PH Carpool: Ferrari F355 Spider

F328 NVL
Ferrari 355 Spider
Owned since:
February 2012
Previously owned:
Ferraris: 328 GTS, 550 Maranello
Astons: DB7 Vantage, 1989 Vantage Volante
Porsche : 911 C4 S Cab, Boxster S
Audis : Numerous Quattros RS/S/A4, mainly Avants for the dogs
Toyota MR2s: Mk1,Mk2
Renault 5 GT Turbo (made of tinfoil, an angry car in so many ways)
Others that are best forgotten (a Mercedes 190E springs to mind)

'I have a needy inner child' says our owner!
'I have a needy inner child' says our owner!
Why I bought it:
Other than Alonso and Massa, nobody actually needs a Ferrari. They are impractical, expensive toys that appeal to the inner child. This is my third one. I have quite a needy inner child. My 550 Maranello had to go when I moved house and found it wouldn't fit through the garage door without extreme discomfort. I'd sold both Aston Martins. My other half had written off her 911 C4 S Cab in spectacular fashion. So in the garage were an Audi S4 Avant and a Mazda MX-5.

Over the years I have financed the depreciation of my share of nice cars. This hurts. And car manufacturers seem to be conspiring to make more of us lose more money, faster, and it's called the options list. In late 2011 I put down a deposit on the new RS4. I'd also looked at the C63 AMG Estate, which is a monster of a car, but my dad drives a Mercedes and he's really quite old now. So it was to be yet another Audi, my sixth. Then they released the price list. I put on the options that I had on my current S4 and the list price leapt from £57K to £72K! You simply will not recover anything like that when you come to sell the car.

So I devised a cunning plan. I would buy an "honest workaday" Ferrari and keep it for a few years of depreciation free motoring. I would keep the S4 a few more years using the cash saved to buy a Ferrari 355.

The alternative to shelling out on depreciation...
The alternative to shelling out on depreciation...
Just as my dogs are family pets, not surrogate children, my car is a car, not a work of art, although it is quite pretty, as are the dogs. It is not my pride and joy, I do not sit in the garage staring at it or licking its paint. I get it out early in the morning when the sun shines and enjoy the solitude and concentration needed to drive it in a brisk manner. Then I wash it, get a man called Dave to professionally polish it fuelled entirely by tea and biscuits and get it serviced by someone who has done it a few times before

Most people seem to agree that Ferraris ought to be red. My first 328 was Rosso Corsa/Crema, but actually I don't really like red ones so much. They are easier to find in car parks, but these days Ferrari F1 cars are actually much brighter red than Rosso Corsa to catch the TV cameras better, so you can't even call it tradition. My 355 shares nothing of substance with an F1 car, it's a fast Fiat at the end of the day. I wanted an elusive car: an understated Ferrari.

I wholly accept that this is an oxymoron. It's like saying that my enduring desire for the late Audrey Hepburn is because of her work at UNESCO, which is clearly not true. However, I want to show off in a more modest fashion, so I wanted a Blue or a Silver Ferrari 355, no roof so Spider or maybe GTS.

Finally, the big one: should you have shields on the wings of your Ferrari? There used to be rules about things like this, sort of standards that gentlemen intuitively adhered to. Astons are made of English wood and lots of dead cows, Porsches are simple and fast, BMWs don't do electronics or front wheel drive and Ferraris only have wing shields if the model has a true racing pedigree. A 250 GTO raced at Le Mans and has wing shields, my 355 Spider goes no closer to a track than Goodwood Festival of Speed car park, so it does not.

My only useful tip when buying a Ferrari is do your research methodically. Prices are all over the place and the most expensive car is not always the best. Many, if not most, older cars are offered sale or return, so there is no stock holding cost for the dealer. This means that they can sit on them at ludicrous prices for as long as they like hoping to reel in a sucker punter. Try and find out both what's in the market and how long it's been out there. Buy from someone you trust or who has a reputation that they need to look after. Read the history files, don't just flick through them. What's not there is as important as what is. Understand the car's entire history, mine is below.

