For decades, the act of driving a Ferrari has always brought with it some expectations. An urgent, glorious sound, usually from a V-8 or a 12-cylinder. A view over the dashboard that conjured the potential for serious speed. And a manual shift within that hallmark open gate, its distinctive click resonating every time you selected the next gear. However, about 20 years ago, Ferrari took that last part—the manual transmission—and gradually relegated it to the dust bin. Collectors now highly value those last cars with the old-school gearbox so they can better enjoy an integral part of the driving experience long associated with the brand.
Wait: is that really why those cars are more valuable? Let’s take a look.
The sunset for manual Ferraris began at the race track. Inspired by the system on its Formula One cars (introduced for the 1989 season), the initial road-going F1 transmission incorporated the same single-clutch system but used a new interface. It did away with the clutch pedal, open shift gate, and gear lever. In their place were shift paddles behind the steering wheel to select the gear and a computer that managed an actuator for the clutch. Debuting on the 1997 355, the F1 transmission gained acceptance in the market and eventually became the most popular transmission choice.
Cars like the 1999-2005 Ferrari 360, the 2002-2006 Ferrari 575M, the 2005-2011 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, the 2005-2009 Ferrari F430, the 2007-2011 Ferrari 599 GTB, and the 2009-2014 Ferrari California all featured some mix of manual and F1 transmissions. In some cases, though, like the 599 and the California, less than one percent of production had a manual.
The Hagerty Price Guide distinguishes the value of the manual transmission for these models, except for the California. For each, as the F1 transmission becomes more common and the manual transmission increasingly rare, premium for the manual grows.
Early in the transition, a 355 model with the manual is worth one-third more. On the succeeding 360 model, the manual can be worth one-third to 50 percent more, and for the F430, the rarely-found manual transmission car can be worth twice as much. Among the V-12s, the 575M was the first model to get the F1, and a manual 575M is worth 125 percent more. A manual 612 Scaglietti is not far behind at 120 percent more. While the exceptionally rare (30 built) manual transmission 599 GTB has a price guide note of +$150K (~60 percent), some manual 599s have sold for approximately 250 percent more in the past year. Even fewer Ferrari Californias were built with a manual, but we don’t yet have a pricing note for those in the guide.
Enthusiasts saw the price difference between the two and realized that the cost of converting an F1 transmission car to an open-gate manual car was less than the gap in values. Consequently, more cars are being converted and appearing on the market. But how does the market value those converted cars?
Ten examples of converted cars have sold (most of them were F430s, but 430 Scuderia and 599 GTB models sold as well) at auction in the past year. Comparing those prices to the Hagerty Price Guide condition-appropriate value (for the F1-equipped cars) at the time of the auction shows a 9.4 percent average discount and a median discount of 5.3 percent. Needless to say, that's far less than the 100 percent premium for a factory-built manual transmission F430.
For a bit of additional context, manual conversions aren't unique to Ferraris from this era. BMW's E46 M3 is not nearly as rare or valuable as a contemporary Ferrari, but it's still a strong enthusiast choice, and SMG automatic-equipped versions are increasingly the targets of conversion. Of the 15 transactions of manual-swapped E46 M3s for which we have data, the average condition-appropriate difference to a factory-equipped manual transmission car is +2.5 percent. In contrast to Ferrari, the BMW market appears to value the type of transmission rather than where and when it was installed.
Why converted Ferraris don’t get the same prices as factory-built manual transmission cars, or even the prices of the F1 automatic models that they once were, could be due to several factors. Perhaps Ferrari collectors value the rarity of a factory-built manual over the driving experience. Certainly, the high prices paid for zero-mile Ferraris supports the idea that collecting, rather than driving, is the primary objective. Another consideration is that modifications are unpopular in the Ferrari world.
Where does that leave the converted cars? At the discounted rate they're selling for, they're a great opportunity for Ferrari fans who prioritize driving over static originality. What would you do with a manual transmission Ferrari?
