When the Ferrari 355 Spider was launched in 1995 the car was met with suspicion, what were Ferrari doing making this poser’s car, interfering with the perfection of the Berlinetta? The F355 Spider was seen as the “nightclub Ferrari” and some worried that di Montezemolo, still fresh into the top job at Maranello could be cheapening the brand’s values by chasing the nocturnal dollar. The spider version of the Berlinetta masterpiece was surely going to be slower and bendier, better suited to cruising down LA boulevards than demolishing an Italian Alp.
How wrong those fears were. Chopping the top off a Ferrari had caused problems in the past; the 348 spider never suited a soft top aesthetically and had the torsional stiffness of Italian meringue further compounding the car’s twitchy nature. For the F355 Spider, Ferrari were determined to not make the same mistake again, increasing rigidity by 30 percent over the 348. Most convertible cars carry a weight penalty over the standard model and the spider was no different but only by an extra 20kg.
Performance therefore had not suffered for posing ability, the spider retained the blistering speed of the standard car with 0-62mph dispatched in 4.7 seconds and the handling remained pin-sharp, the base of the windscreen only begins to wobble out of step with the body over the very harshest of bumpy roads. The turn-in to the corner is crisp and the exit is smooth, the rear compliant enough to handle the power from the masterful V8 and slingshot you down the road for the next corner. For me the click-clack of the classic Ferrari open gate gearbox is just as iconic and engaging as the engine, the cool metal ball on top of the gearstick lever is satisfying to grasp and the action in the linkage is a pleasure to use. Ferrari’s F1 paddle shift may have been new but that did not make it better. You savour every moment of the mechanical shift, only briefly switching concentration from the view in front to listen for the engine note behind to harden, like it’s a safe word begging you for another gear.
Of course the greatest benefit of a folding soft-top V8 Ferrari is the unimpeded access you have to the sound coming from the engine. Even on tick-over the engine is a joy to listen to. From cold it idles at just over 1200rpm sounding urgent and eager to get going. In the Ferrari 355 Spider your ears are just centimetres away from the intake manifolds tucked away under the bonnet slats allowing the wail to come into the cabin completely unfiltered. Taking an F355 to the redline is a must for any self-respecting petrolhead.
The Spider therefore is not and never was just for LA and Riviera playboy nightclub owners even if it does suit that scene almost uncomfortably well. It stands up to serious scrutiny and has helped make the F355 widely accepted as one of the most complete Ferraris.
This Ferrari 355 Spider is currently offered for sale at The Classic Motor Hub and is a low mileage 1996 model with only 13,000 miles from new and comes with all the original books and tools. Should you be looking for something more of the German persuasion, be sure to have a look at the unusual 1989 BMW Z1 Roadster that is also currently offered for sale at The Hub.
Words and photos by William Stoneham