed of 252km/h. Production ran until 1980, with 3219 examples being made, roughly twice as many as the GTB.


The Ferrari F355 was the first Prancing Horse to come with an electronically operated semi-automatic soft top

Another lauded example of Ferrari’s drop-top legacy is the F355 Spider of 1995. Designed by Pininfarina, the F355 Spider’s elegant, flowing lines were the result of 1,800 hours spent in the wind tunnel. The results were a superbly dynamic open-topped sports car, which boasted the performance – thanks to its 3496cc V8 – and aerodynamic capabilities of the hardtop F355 Berlinetta. Notably, the F355 Spider was the first Ferrari to come with an electronically operated semi-automatic soft top, which opened up the cabin at the touch of a button in around 30 seconds, after being manually unlatched and pulled back by hand.


The beautiful Roma Spider of 2023 was the first Ferrari to feature a soft-top since the 2005 F430 Spider

A much more recent Prancing Horse, the Roma Spider of 2023, has seen Ferrari returning to its soft top roots. Featuring a sophisticated folding fabric roof – which fully opens in under 14 seconds – the Roma Spider was designed to offer an open-top version of its coupé sibling without losing any of that car’s elegantly flowing lines and classic ‘boulevardier’ influenced styling cues. The first Ferrari to feature a soft-top since the F430 Spider of 2005, the Roma Spider – with a 3855cc turbocharged V8 and 620 cv on tap – offered thrilling top-down motoring with a dash of 1960s and ‘70s glamour.


The latest 12Cilindri Spider's automatic retractable hard top takes just 15 seconds to go from closed to fully open. Convertible motoring couldn't be easier

It's easy to see how far Ferrari has come since that 125 S of 1947. But in some ways, nothing has changed. That spine-tingling feeling of driving an open-topped Prancing Horse remains and is, of course, very much present in Ferrari’s most recent drop-top, the 12Cilindri Spider. And with 830 cv coming from its mighty V12, as well as that ‘15-second roof’, the latest open-air Ferrari is proof positive that the thrill is better than ever.