If you like cars – as in love driving them or at least seeing them being used properly – the idea of hermetically sealing them away in an air-conditioned vault isn’t just preposterous, but upsetting. The cash vultures who do that sort of thing know the price of everything, down to the last bean, but the value of nothing. Ultimately, it’s their loss. They may think they’re being clever, sitting on top of a mountain of gold, but they’re losing out on life’s riches – in this case, the immense pleasure of experiencing the open road and a singing engine.
With that in mind, I bring this car to your attention today. This Ferrari 360 Spider is not a cotton-woollified garage queen. It is not one man’s pension pot. It has been his well-used pleasure, and I salute him for that. I think we all should raise a hand to him, in fact. The chap in question is Simon, who bought this 360 new in October 2003. It wasn’t his first Ferrari, because he had a 355 Spider before it. He did 40,000 miles in that one, and still has fond memories of it, telling me that the 355 had one of the best-sounding exhaust notes of any car – even better than the 360’s.
He's used the 360 in much the same way. It’s not a daily driver, as such, because when you work it out he’s averaged about 5,000 miles a year in it - but he does use it for everything from popping to the supermarket to grand tours. It’s been all around the UK, including some of the best driving roads in Scotland and Wales, and, once a year, he and his wife take it to France. They love the champagne region in July. Simon says the weather is perfect for top-down motoring, the roads are great and, because the French are all on holiday that month, they’re empty, too. So he bumbles between the various champagne producers, enjoying the produce and his car. He’s also taken it to Switzerland, around Lake Geneva and up into the Alps.
Anyway, by the time his 360 was showing about 50,000 miles, he thought about changing it. But he looked around at what was available at the time and found that nothing really excited him. So instead of just replacing it for the sake of it, he decided on a different challenge. No, not a Stradale kind; he thought, “Let’s see if we can get it to 100,000 miles”. And that’s what he’s done.
My first question was a predictable one: has it been reliable? “Yes,” he said. “But don’t think it’s cheap to run. Ferrari’s are never cheap to run”. Simon reckons it’s cost him around £150,000 to maintain it over the last 20 years, which is more than the 360 cost him to buy. It’s amazing to think that a mid-engined Ferrari convertible cost £118,000 back in 2003, and today’s equivalent, the 296 GTS, starts from £278,000.
He points out that he could’ve saved on the 360’s upkeep by taking it to a specialist for its maintenance, but it’s always gone back to Meridien Modena, the main dealer he bought it from. Why? “I’ve built a relationship with the people there and I like them”. He says they’ve nagged him on occasion, asking him when he’s going to change it, but the answer was always the same: “I am not changing it until it’s reached 100,000”.
A chunk of the money spent keeping it tip top mechanically has gone on the suspension. On the 360 and later 430, Ferrari chose to fit rose joints where the hubs attach to the wishbones. These are made from chrome-plated mild steel, and when the chrome wears off, moisture gets in and corrodes the steel causing them to fail. For years, Ferrari wouldn’t sell the ball joints separately and that meant you had to buy a complete new wishbone. Now you can buy the ball joints on their own, but they still fail and need to be treated like a service item.
Another thing Simon says you should change as a matter of course is the control modules for the Lambda sensors. The casings fail and let moisture in, which, in turn, scuppers the PCB. When they go south, the ECU reads that the cat is overheating and shuts down the cylinder bank concerned. This means you have a four-cylinder and very little power, which is a) inconvenient and b) makes you look a bit stupid as you limp home. He says the 355 had exactly the same issue, and, as you might expect, he doesn't think much of Ferrari for not sorting it when its replacement was launched.
The other known issue concerns the cooling fans. There are two – one for each radiator on either side of the car – and when one goes down it’s not obvious because you can still hear the other side whirring away. That means the first sign of trouble is the temperature gauge reading high. Beyond those items, and one seized starter motor, the rest of the work has been regular service items. Simon says the 3.6-litre flat-plane crank V8 is “unbreakable,” despite revving to over 8,500rpm, and he’s only replaced the clutch once – it managed a very respectable 70,000 miles.
Having reached his objective, then, what’s next? Well, he’s already got the 360’s replacement. Two years ago, he put his name down for a blue F8 Spider (he always has blue Ferraris), and that’s currently in the garage alongside the 360. I wondered how, as the owner of both, he feels the two compare? He reckons “the F8 is like a jet fighter, while the 360 feels more like a Spitfire”. The F8 is “stupidly fast but bigger and digital,” while the 360 is “smaller, nimbler, analogue and, instead of stupidly fast, just fast”.
Final question: what will you miss most about the 360? The answer was short and sweet. “The manual gearbox”.
Simon gives a refreshingly honest appraisal of his car’s condition in the advert. It states there are ‘a few stone chips at the front, some small scratches, small scuff to the roof fabric (doesn't go through), and ‘the roof is sometimes sticky – nothing a hand will not solve’. On the plus side, he can show you a book of receipts that demonstrate a no-expense-spared approach to his tenure of the car, and you get a drop-top, mid-engined Ferrari for the price of a new VW Golf R. If you're interested, give Simon a ring to find out more.
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