If there were lingering doubts after the sensational F355 that an 8-cylinder car could be a real Ferrari, those doubts were obliterated by the Ferrari 360 Modena.
Seen first at the 1999 Geneva Auto Show, the Ferrari 360 Modena was named for its 3.6-liter engine and for the spiritual home of Ferrari. It had some large shoes to fill.
The F355 had been among the world’s most beautiful and exciting pure sports cars. And it had become Ferrari’s second-best-seller ever, with more than 11,000 produced.
Dimensionally, the Ferrari Modena was larger than the 355 in every way. A wheelbase stretched to 102.3 inches (2600mm) from 96.4 (2450) was the biggest difference, and resulted in a new cabin that was quite commodious for a midengine car. But even with its larger size, the Modena was some 80 pounds lighter than the 355.
The Ferrari 360 had
a lighter-weight aluminum monocoque/tubular chassis that increased bending
stiffness and torsional rigidity more than 40 percent compared to the 355.
Suspension was new double wishbones, coil springs, adaptive shocks, and
anti-roll bars. The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering needed just 2.7
turns lock to lock, while the large power-assisted Brembo discs had ABS. Modena
enlarged the 355’s V-8 to 3586cc to produce 395-400 horsepower, some 20 more
than the 355. Transmissions were an updated version of the F1 paddle-shift
system or a conventional six-speed manual.
The Ferrari 360 Modena was named after the spiritual home of Ferrari.
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Finally, the Ferrari 360 made the 355 look old in comparison. “The 355 was a car made by flat surfaces,” Sergio Pininfarina explained. “With the Modena, it was one fluid shape, from beginning to end. So every place you look it is moving. It is dynamic.”
The shape was subjected to considerable wind tunnel testing and generated four times the downforce of the 355’s. Pop-up headlights were eliminated. Fresh air went to the engine via Ferrari 250 LM-inspired air intakes on the rear fenders. And in a huge stylistic departure, the traditional circular air intake and grille up front was replaced by “nostrils” on either side of the fascia, a look that recalled Ferrari’s early ‘60s shark-nose F1 design.
The Ferrari 360 was also the first Ferrari with a clear glass engine cover. “Many times at the motorshows people were asking me on our stand, "May I have a look at the engine?’” Pininfarina explained. “The 360’s engine was a masterpiece, so we asked, "Why must we keep the masterpiece in the car?’”
critics called the design a bit bloated. Others disliked the front end. But
these quibbles faded once the Modena
went into action.
The Ferrari 360 Modena was the successor to the F355, a bestseller.
It was a ballerina on the road -- quicker, faster, more agile, and more comfortable than the 355. With a 0-60-mph time in the low-4-second range, a top speed of 180 mph and all that technology wrapped up in that flowing shape, it was clear that “real” Ferraris did indeed have V-8 engines.
Could any car be more alluring? It could if it were the Ferrari 360 Spider. It repeated its closed sibling’s mechanicals and even that clear engine cover. Its fabric top folded beneath a sculpted hard tonneau in little more than 20 seconds. The marketplace couldn’t get enough: For years after its 2000 Geneva Show intro, the Modena Spider in America brought tens of thousands over list price in the secondary market.
In 2003, Ferrari introduced the most-focused 360. The Challenge Stradale used lessons learned with the “Challenge” Series and competition Ferrari 360 GT. The Ferrari 360 CS had a stripped out interior, greater downforce from revised aerodynamics, suspension updates, and carbon-ceramic brakes.
All this made for a lengthy waiting list for the Modena, one that still wasn’t satisfied when, at the 2004 Paris Auto Show, Ferrari introduced its successor.
The Ferrari F430
was based on the 360, yet Ferrari said 70 percent of its parts were new. Its body
was new, too, but retained the family resemblance. The design was a
collaboration between Pininfarina and Frank Stephenson, Ferrari’s head of
design. It was a tauter-looking machine, with Enzo styling cues.
The powerful 2005 Ferrari F430 Spider reached 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds.
Technologically, the Ferrari F430 was a huge jump over the Modena. At 186 mph, the airflow-sensitive underbody produced 50 percent more downforce than the Ferrari 360. On the steering wheel were two Ferrari road-car precedents: an ignition “start” button and the F1-derived manettino control. The latter dialed in five different driving modes affecting such variables as ride stiffness, traction-system response, and, with the F1 gearbox, shift points.
Visible again beneath a glass cover was the V-8 engine, but this was a 4308cc unit with 483 horsepower. It blasted the F430 to 60 in just 3.5 seconds, to 100 in 8.1, and through the quarter-mile in an astounding 11.7 seconds at 120 mph.
This delicious performance was soon available al fresco, as a much-anticipated F430 Spider bowed at the March 2005 Geneva Salon. Like the open Ferrari 360 Modena, this new convertible sported unique door glass and twin fairings with rollover bars behind the seats, but wore a more prominent spoiler at the rear of a glassed-in engine cover.
Also carried over from the 360 was a canvas top with flying-buttress rear quarters and inset vertical window. The top again powered up or down into an amazingly small space behind the cockpit, and did so in a swift 20 seconds via seven electrohydraulic motors.
Despite that hardware, the new Spider weighed only some 80 pounds more than an F430 Berlinetta, a tribute to Ferrari’s careful engineering. So, too, the new Spider’s much-improved rigidity achieved with only 22 extra pounds of structural reinforcements.
With the top down on a sunny day, the Ferrari 430 Spider was even more thrilling in its way than the companion Berlinetta. It was also an impressive advance on the drop-top Modena, which Car and Driver judged almost crude by comparison. As it happened, Lamborghini fielded a strong new challenger, the Gallardo Spider, at about the same.
But though the Lambo had attractions, C/D picked the Ferrari 430 Spider by a wide margin in a June 2006 showdown test. There were many reasons, starting with superior performance: 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds, 0-100 in 8.5, a standing quarter-mile of 12.1 seconds at 122 mph, all with the sequential F1 transmission. A decisive 360-pound weight advantage helped. The magazine also preferred the cavallino for its superior braking, lane-change behavior, and even fit-and-finish, an area where until recently Ferraris haven’t been celebrated for their excellence, as the editors noted.
Their one reservation was price: over $209,000 for the F1 model tested, a quarter-million out the door with the $20,000 or so in options most F430 buyers ordered. There was a waiting list too.
But excellence can’t be hurried. Flip-top or hard-top, the Ferrari F430 and the 360 Modena are well worth waiting for -- and always will be. Two more future classic Ferraris? You bet!
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