When Ferrari built its first mid-engine road car in 1968, the V-6-powered Dino 206 GT, Enzo himself could hardly have known the lineage of road cars to follow. Ferrari replaced the Dino V-6 with an all-new V-8 in 1974 in the 308 GT4; an entry-level range of Ferrari sports cars, smaller in size and power and cheaper than the flagship V-12 models, was off and running. It’s a formula that has proved extremely successful and continues to this day with the F8 Tributo. It’s also these mid-engine, V-8-powered cars that tend to offer the most affordable entry into Ferrari ownership. We recently spoke with Michael Sheehan, founder of ferraris-online.com and a well-known Southern California based Ferrari broker and expert, about the market and prices for the 1995-99 Ferrari F355, and about the model’s stronger and weaker aspects.
Ferrari F355 in Review
The F355 replaced the similar looking Ferrari 348 for the 1995 model year, and it brought many improvements in reliability, daily drivability, and comfort. Says Sheehan, “The 355 and its predecessor, the 348, had lighter and stiffer monocoque construction, a high level of panel fit, rust proofing, and paint finish. Creature comforts such as ingress, egress, and air conditioning were now more than merely adequate.”
Also more than merely adequate was the F355’s performance. “Mechanically the 355 was Ferrari’s first quad-cam, five-valve engine giving 375 horsepower at an impressive 8,500 rpm, thanks to sophisticated mechanicals such as titanium rods, an 11:1 compression ratio, a Bosch Motronic M5.2 engine-management system and a dry-sump oiling system,” Sheehan tells us. The numbers don’t lie: Ferrari’s F355 dispatched the 0-60-mph sprint in 4.7 seconds and drove to a top speed of 185, which just 10 years earlier was the type of performance available only in the V-12-powered Ferrari Testarossa supercar, the brand’s flagship model for many years and a relatively pricier proposition.
Additionally, a couple of years into its run, “The 355 was the first Ferrari street car, in 1997, to have the F1 paddle shifters, which were adopted from the 1989-90 639, 640, 641, and newer V-12 Ferrari Formula 1 cars,” Sheehan says. “Aerodynamically, the 355 benefited from many hours in the wind tunnel, [which produced] a flat undertray, a small diffuser, and a small ducktail spoiler.” Hydraulically operated valves also eliminated routine valve adjustments, services that would have been especially costly with 40 valves to look after. As Sheehan tells us, that’s the good news.
Ferrari F355: Problem Areas
With the last F355 that Ferrari built now being at least a 20-year-old exotic car, precautions have to be taken before spending your cold, hard cash to put one in your garage, no matter the price of any 355. “The bad news is that a cam-belt service or any serious mechanical work requires an engine-out [service], which is expensive,” says Sheehan. “The earlier 355s suffered from faulty exhaust headers that burn through, and valve guides that can result in high oil consumption. The F1 transmission [if you choose one of those cars] is, at best, clunky, the leather dash will shrink from sitting in the sun, and the 355s all have, at some point, the dreaded sticky switches.”
Thinking about buying an F355 Spider with a soft convertible top that lowers electrically? Be prepared to pay an even higher price, both literally and figuratively. “As for the power top, it’s problematic, at best, with hydraulic pumps that burn out, circuit boards that suffer meltdowns, and lots of relays that will, at some point, fail.
“As for putting down the power top, get out your Ouija board, make sure the car is running, make sure both doors are closed, lower the door windows, move both seats forward (impaling yourself on the steering wheel), undo the single, easy-to-use top latch, then press the button at the back of the center console. If the top should start to go down, give it a friendly assist, but don’t push too hard. With luck, it just might go down. If so, say three hail Marys.”
Ferrari F355 Prices Today
Clearly, finding the right car will require a bit of homework, looking at more than just one car, and having more than a little bit of luck. Sheehan’s advice? Pay attention to Ferrari F355 prices and what you can get for your dollar, buy the best car you can afford, and be patient.
“If you’re in the market for a 355, you want to buy a car that someone else has just spent $10,000-plus on for a major service by a well-known and respected shop, and [one that] comes with a fat stack of service invoices going back many years.”
What’s a fair Ferrari F355 price to pay? Sheehan again: “Financially, they’re affordable, with F1 cars in the $50,000-$70,000 range and six-speed cars in the $60,000 to $75,000 range, which is a sweet spot for first-time or entry-level Ferrari buyers.”
While the F1-equipped cars were more expensive to buy when new, their less-than-perfect driving characteristics and higher cost of service make them worth less than conventional six-speed manual cars today. Also consider that the famous, gated manual transmission is now a thing of the past at Ferrari, so those seeking a more traditional Ferrari driving experience have driven up prices of manual-equipped 355s.
Ferrari built more than 11,000 F355s, so chances are good the right car at the right price for you is out there. Find it and you’ll enjoy a driver’s car for the ages, with one of the best-sounding V-8 engines ever made, with an 8,500-rpm redline, and styling that marks the end of a special era at Ferrari, surely never to be repeated.
Recent Ferrari F355 Auction Sale Prices
- 1997 Ferrari F355 Berlinetta (Sold: $115,000)
- 1995 Ferrari F355 GTS (Sold: $84,523)
- 1997 Ferrari F355 Spider (Sold: $79,200)
- 1997 Ferrari F355 Spider (Sold: 196,000)
- 1999 Ferrari F355 Spider F1 (Sold: $67,200)
- 1996 Ferrari F355 Berlinetta (Sold: $70,400)
Ferrari F355 Pros
- Amazing-sounding V-8 engine
- Classic, stunning looks
- Affordable entry into mid-engine Ferrari ownership
- Gated, manual-transmission
Ferrari F355 Cons
- Expensive to maintain
- Spider and F1 versions finicky and unrefined
- Did we mention it’s expensive to maintain?
The post Market Watch: Want to Buy a 1995-99 Ferrari F355? Here’s What You Must Know appeared first on Automobile Magazine.