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Ferrari Spider F355

Ferrari Spider F355 Published: 26th Oct 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Ferrari Spider F355
Ferrari Spider F355
Ferrari Spider F355
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…To ease Potter's pain of selling his beloved Dino, Ray bought a modern F355 and kept the (considerable) change. Is it also the better buy?

It was not long after selling my Dino 246GT that I began to have Ferrari withdrawal symptoms – you know the ones. The fact that perhaps I sold it a couple of years too early was beside the point; I was happy enough with the money I got at the time but who can guess that some models will continue to go through the roof. I’m sure many of our readers have had the same experience and although the true classic car enthusiast buys a car out of passion rather than profit, it’s always a pleasant surprise when the latter is the case!

So my search for an affordable Ferrari for regular use started last year; nothing approaching six figures in cost that the Dino sold for but instead, possibly a future classic that is on the cusp of appreciating and unlikely to drop further in price.

Aesthetics, performance, maintenance costs and size was the batting order and when it comes down to price, I have always maintained when buying a classic, never buy one that you would be unhappy with keeping should the bubble burst.

WHAT TO BUY

First I considered the mid-engined V8 308 series that replaced the Dino. The GT4 is still a great buy and a useful 2+2 but its looks do nothing for me. GTBs are fine but good ones are pricey now. Even more so are the GTSs but again I think not as good looking as the Coupé. Most front-engined V12s were getting very expensive except perhaps the big lacklustre 400 series although the more recent 456 did appeal to me. I was in fact gazumped on a really nice one but have since changed my mind about them feeling it lacked the stunning factor and looked like many other sporting saloons.

Although affordable at the time, I never did like the Testarossa and although the thought of a proper 12-cylinder did tingle my spine, the costs of servicing and possible mechanical disasters steered me towards the more recent generation of affordable mid-engine V8s. After dismissing the Mondial as the least appealing Ferrari of all time, I quickly narrowed it down to the F348 or F355 and seeing that just about all the press claimed that the latter was so superior both in appearance, performance and handling, the F355 it had to be.

Being a ‘wind in my hair’ man while I have still got some left, the Spider version appealed and of course it had to be painted in Rosso red. My wife had a certain say in the matter and Nero black leather was another prerequisite.

I found an unmarked one that fitted the bill at Barr-Tech, Italian car servicing specialists on the outskirts of Cambridge with just 45K on the clock and although had a few previous owners, it sported a good history and had been well maintained during its 20-year life.

It came with a full service, that vital cam-belt change, a new MoT and a six-month comforting warranty. A test drive ticked all the boxes except that being a six-footer; I was disappointed at the lack of leg room and space under the steering wheel – but I still bought it!

I SOON FELL FOR MY NEW FERRARI…

The drive home was interesting! As the weather looked a little dodgy setting out, it was thought best to have the hood up. Near home, my wife who I was following stopped at a farm shop and as the sun had come out, I decided to drop the top while she bought a few things.

The power seats go forward automatically to clear the folding hood but due to the aforementioned lack of space, I was pinned against the steering wheel. I opened the door and attempted to squeeze out forgetting to release the seat belt and consequently half fell out dangling over the car park!

I didn’t make the same mistake again and although in other respects the 355 was a delight to drive, the driving position was clearly going to be an issue. During Barr-Tech’s final check over, the staff found the air conditioning recirculation not working correctly and wanted to change both exhaust manifold valves and as they were still on order, suggested I returned the car back at a later date giving me the chance to put a few miles on the clock and make sure everything else was tickety-boo.

After a few outings including a mild UK rally, the car proved hugely impressive, superb handling and very easy and light to drive. Apart from the moan about the driver’s accommodation, the only faults seemed to be a slightly erratic throttle control due to a sticking cable and a not very effective handbrake. The parts were finally in from Ferrari and so we returned the car with a plea to try and find some more leg room. Barr-Tech spent many hours looking at all possibilities of moving the seat. The runners apparently are set into recesses in the floor so it was not just a matter of a simple re-drilling.

It was fortunate that another customer had brought in a F355 Spider and they compared distances and found that the two were slightly different. After several attempts they finally managed to re-program the electrics to give me that extra couple of inches that now make all the difference. Barr-Tech certainly lived up to its claim about being passionate about cars.

I’ve now had the F355 for best part of a year and although I have not put a great number of miles on the clock, I have driven it far and fast enough to really appreciate why the F355 was acclaimed by the press in the ’90s as the model that put Ferrari back on track. It is exceptionally easy to drive with the extra 80bhp over the 300 that the previous V8 gave out deceptively hidden unless you make real use of the new 8250rpm rev limit. The extra sixth gear with the manual gearbox allows relaxed high speed cruising too.

Having neither owned nor driven the previous models – apart from the Dino of course – I took the handling, steering and general road holding as read; nothing short of superb but I now understand that this too was a vast improvement. Potholes and the like can throw you off line a little but generally the weighty rear end stays put and ride comfortably firm as it should be.

With my wife as navigator, we took part in this year’s Guild of Motoring Writers rally; a relaxed three-day drive through Northern France based around the Champagne area. The event was not without a few dramas. On the first day, it started raining and having tried the wiper stalk for the first time ever to no avail, we pulled into a lay-by in rural France to check it out – and to put the hood up. A couple of fellow rallyists pulled up to see what was wrong and to tell me that the brake lights weren’t working either! The handbook confirmed a fuse covered both wipers and brake lights – fuse-boxes were situated in the floor; another being in the front compartment. We searched, lifted carpets and gave up!

After getting them to work sporadically, back at Barr-Tech, the culprit for the fuse blowing was a loose wire behind the dashboard. And the hood, as predicted, was short of hydraulic oil. But since then someone must have put a curse on English weather as I’ve hardly had it down since. My most recent outing with the Ferrari was three days at the recent Silverstone Classic.

Friday, the wipers worked overtime on the way there from Hertfordshire and the torrential rain on the motorway proved that weatherproofing is not a 20-year old soft-top Ferrari’s best feature either. Oh the joys of classic motoring!

Leaving aside the one or two problems that I have had, it’s a great car and there is no question that I made the right choice of opting for a more affordable Ferrari to buy as well as a certain future classic.



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