I’ve had three from the prancing horse stable and retain two of them. All were manuals original from the factory. Wouldn’t have it any other way, at any price.
You don’t mention this, but I believe that WHO does the conversion is crucially important. From what I’ve read and been told, there are software updates and interfaces that have to be sorted out. It seems to me that given the prices of the various bits involved, a potential buyer would want to make sure that the converted car they were thinking about buying was not the first effort by an inexperienced shop.
Good point about the electronics needing sorting. However, in this data set, one shop did the majority of the conversions. The average difference for the vehicles they’ve converted (n=8) does not change the conclusion.
Funny…I’ve ALWAYS been a manual guy ! But I had a great oooortunity to but a 1999 360 with paddles. I’m amazed by how much I like the paddles ! I never put it in automatic mode so I’m running up and down the gears but just not using my left foot and I really like it ! And I owned a BB 512 Boxer with, obviously, a gated manual ! But I love my 360, on many levels ! My 2 cents ! Thanks for listening !
Factory gated 360 Spider checking in! I paid at least a 40% premium and wouldn’t have had it any other way. I am a card carrying member of TMGPS!!!
I have had my 1980 GTBi since 1985 and at 79k I decided to spend the money for a major refurbishing (over $145k) in order to stay with old tech. I now have a 2023 fresh car with 5-speed gate, Nardi steering wheel sans airbag; analog gauges, original 14″ Campagnolo wheels, Michelin XWX 205/70 x 14 tires, trouble-free Bosch K-JeTronic fuel injection AND another 50-100k of driving pleasure. I could have spent the money for a newer paddle shifter (great fun), but my car and I wanted to continue our love affair…We know each other and appreciate hitting the twisty back roads together. I would have it no other way.
Not sure what TMGPS is, but I was a charter member of the “I’d Rather Eat Worms Than Drive an Automatic Club” back in the 70’s and have always had at least one car with a stick. Currently, that would be a vintage sports car with a dogleg 5-speed, while the other side of the garage hosts a late-model Audi S3 with paddles.
Both are equally satisfying, but in completely different ways: for an in-your-face knife fight with a narrow, greasy, mountain road, throwing 10 – 20 mph switchbacks and brutally short straights at me, there’s nothing better than those paddles….but for almost every other situation nothing beats the engagement of practicing what is becoming the lost art of shifting for one’s self. So yeah; a converted Ferrari makes sense for me because I buy my cars to drive, not to wrap them in plastic.
There’s a reason race cars have gone to paddles, plus for those that live in areas where traffic congestion is a thing, paddles are life/clutch savers; to think anything else is silly.
The gated shifter is part of the “tradition” of a Ferrari. Not surprised they bring in a premium.
What’s your cup of tea? A manual shift feels right in a car of a certain era while a paddle shift is appropriate in a later model. It is an apples and oranges. Like Porsche 911 owners arguing whether the early models are better ‘drivers cars’ because their tail happy tendency made you work for it vs owners who’ll argue that with the modern updates mean you can drive them faster and get into more trouble. You’ll hear F-1 guys having the same dispute. So who do you want to be today ? Sir Jackie ( the wee Scot ) or Max ? As far as conversions. Well lets be honest. The F-355 maybe one of the best looking Ferrari’s during that analog/digital era but they’re hardly low/inexpensive maintenance rides with the “dealer only authorized”. So I’m thinking if you’re willing to spend the cake the cost of switching isn’t exactly on your top priorities list. I don’t have a problem with seeing a Hurst in a ground up muscle car restoration either. Just leave the original in the trunk if you didn’t snap it off slamming into forth and driving home using a pair of needle nose Vice-Grips as a shift handle.
My F430 F 1 is the first non manual car that I ever owned…. and I also love it! On track, it’s a beauty to shift those gears. Highly recommend the F1 transmission if you track…