Login | Register
SearchMy Stuff
My ProfileMy PreferencesMy Mates RSS Feed
Wednesday 9th July 2008

PH Heroes: Ferrari F355

In the nineties Ferrari created one of its greatest cars ever. Ollie Stallwood drives the F355...



The A33, 3.35pm on a Friday afternoon, somewhere just outside Basingstoke. Not normally a time and place that sticks in your mind but today is very different. It is at this moment that the traffic in front of me clears and I jam the Ferrari’s right pedal into the carpet and hold it there.

The revs rise to 8,000rpm and the small cabin is filled with the kind of engine note that belongs to a racing car not a road car. In front of me is the slightly oversized steering wheel belonging to one of the finest cars Maranello has ever produced. Or to put it another way one of the best cars the world has ever seen.

What makes this even more of an achievement is the fact that the Ferrari F355 was born out of the 348, a massive underachiever by Prancing Horse standards. It was deeply flawed and had been given a kicking by a new breed of supremely competent supercars like the Honda NSX.


If Ferrari was going to turn this car into a hero it needed nothing short of a miracle. Luckily this came in part in the form of the highest-revving supercar engine in production, a 40-valve, 3.5-litre version of the 348’s venerable V8.

The company had squeezed 109bhp per litre out of the unit (the McLaren F1’s mighty 6.1-litre V12 had 103bhp per litre) and it now revved to an ear drum-shattering 8,800rpm. Throw in a Formula 1-style undertray and a series of revisions to the 348’s suspension and Ferrari suddenly had a car that everyone wanted to drive.

But the engine and suspension are not the most astonishing aspects of the F355, and neither is the car’s gorgeous Pininfarina styling. It is fact that just 20 minutes before I had the car at full chat down the A33 I had never driven it before - and for a car like this to give you such confidence so quickly is an incredible achievement.


I had picked the F355 from the premises of new car club Driving Spirit (www.drivingspirit.co.uk), which specialises in offering a selection of iconic cars from the sixties to the present day. Company founder Steve Marshall tells me that this particular 20,000-mile P-plate took him a long time to find and is in excellent shape.

The car is smaller than I expected inside and although the pedals are offset slightly the driving position is very good. The six-speed manual has the classic Ferrari gate which looks daunting but takes only a few minutes to master. It has a satisfying click to each change that makes you wish all gearboxes looked and worked like this.

The car pulls away easily, the clutch is light by supercar standards, and the engine is tractable enough to make stop-start driving a doddle. I negotiate through heavy traffic, trying to ignore the small children pointing and smiling through the windows of MPVs, and head out onto the A33.


You could be forgiven at this point for thinking the F355 isn’t hardcore enough to be a supercar but this is the forerunner to the usable Ferrari we see today. By the time you reach a stretch of dual-carriageway you feel like you’ve been driving the car every day for the last five years, blipping the throttle as you change gear.

It is torquey low down but nail the loud pedal and prepare for one of the best driving experiences of your life. The F355 just revs and revs and revs, with a sound not unlike a Formula 1 car, and the speed piles on at a staggering rate. Suddenly everything is put into perspective - this is no ordinary car.

Other cars are great but when you flick through a series of bends you realise this is in a different stratosphere, it is almost uncomparable. There is so much feel, so much control, that you forget you are driving a car you borrowed off someone you’ve only just met.

There is perfect balance and even when the back end starts to let go it is no fuss to get things back on track before you throw the car into the next corner. You would expect a mid-engined Ferrari to be tricky at best but the F355 is forgiving. Body control is impeccable and it never feels unsettled mid-corner, meaning you want to push harder and harder.


It stays almost completely flat through bends but has a delicacy to the ride that you don’t expect. A few times I stopped to take pictures and found myself in a village or pub car park doing three-point turns but even this wasn’t too much of a problem.

The F355 has a split personality, but in a good way. One minute you are poodling around town and the next it is a (literally) jaw-dropping driving experience. You find yourself wide-eyed and tingling when you get to the next set of traffic lights - waiting for your next fix. Simply put every mile that you do is an event; I dare say even popping down the shops for some milk would bring a smile to your face. I don’t want to give it back to Steve but in the end I do, an hour later than I had arranged.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There won't be a PH Hero in two weeks as we will be at the British Motor Show. Normal service will resume the following week...

