Engage brain and put your heart away is a good tip when considering a Ferrari F355.
After all, there’s lots to make a grown punter throw good sense to the wind. Good things like the sound from that mid-mounted 3.5-litre 40-valve V8 producing 370bhp, and those looks – prettier than its predecessor, the 348, and certainly the 360 that followed it.
The trouble is, the bad things are just around the corner, and if you buy an F355 on a whim, there, ready to surprise you. Five years ago, when prices started at around £35,000, you could perhaps afford to drop a clanger. Not any more. Today, unless it’s a left-hooker, starting prices are at least double that.
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.