Is your head in control of your heart? Good, then we’ll begin
Just five years ago you could have bought a halfway decent F355 for about £35,000. Yup, with the 3.5-litre mid-mounted V8, the fabulous look and a lot of red paint and charisma. Now you’ll need double that and then some. So is it too late?
If you wanted to buy one new then you’d need to teleport back to 1995 when you could get a Berlinetta coupe or the GTS Targa top, but you’d have to wait for a year for the Spider. It was a pretty luscious car in any form and was Ferrari’s first model to break through the 10,000 sales barrier.
You got a 370bhp V8 with all that lovely noise, working through a six-speed manual gearbox although by 1997 paddle shifters were possible for that full F1 feel. It was in fact called the F1 model and you’ll struggle to find one, and then struggle to afford it since even at the time it was £6000 more than the manual.
It was a fabulous package, with Sport and Comfort mode for the switchable suspension, power steering and really quite good day-to-day driving ability.
But. And here’s the bit where your heart needs to be put in a lead-lined box for a moment. Rust is a problem. With cars around 20 years old, not all that red is necessarily paint, so check thoroughly, particularly around the engine cradle. Broken suspension springs are common and you’ll need to check the clutch carefully since it doesn’t last that long.
Of course it could just be the clutch cable, that winds its way tortuously round everything, and likes to stretch and then break. Those can be the surprises of not a pleasant variety, but what is known is that the engine needs a belt change every three years – or else. That’s about a £1500 task. Usually it’s an engine-out job, but it can be done in situ if you take the fuel tank out.
And if you do take the engine out you’ll have a chance to look at and repair the engine cradle and its rust. Or you’ll have disturbed it and wrecked it further. How exciting that discovery could be.
Another thing to consider when looking at which year to go for, in 1997 the earlier engine management system, the 2.7, switched to the later 5.2. There’s not a ton in it but the switch also included a move to steel valve guides instead of bronze, and those steel guides wore more slowly. Bearing in mind you have 40 valves, that can be an issue when the engine starts smoking because oil is getting into the bores.
We said at the beginning that prices have jumped horribly in the last five years. Well if there’s any good news it is that prices have softened slightly of late so perhaps now is a good time to jump in before sentiment hots up again. Just make sure your heart stays in its special box when you’re looking at a car.
So what should you pay these days? Here’s a quick run-down.
£60,000-£74,995 – Some Berlinetta manuals, pre-1997 cars at the cheaper end, rising to 1997-1998 cars with fairly low mileage.
£75,000-£84,499 – A good mix of 1997-1999 manual Spiders and low-mileage Berlinettas.
£85,500-£99,949 – Better low-mileage, late-plate Berlinetta manuals. An F1 auto would cost roughly £89k.
£99,950-£120,000 – The best Spider manuals, GTS and GTS F1s, plus, at the top end, still some top condition early GTS and Spider cars.