There is a significant possibility that you will actually enjoy the search for and negotiation about your car as much as you will enjoy owning it, I certainly do. Who doesn't waste hours flicking through car classified ads?

Man maths, now including graphs!
Man maths, now including graphs!
Things I love/Things I hate:
There are two main aspects to Ferrari ownership. There's the purely automotive experience of a mid-engined car, a car that in my case is a few years old, then there's the in many ways more tangible feeling of the brand and its aura.

People react to Ferraris, even if the reaction is to consciously ignore them. Ferraris attract the whole spectrum of responses ranging from studied indifference, through thumbs up, to intimations of manual genital manipulation. It always seems to me that if you don't register these reactions you are missing one of the unique experiences of owning any exotic. You might not like all of the reactions, but if you buy a Ferrari you have to accept that deep down there is a little voice shouting "look at me, look at me! I've got a Ferrari!" It's showing off and it's OK for it to be fun.

Noise is another dividing feature. Personally I hate the trend towards shouty exhausts. My rule of thumb is, if Ferrari was happy with the sound, it's OK by me up to around the 360 Modena. Thereafter, I wish they'd shut the hell up with their trick valves and all that nonsense. When the original Aston Martin Vanquish was sonically tuned it was like a little black dress on my friend Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. It added class and distinction. By the time the Ferrari 430 had finished with its soundtrack a few years later it was more like Lady Gaga in a few pounds of sirloin steak. In summary I like the 355 because it's no too loud, and never will be whilst I own it.

Ferraris not beyond DIY repairs when needed
Ferraris not beyond DIY repairs when needed
So what's good on a 16-year-old Ferrari? They handle crisply. You sit low (and slightly sideways) and the suspension is firm, so the "bum feel" is good. This is a car that encourages you to go quickly and is capable of delivering on its promise. The engine is starting to show its age. A 3.5-litre V8 should produce plenty of power and it does, some 375hp. Where it is less accomplished by modern standards is power delivery. It is a bit lethargic until you get it above about 3,000rpm. Once it's been woken up it goes like a 375bhp V8 in a go-kart, but don't expect anything much if you drive around in third gear and just push the throttle. You do need to use the gears in a 355. To give some idea of speeds, I would expect to be faster in the wet in my Audi S4 on almost any road than the 355, but on a tight dry road the Ferrari would probably edge it, but would be immeasurably more fun whether it won or lost. And that's the key thing about the car: I keep saying it, it's fun.

To buy a 355 currently costs between £30-55K. I paid toward the lower end of that range, but mine is a car not a display item. Insurance is cheap, I am middle-aged with a reasonable driving record and it costs me about £500 a year for a 5K limited mileage policy, which is less than the Audi. It does some miles to the gallon, frankly I haven't worked out how many, and it needs servicing annually for which I budget about £1,500. Experience suggests that some years it'll be a bit more if something has worn out or broken, some years a lot less.

They do break occasionally, here's a picture of a friend's windscreen wipers being fixed in the wild.

But compare £2K per annum for the Ferrari to the depreciation on an RS4 or a C63 AMG and I'm quids in. This gives me a warm glow of satisfaction when I pass another motorist who responds by making hand gestures: I might well be a wanker, but at least I'm not losing money to depreciation and I am having fun.





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Comments (140) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Maldini35 29 Oct 2012

    Well thought out and nicely written article. The case for ownership is pretty compelling.
    Love the blue too.

  • Dr G 29 Oct 2012

    I really enjoyed reading that, full marks.

    S4/355 about the perfect combof or me too!

  • MichelV 29 Oct 2012

    You should hire this guy. Nice write-up and impeccable man maths.

    Now where is that Maserati Shamal...


  • Jonty355 29 Oct 2012

    Great article, as a fellow 355 Spider owner I prefer the exhaust to be a bit more shouty, but thats purely for my benefit, not to show off!

    Edited by Jonty355 on Monday 29th October 11:24

  • famfarrow 29 Oct 2012

    Lovely write up, not hurried, you can see the time taken and thoughtfulness given to the article. Very good. Thank you, lovely car as well, great to see you use it properly!

    edited for spelling.

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