They say you buy a Ferrari with your heart, not your head, but occasionally a model is produced which can be said to grab both ends of your anatomy equally. The 458 Speciale is such a car for two reasons: it represents the pinnacle for a lineage of naturally aspirated, mid-engined V8 Ferrari berlinettas that stretches back to the 1973 Dino 308 GT4 and, well, it was very, very good.
Since the 458's successor, the 488 GTB, was launched in 2015, series production mid-engined V8 Ferraris (so that excludes bespoke builds such as the one-off 458 MM Speciale of 2016) have featured forced induction. That leaves the 458, of which the Speciale is the most hardcore variant, with the sort of collectable potential that could see low-mileage and immaculate examples fetch considerably more than the £208,000 they sold for when new (more on that in a minute).
But, unlike the growing number of low volume manufacturers producing supercars that appear to come pre-wrapped in cotton wool, Ferrari builds its cars to be driven. The 458 Speciale stands as arguably the very best example of that philosophy. Building on the base of the already impressive 458, the Speciale gets a 605hp 4.5-litre V8 - up from 562bhp in the regular 458 Italia - which produces the goods at a scintillating 9000rpm. The engine has an extremely high compression ratio of 14:1, enabling it to produce 133bhp-per-litre - a figure that not even the recently launched Porsche 911 GT3 RS can claim to beat (it develops 128bhp/litre).
The 458 Speciale's powerplant wasn't just potent, it was hyper responsive too. As was the car's seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which was completely retuned to suit the uprated engine so revs were matched to gear ratios 44 per cent faster. Naturally it had a soundtrack to match thanks to a less restrictive exhaust that made the experience all the more visceral - and befitting a car as driver-focused as this.
Applying lessons learnt in motorsport, Ferrari shaved an additional 90kg from the Italia's kerbweight, ensuring the Speciale tipped the scales at 1395kg. Its diet included a carbon fibre underbody, thinner glass for the windscreen and passenger windows, a Lexan engine cover and lighter carbon-ceramic brakes. Forged wheels contributed 12kg to the overall saving, too, while inside, seat shells and interior door panels made from carbon fibre were among the changes that removed 20kg from the interior.
Beneath all of this was a suspension setup that deployed stiffer springs, magnetic dampers and thicker anti-roll bars, plus the car featured a quicker steering rack. Then there were active aerodynamics, which made the car slipperier in a straight line and increased downforce during braking and cornering. Clearly, no stone was left unturned; little wonder Ferrari labeled the Speciale a new car, rather than an evolution of the Italia.
But even with these enhancements over its sibling, the Speciale was still underpowered compared to its arch rival of the time, the McLaren 650S. Thanks to that model's use of twin-turbocharging, the Woking-made MP4-12C successor produced 650hp from its smaller 3.8-litre V8. The lighter Ferrari was able to match the British model off the line with an identical 3.0sec 0-62mph time, but the 650S remained the faster option once rolling. Of course, that wasn't the point of the Speciale - Ferrari hadn't set out to make the fastest car on a drag strip. Maranello knew that its pared-back supercar was to be its last atmospheric mid-engined V8 model, so the car was intended as a culmination of all the engineering expertise its powertrain, chassis and aerodynamics boffins had built up through decades of research and development.
That's what makes this 3000-mile-old right-hand drive example such a tantalising proposition. It's finished in arguably the most Ferrari specification available, (roll your Rs please) Rosso Corsa red paint, and it wears a NART stripe - a nod to a vintage era of Ferrari racing in the US - down the middle, so there's proper motorsport pedigree here as well. It also breathes through the lighter titanium exhaust system and, if you're still not convinced, there's a seven-year maintenance package thrown in for good measure. Perhaps that might make the fact this car is now getting on for twice the price of a new 488 GTB a little easier to swallow. Did we mention it comes with coloured carpets?
Even at that amount, there's still every reason to think it a shrewd buy. Because while few would doubt that the 458 Speciale's successor, the 488 Pista, will be a phenomenal car to drive, even with its substantially more powerful twin-turbocharged engine, it's hard to believe it will surpass the intoxicatingly raw experience offered from behind the wheel of Ferrari's last ever naturally aspirated V8 supercar.
SPECIFICATION - FERRARI 458 SPECIALE
Engine: 4,497cc V8
Transmission: 7-speed twin-clutch, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 605@9,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 398@6,000rpm
Top speed: 202mph
MPG: 23.9mpg (with HELE option)
CO2: 275g/km (with HELE option)
First registered: 2014
Recorded mileage: 3,000
Price new: £208,065
Price now: £320,000
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