Ferrari 355 Buying Guide

The Ferrari 355's enduring appeal means that prices have been steadily increasing, but there are still a number of points to consider before jumping in

Ferrari 355 Buying Guide

How much to pay

• Project £30,000-40,000 • Good £50,000-80,000 • Concours £80,000-120,000 •
• Most expensive at auction: £135,000 (1995 355 Spider manual with extremely low mileage)

Overview

Practicality ★★
Running costs ★★
Spares ★★
DIY Friendly ★★
Investment ★★★★
Desirability ★★★★★

The Ferrari F355 arrived in 1994 and for some it could not have come sooner. The Honda NSX had shown that sports car performance, everyday usability and reliability were not mutually exclusive. This new Ferrari had to be something really special to regain the upper hand.

Thankfully it was, and underneath those stunning looks the 355 featured an enlarged 3.5-litre V8 with five-valve cylinder heads, which helped it develop 375bhp.

The Berlinetta (hardtop) and Targa models arrived first, with the convertible Spider following a year later. Initially equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, the F1-style sequential manual transmission become available from 1997-on. It provided quick gearchanges for the time but those used to modern dual-clutch systems will need to readjust their expectations. Low speed manoeuvring could also be less than smooth.

Despite this newfound usability and mechanical integrity, they do require regular specialist attention and neglected cars can quickly rack up the bills.

Your AutoClassics Ferrari 355 inspection checklist

Engine

The 3.5-litre V8 has proved to be reliable, despite its high specific power output. Cambelt replacement is still an engine-out job and needs doing every three years or 30,000 miles, so factor this into the pricing if a change is imminent. Some specialists remove the fuel tank instead of the engine to gain access to the belts, which can greatly reduce labour costs.

Exhaust manifolds will either have already cracked or will at some point in the future. You can either fit an aftermarket (generally Tubi) manifold or have the originals repaired.

Valve guides can wear prematurely, especially on early cars, so check for excessive oil consumption or better yet, get the car thoroughly inspected by a specialist. A compression test can usually show up any issues. Repairs are expensive.

Cars which have had sports exhausts fitted may have had their catalytic converters removed. This may be illegal in some parts of the world and as replacements are very pricey it is worth confirming whether they are still attached to the car.

Exhaust bypass valves can also wear out over time, showing up as a rattle at idle, and replacements are pricey. As they do not detrimentally affect the performance, one option is just to accept it.

The ECU was updated in 1996 and some specialists claim that the earlier cars produced slightly more power and are easier to work on.

A number of preventative fuel leak recalls affected cars built up until the end of the 1999 model year. A small number of engine fires have occurred but these have not necessarily been attributed to faulty fuel lines.

Gearbox

The six-speed manual gearbox was the sole option until 1997, whereupon the F1 automated manual became available. Clutches tend to wear faster on the F1 'boxes if the car is often driven around town.

Suspension and brakes

Two recalls regarding the steering rack were carried out, the first in late 1995 and the other on cars built up till mid-1998. Check that yours has had the remedial work carried out.

The adaptive shock absorbers can fail, though replacements are relatively easy to source. A dashboard warning light will inform you if something is amiss.

Bodywork

The bodywork tends to have a few weak points when it comes to rust and corrosion. On Berlinetta and Targas, the rear buttresses tend to corrode over time and bubbling paint is a sure sign that a repair is on the cards. This issue tends to resurface every so often, so do check if and when a repair was last carried out.

Rear subframes can exhibit signs of rot and corrosion and should be inspected prior to purchase. Sill plates are less of a concern and are mostly a cosmetic issue but tend to corrode on all but the most pampered cars. Aftermarket replacements or factory items are readily available.

Interior

The dashboard and seats can suffer from shrinkage when exposed to the sun for extended periods, not much other than a full retrim can be done to rectify this.

The centre console has a plastic covering that tends to get sticky with age. The best solution is to peel off this layer of plastic as replacement parts from Ferrari are prohibitively expensive. Gearknobs on manual cars are covered in a clear lacquer that peels over time. Replacements are available from the agents.

The electronic roof on the Spider is a complex unit and can suffer from hydraulic pump failure, which is a costly issue to resolve.

A more common issue, but less pricey to resolve, are faulty seat potentiometers. These usually detect when the seats have moved forward but will stop the roof from going up if they are faulty.

History

  • 1994: Ferrari F355 released in Barchetta and Targa body styles to replace the 348.
  • 1995: Convertible Spider body style added.
  • 1995: F355 challenge introduced for single model Ferrari Challenge racing series, only road legal for the 1995 model year.
  • 1996: ECU updated. Airbag now incorporated into steering wheel.
  • 1997: F1-style automated manual gearbox offered across the range. F dropped from name with cars simply being called 355.
  • 1999: 355 Spider Fiorano limited edition model built (100 units), these featured competition spec steering rack and brakes.
  • 1999: 355 production ends with just over 11,000 units built in total.

AutoClassics say…

The Ferrari 355 moved the junior supercar game on in a big way when it arrived. Its stunning lines and searing exhaust note still makes heads turn today.

Searching for the cheapest 355 is asking for trouble. Rectifying a bad car will quickly cost you more than you have saved over the price of a good one and as some of these cars are now two decades old,. The cumulative effects of a bad maintenance regimen will undoubtedly keep cropping up during your tenure.

While manual Barchettas in the ever-popular red/cream colour combination tend to command elevated prices over the F1 gearbox cars, the most desirable models tend to be the rare Spider Fiorano and F355 Challenge. Get one now before it’s too late.

Specifications

3.5-litre V8
  Power 375bhp
  Top speed 183mph
  0-60mph 4.6sec
  Economy 20mpg

Ferrari 355 cars for sale here.

For more information on Ferrari 355, see FerrariChat