|Engine||3496cc 90° V8 longitudinally mounted, dry sumped|
|Power||380hp at 8250rpm|
|Torque||363Nm at 6000rpm|
|Construction||Steel and aluminium body with full body undertray to equalise downforce between the two axles|
|Chassis||Steel monocoque with tubular steel sub-frame|
|Tyres||Pirelli P-Zero. 225/40 front, 265/40 rear|
|Top Speed||295km/h / 183mph|
Spider or Spyder?
First of all, a little trivia… hands up who knows why some sports car manufacturers name their convertibles spider or spyder?
The name spider comes from the 19th century, when we were all still riding around in horse drawn carriages. There were a number of different types, including those used for carrying goods, but the lightest versions were of minimal construction, had no roof and looked rather spindly; much like spider’s legs. It became commonplace for these types of transport to be called spider phaeton’s (yes, you guessed it – the latter is the name of VW’s Mercedes S Class and BMW 7 Series rival; a modern day luxury carriage, if you will). Because of the spider’s roofless structure, as automobiles were developed the nomenclature remained, setting them apart from their fixed roof counterparts.
But what’s the difference between spider and spyder? There is no difference, other than between manufacturers. Ferrari, as in this example, use spider. Lamborghini on the other hand, tend to use spyder. It’s their preference.
The F355, built from 1994 – 1999 was Ferrari’s reposte to two things: the motoring world’s criticism of the previous model, the 348, and perhaps more importantly, the Honda NSX. The latter was the Japanese marque’s brand new critically acclaimed, useable everyday supercar, whilst the 348 felt much like a 70’s Rockstar who just didn’t know when to finish his solo, stretching the 80’s style and substance out for as long as it possibly could.
The F355 changed all that. Launched in Berlinetta and GTS (removal hard top) form with a manual gearbox, and having spent a reported 1800 hours in wind tunnel testing, the results were visually arresting. The car’s nose was more dainty and elegant, having removed the rather crude black plastic from under its chin. Gone were the 80’s sidestrakes to clean up the sides and produce a smooth curvature to the doors whilst also allowing more air into the engine. The rear was more rounded and feminine, with a coquettish lip introduced as a spoiler to increase downforce. The F355 has a feline nature to it and, at least to my eyes, is one of the prettiest Ferrari’s ever made. The attention you get whilst driving confirms it. 99 times out of 100, people love this car.
Then there’s the engine. A 380hp 3.5litre V8, which was the first regular production Ferrari (not including specials like the F40 and F50) to use F1 technology. It introduced titanium connecting rods and increased it from four to five valves per cylinder, meaning its redline rose to a screaming 8,500 revs and, once past 4,000, produced arguably the most intoxicating soundtrack ever developed from the prancing horse marque.
A year later, in 1995, Ferrari released the Spider and, the following year, changed the engine management system to help refine the engine further whilst also adding a driver’s airbag. Additionally, it was the first sportscar manufacturer to introduce an F1 style gearbox. Another piece of trivia for you: an F355 is a manual version. The automated manual was actually called the 355 F1.
Driving the F355
So what is it like to drive, 25 years after the first F355 was produced? Spine tingling. Although not the last Ferrari to have a manual gearbox (that honour goes to the F430), it was the last Ferrari to use its old construction before being replaced by the much more advanced 360 Modena. As a result it is a relatively heavy car, meaning acceleration is brisk, not brutal, but being sat so low and with so much less interior surrounding you than in modern cars, you have the real sense you are the one driving it, not a team of technicians. It also is the last Ferrari to have that quintessentially old school Italian seating position, meaning your feet are slightly angled away from your body.
Be in no doubt though that this is a proper mid-engined supercar with no traction control and more than enough power to light up the rear wheels. It will spin if not driven with respect so you have to concentrate if you want to drive it fast. It feels connected though; the steering is feelsome, chattery and you can build a joyous momentum on a give and take B road.
The manual gearbox is delightful and, if you are into the subject, accelerating through the gears of an open gated Ferrari manual transmission is one of those experiences you have to have at least once in your life.
And then there’s the noise. This example has the stage two Capristo exhaust fitted, which means that below 4000 revs the valves are closed, ensuring it is relatively civilised when you need it to be. At cruising speeds it is neither droning nor intrusive and the car is comfortable; you can see why Ferrari billed it as their ‘everyday supercar’. In fact the noise is nothing special below that magic number, sounding a little more like an overused washing machine than the stallion you might be expecting.
But then you bury the throttle and… well… if every hair on your body does not instantly stand to attention, you cannot be human. Enzo Ferrari was a consummate engine builder and this is a naturally aspirated masterpiece. You have to work for power in the F355 but the way the engine pulls all the way to the 8,500 red line, and the soundtrack it produces as it does so is sensationally addictive. It’s angry, feline, melodious and serrated; a symphony of the highest order playing right behind you… It’s so outrageous I genuinely have no idea why they bothered to put a radio in it.
F355 Running Costs
There are some horror stories of F355 running costs but they are more reserved for the examples that have been left out in the cold and rain and, simply, not maintained properly. Yes the engine needs to be removed every three years to change the belts and the mountings inspected. Yes the roof leaks on both the spider and GTS variants. And on the GTS and Berlinetta you have to watch for any rusting in the rear buttresses. There are also some reports of headers failing. But this is why, on any car but particularly classics, preventative maintenance is key. The point is though, that knowing all these things, you can prepare and budget for them because, other than that, the F355 is mechanically very reliable.
So, if you are prepared to accept around £2-2,500 per year in maintenance and have space to ensure it is kept warm and dry, you will not be disappointed by the F355. Coupled with its rising residual values, be in no doubt, this is a very special motor car.
See my How much does it cost to run a classic supercar? article for more in-depth look.
The Ferrari F355 cost from £90,000 when launched in 1994. They dipped to around half that value but are now on the rise. A low mileage example in pristine condition will easily cost £100,000, with manual versions carrying around a £10,000 premium over those equipped with the F1 transmission.