The model was launched in Berlinetta coupé and GTS Targa-style forms (the roof can be stored behind the seats) in 1995. The Spider convertible followed a year later. The F355 was an evolution of the 348, with a larger, more powerful V8 engine, power steering, switchable suspension (Sport and Comfort modes) and, in those post-Honda NSX days, decent drivability in most conditions. Little wonder, then, that it became the first Ferrari to break the 10,000 sales barrier.
A six-speed manual gearbox was standard but in 1997 Ferrari revealed an optional Formula 1-style automated manual that allowed the driver to change gear via paddle shifts, a first for a production car. Compared with today’s quick- shifting dual-clutch ’boxes, it feels a little sluggish, but back then it was the bee’s knees. Naturally, with a £6000 premium over manual models, this F1 version is relatively rare.
The same year, the Motronic 2.7 engine management system was upgraded to the 5.2. Experts reckon the 2.7-equipped cars feel faster and the 5.2s smoother. Whatever the truth, there’s no premium on a 5.2 over a 2.7. More important, these later 5.2 cars got steel valve guides in place of the earlier bronze type that wore easily, allowing oil to leak past and burn off. Early cars may have since been retrofitted with steel guides.
The three-year belt change interval is the world’s favourite hair-raising fact about the F355. That, a sticky dashboard and the possibility of cracked exhaust manifolds. However, with the youngest cars nearing their 20th birthday, rust is the thing to fear most, especially where it affects the engine cradle (see ‘Also worth knowing'). Broken suspension springs come a close second.
The F355 eats clutches too. You can prolong their life by double-clutching when the engine is cold and never leaving the car in gear at the lights but changing to neutral. The clutch cable follows such a tortuous path that putting it under tension for any length of time causes it to stretch and, ultimately, break.
Having shot up from £35,000, prices of good F355s have recently softened a touch, so with memories of winter still fresh, now may be a good time to strike before the summer sun pushes them up once more.