We were on a photoshoot on Thursday, somewhere in the depths of Oxfordshire (it was definitely the depths of winter - Christ, it was flippin' freezing), and at one stage I found myself being tailed by a Porsche Cayman. It turned out to be Mike Duff giving his car a last fling before it's wrapped up for winter, and when we stopped for a chat, the subject came around to the Ferrari 360 Modena. Mike was recalling memories of being on track with one and finding it a bit snappy, which isn't the first time someone's mentioned the 360's desire to swap ends. I've never found them too bad in that respect, although, to be fair, I've only ever driven them on the road. That was back when I was selling Ferraris and, if you're sick of me shoehorning tales of my yesteryear into every spotted, sorry - I'll run out of anecdotes eventually, I promise. Anyway, the 360: I love it.
I know most people's favourite mid-engined Ferrari is the F355, which, without doubt, is a very pretty thing, but the problem for me is the F355 is to Ferrari what the 993 is to Porsche. Both are accepted classics that capture the imagination in ways the models that replaced them perhaps don't, yet to drive, the later cars are leagues better. I'm not one for theology, but it's always struck me a bit like comparing the Old Testament with the New - the vast chasm between them, I mean. But feel free to correct me if I've made an ecclesiastical faux pas.
The F355 takes you back to very dawn of the mid-engined Ferrari (I know that's not literally the case, but to keep the religious analogy going, I'm thinking more about its spirit) just like a 993 has roots that stretch back to the earliest days of the 911. In both cases, you'll find an awkward driving position and a driving experience that's very much out of yesteryear - very classic-car like. What came next wasn't just a new model but the dawn of new era that laid a blueprint that can still be felt in the equivalents that are on sale today. Drive a 360 or a 996 back-to-back with a modern Ferrari or Porsche and they will bear some faint comparison; drive a F355 or a 993 and I'll wager they won't.
In the F360's case, it means a driving position that finally shed the old-school Italian architecture - you know, where the steering wheel and pedals are never found on the same axis as the seat, so you're basically driving a game of Twister, and you're arms need to be twice as long as your legs to reach anything. For a lanky streak of whatnot like me, the 360 was a joy: I could get comfortable in it. And feeling at home behind the wheel of any car, let alone a supercar, is just one of those useful little design elements that I happen to put up there with, I don't know, brakes? Windscreen wipers? These days, thankfully, it has become something we take for granted but that wasn't always the case.
Then we get to the 360's handling. Now I am happy to concede its spikiness on the limit from those that took it on track, but at fast road speeds I never felt uneasy in a 360. It just felt like a thoroughly well-engineered thing: modern and torsionally stiff with proper brakes that you could rely on. With a good relationship between its front and rear axle - the two ends were in harmony so, when you make an input in the steering the rear follows it faithfully. Maybe I drove some iffy F355s that weren't in fine fettle, but none of those felt that well connected - a little more pendulous at the rear and less confidence inspiring as a result.
Then there's the styling. As far as I am concerned, the 360 isn't aesthetically inferior to the F355, it's just different. I love its clean lines and elegant tear-drop shape. It's the first car I remember seeing with such a pronounced diffuser at the back, too, and I love a nod to F1 aero. When you squat down and view it square on at the rear, those large venturis either side of gearbox - oh gosh, yes, yes, yes. And I nearly forgot to mention its glass engine cover. I know it wasn't the first to put its engine on display (I am racking my brains late on Friday afternoon: was the F40 the first with that or was there something before it?) but it certainly set a trend that others continue to follow today. It made total sense: why wouldn't you display that beautifully executed 3.6-litre Tipo F131 V8, and don't get me started on the baleful scream it would make up at 8,500rpm.
So as you may be able to tell, I am a little bit smitten with the 360 - more so the more I write about it - and this one is stunning. It's my perfect spec: Rosso with Nero, shields and a manual, with that wonderful open gait that's sadly no more in today's paddle-shift era. If I am being picky, I might change two things: I'm rather partial to a Challenge mesh rear grille and red brake calipers. What I would do to own this car and, at £75k with 25k miles, it's not even bad value in today's market. It's an awesome thing.
SPECIFICATION | FERRARI 360 MODENA
Engine: 3,586cc, V8, naturally aspirated
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 400 @ 8,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 275 @ 4,750rpm
Recorded mileage: 25,000
Year registered: 2000
Price new: £105,000
Yours for: £74,950
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