Ferrari 360 Modena | The Brave Pill

If this week's Pill took literal form it would be the size of a thermos flask and marked "For Equine Use Only". There are few better ways to make a small fortune than to start with a big one and then buy a middle-aged Italian supercar.

There is no such thing as a cheap Ferrari, regardless of what you actually pay for it in the first place. That was true even in the not especially far-off days when it was possible to pick up tattier examples of less loved models for under Β£15,000, and sometimes without even breaking into four figures. Those who were tempted tended to quickly learn about the brutal disparity between purchase price and running costs. An acquaintance who tried to scratch his supercar itch with an incautiously chosen 308 nearly bankrupted himself with its frequent need for non-routine maintenance. His summary stuck with me: "I'd think of a 'it can't possibly be more than that' number and it would end up costing double."

But the rising tide of supercar values has lifted all Ferraris, the donkeys alongside the racehorses, and has effectively ended the pin-money Fezza. We live in a world where Mondials are north of Β£30,000, and even a half-decent 308 will be ten grand more.

You'll need to stretch considerably beyond that to reach this week's Ferrari 360 - which is being advertised for Β£55,950. Getting to it also means foregoing the considerable charms of the many 348s (and V12 powered 456s) that congregate in the mid-40s. Yet the 360 will almost certainly turn out to be the smarter long-term choice; because this is about as sensible as a Ferrari gets.

The 360 Modena was a big seller for Ferrari, the brand's most popular car to that point, but it also marked a new direction. Ferrari had suffered badly in the early 90s recession and the company's then boss Luca di Montezemelo had ordered the development of a car that was more useable and easier to live with day-to-day; still special, but less of an indulgent toy.

That meant a new emphasis on technology, the 360 being built around an aluminium structure that was both stronger and lighter than the steel body of the 355. It also got an almost entirely new 3.6-litre V8 which lived under a glass cover behind the passenger compartment so that you could gaze upon it in reverential appreciation. But it was probably the cabin that marked the most radical departure for the brand.

Prior to the 360, Ferrari paid limited attention to the interiors of its cars, with Fiat-sourced switchgear and lots of cheap plastic dashboard furniture, plus seating positions that even the mythical Italian ape would find uncomfortable after a couple of hours. These were held to be the sort of superficial details that true Tifosi would never bother about. But the 360 was a step-change, its cabin bearing clear evidence of an unprecedented amount of ergonomic consideration. Even two decades on it still looks good, although pictures suggest our Pill has an indentation in the passenger side airbag cover. The Modena was also more spacious and comfortable than any of its predecessors, with enough adjustment to allow even chunkier pilots to get comfortable.

Seen through 2019 eyes the Modena's exterior styling has aged less well. The soapy smoothed-out design language was very late 'nineties, but can't engender the emotional reaction of the wedgier and much more aggressive 355 and 348. But the 'F131' generation V8 was a cracker, with a flat-plane crank, titanium connecting rods and an enthusiasm for revs that was ravenous, sonorous and completely addictive. A peak of 395hp doesn't sound much like a modern supercar, but then nor does the 8,500rpm at which it is delivered. An even more radical departure was the consideration that had been given to ease of servicing. As in, any. Not only did the 360's cambelt last for up to four years between changes - twice as long as in the 355 - the engine doesn't need to be removed to swap it.

The 360 was the first true supercar I was lucky enough to drive as a young journo and, although awestruck, I didn't realise just how special it was at the time. Without any frame of reference I presumed it marked the last step on a steady evolution, in the way Porsche 911s develop. It was only years later when I got to drive a 355 I realised how much better the 360 actually was. The Modena was fast, secure and precise, happy to flatter mere mortals but also outrageously exploitable in the right hands. As part of a magazine's handling test I got to sit next to Lotus chassis guru Gavan Kershaw as he drove Ferrari UK's press 360 around Oulton Park, treating it like an oversized Exige. Lodge corner was taken completely sideways at what felt like impossible speed, the cabin filling with tyre smoke and cackled expletives.

For 360 buyers in period there were two main choices: whether to go for coupe or Spider, and whether or not to specify the automated F1 transmission. The robo-box was pushed hard - there were stories of Ferrari dealers practically refusing to let buyers order a car without it with predictions of dinged residuals. With hindsight anyone insisting on the clutch pedal made the far smarter call, the open-plane gate and tactile challenge of keeping up with the V8's appetite for fresh ratios suits the car perfectly, and manuals are now rarer and more valuable. The F1 shift isn't terrible, less lungey than Maserati or Aston's systems from the same era, but it is considerably less polished than the rest of the car.

Our Pill is an F1 Coupe, but it's also a UK supplied right-hand drive car - cheaper versions are usually left-hookers from Europe - and has seen the inside of plenty of main dealer and specialist service bays in its time. The MOT history reports a couple of gaps in use, or maybe just a very lax attitude to getting it ticketed on time, and indicates an entirely predictable appetite for brakes, tyres and suspension components. It also shows just how slowly miles have accumulated, our Pill averaging just 1,000 a year for the last nine years. The history listed on the advert suggests it is overdue both a service and a timing belt change; there's also no indication of how much life is left in the F1's clutch. Good questions to raise early in negotiations.

Of course, even a relatively affordable Ferrari won't be cheap to run with the near-certainty of welt-forming invoices, but the experience of ownership will certainly be memorable. 360 values reached their plateau a few years ago and have started to rise, albeit at a gentle pace. The market prefers the 355, which is now worth more for similar condition cars; the newer F430 still carries a chunky premium as well. Our Pill is being offered for pretty much exactly what would have been asked for it in 2009 wearing the same mileage. That probably doesn't make it a bargain, but it does make me wish I'd sold enough internal organs to have bought one a decade ago.

See the full advert here

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Comments (105) Join the discussion on the forum

  • SuperSonicSloth 27 Jul 2019

    I've always struggled to love these. I understand completely that it's objectively better than the 355 in many ways, but that face does nothing for me. I'm superficial and if I'm going to marry something wallet busting, she'd better be a looker.

    So my heart still goes out to the F355, and the head with the F430. Admittedly decent examples of both are significantly more costly than the 360, but good things come to those who wait, right?

  • blueg33 27 Jul 2019

    I am in the market for one of these. Test drove one yesterday. F1 box was horrid, I need to find a manual.

    The car is quite raw compared to my Evora, the steering a little more vague especially at low speeds. The Evora is as quick and the IPS box knocks the spots off the F1. But that V8 is lovely.

    Sticky switches in the 360 are annoying and costly to fix.

    To go fast from point to point, I reckon the Evora would be quicker, certainly easier. But that V8.......

    Currently I am torn and looking for a manual to see if that is the decider.

  • snake_oil 27 Jul 2019

    blueg33 said:
    I am in the market for one of these. Test drove one yesterday. F1 box was horrid, I need to find a manual.
    Having merely driven one on a supercar experience, I have to agree. Old tech and extremely ponderous.

  • Crouchydc 27 Jul 2019

    In my eyes the 360 is the best looking series production ferrari. The 355 simply looks old and the 430 too angular and contrived, its whole aesthetic trying unsuccessfully to ape the brands halo car of the time (enzo). Its all personal choice but to me the 360 is beautiful and has aged better than the models before and after it.
    I am currently torn between trading up to a new mclaren or keeping the exige and adding a manual 360 to the garage, the latter being the preferred choice atm.

  • Electro1980 27 Jul 2019

    I can’t see past the parking.

    1) It’s crap parking in any car
    2) it may be cheap for what it is but it is still a £50k car. Parking it on the kerb like they are just nipping to the bank “just for 5 min. I just need to get £10 out” is unforgivable.

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