Oli S
2 3 ... 6 7
Reply to Topic
Author Discussion

GraemeP

Original Poster:

566 posts

114 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
That still has to be one of the most iconic cars of it's generation, and many subsequent.

And the example featured just ooozes so much appeal!

andymc

2,846 posts

92 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
yellow in spyder format for me

golders

138 posts

159 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
still a very pretty car. The nicest looking Ferrari for sometime (nicer than the F430)

Please don't post unrelated links - Mr Will


Edited by Mr Will on Wednesday 9th July 13:30

madrob6

3,484 posts

105 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
A favourite car of mine. You lucky b*****d to get to have a play in onewink

shadowninja

55,506 posts

167 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
GraemeP said:
That still has to be one of the most iconic cars of it's generation, and many subsequent.

And the example featured just ooozes so much appeal!
Yes. If I had the money, I'm plump for an F430 but would be sorely tempted by such an icon.
Advertisement

Oli S

214 posts

84 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
It was truly an amazing experience - one that I'll never forget! smile

daveco

2,755 posts

92 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
IMO-The best looking car Ferrari have ever built. I've always wanted one


fastgerman.com

858 posts

80 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
Fantastic car! I saw a black GTS at Auto Italia hosted in Mercedes-Benz Brooklands grounds and decided I will have one!
I drove a lhd at Silverstone for a Ferrari Experience day but found the Lotus Exige more fun as I could get the right gear!
Because of the weight at the back in the 355 any slight braking/accelerating mid corner really does disrupt the handling and there were spins out on the track, however not by me obviously!
Bloody good day out and as mentioned in the PH article, the sound is the best part of the car, however I wouldn't say performance was breath-taking. Pretty similar to an E46 M3 in performance but immensely more involved and you feel like a god in the drivers seat!

http://www.fastgerman.com/Ferrari.htm


Edited by fastgerman.com on Wednesday 9th July 15:26

Baffled Spoon

4,380 posts

79 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
daveco said:
IMO-The best looking car Ferrari have ever built. I've always wanted one
yes Simply love this car in every respect.

geofflowe

1,348 posts

164 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
Hopefully get a low mileage one once I've stopped enjoying my 328 GTS (another contender for prettiest car....)

Mike400

1,026 posts

116 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
One of my all time favourite cars. If I had the cash it would be on the drive without a doubt.

Only thing that ruins them IMO are all those MR2 based kit versions. Kinda cheapen the real product slightly??

Mr Whippy

18,866 posts

126 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
Lurvely car!

360 and 430 look a bit pants in comparison. Only the 360 CS comes close for visual drama, and that mix of beauty and agression.

Dave

phib

2,726 posts

144 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
Nice write up my fave modern car, would take one over a 360 any day ... infact I did

Edited by phib on Wednesday 9th July 13:24

Try5t

699 posts

93 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
Second best car I have ever had the pleasure of owning .... its a shame they don`t build cars this stunning anymore .. the F430 is a bit of a dog in comparison.

adyfc

18 posts

80 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
I used to have one of these and it was perfect in every way ive got a 430 now but its not as pretty, if they still made them id buy a new one.

D4 VEY

987 posts

78 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
So nice- would have over a 430 or 360. Second best sounding car after Porsche CGT. cloud9


2fster

763 posts

111 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
Baffled Spoon said:
daveco said:
IMO-The best looking car Ferrari have ever built. I've always wanted one
yes Simply love this car in every respect.
+ 1.

360 and 430 don't actually do it for me I'm afraid, 355 for me all day long.

Now, where'd I put that Lotto ticket?!

predding

442 posts

101 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
Agree with all above - does anyone know of a quality specialist that you can source one from...ideally around Surrey

phib

2,726 posts

144 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
Spent two years looking for mine lots and lots of dogs about, re specialists
Mike at Rardley Motors

Here is one : http://www.rardleymotors.com/cars/115724/115724.ht...


Good ones are hard to find and not cheap unfortunatly


Kieran XJR

2,963 posts

98 months

[news] 
Wednesday 9th July 2008 quote quote all
Awesome, I'd love one of those. I agree that they look considerably better than the 360 and 430 (I think the 348 does too).
2 3 ... 6 7
Reply to Topic