It’s a complete circle. It’s five days short of a year. It’s a 3.6-liter engine. It is all things to all people. It’s a Modena (hard top), it’s a Spider (convertible), it’s a Challenge Stradale! Released in 1999 and in production through 2005 (when it was replaced by the F430), the Ferrari 360 was a strikingly gorgeous newcomer from the Ferrari stable. Designers had abandoned the angular lines and flat planes of its predecessors, favoring a softer look with the dynamic, flowing lines of a starlet’s gorgeous curves. Think redhead. Think Christina Hendricks.
Introduced at the Geneva Auto Show in 1999, the Ferrari 360 Modena was the first Ferrari to feature an all-aluminum monocoque/tubular chassis, making it more rigid than its precursor, the F355. Carbon fiber added strength to sills, floor pan, windscreen frame, and dampened engine noise from the rear bulkhead. It also sported twin radiators and a belly pan that channeled air to the extractors near the tail. It did away with fancy spoilers because the aerodynamic changes gave the car 375 lbs of downforce at a maximum speed of 190 mph. It was four times as strong as any previous Ferrari.
The 3.6 liter Tipo F131 V8 engine was longitudinally mounted and resided under a clear glass engine cover. It produced 400 hp at its 8,500 rpm redline along with 275 lb-ft of torque at 4750 rpm and rocketed from zero to 62 mph (0-100 kph) in 4.3 seconds. Tested lateral acceleration was reported at 0.90g and the Modena shimmies through a 600-ft. slalom at 69.0 mph. The Ferrari 360 Spider was introduced in 2000 and introduced an updated 6-speed electrohydraulic manual transmission to the line. To improve rigidity in the absence of a hardtop, engineers strengthened the rocker panels and redesigned the windscreen frame, while adding twin roll bars behind twin fairings. The electrically-controlled ragtop stows neatly behind the engine compartment, which is protected by a clear glass bonnet. Be sure to check for proper maintenance of the top and its operating mechanisms, as repairs can be pricey.
The Spider was followed by the light & nimble 360 Challenge Stradale model, which proved to be the most powerful of the trio. Modeled after a race version of the Modena, the Challenge Stradale features Brembo carbon ceramic brakes, improved aerodynamics, a faster gearbox, throttle tweaks, and suspension more suitable for the track. It’s also lighter than the Modena, a feat achieved by using lighter materials and removing extraneous items like the radio. Often abbreviated as 360CS, they are 200 lbs lighter with 25 more horsepower.
The factory also produced a line of 360 race models: the 360 Challenge, 360 GT and 360 GTC, which saw competition in FIA N-GT classes. The 360 GT won the 2001 FIA GT Championship was fielded by Team JMB Giesse. Factory backed teams with the GTC have competed in Sebring, Silverstone and LeMans endurance races to great success. Now that all late model Ferraris are automatic, the 360 is a six-speed throwback to a bygone era. The frame of the 360 series cars was Ferrari’s first partnership with Alcoa. Moving away from a stamped steel frame in the 355 made a lasting impact. One that resonates even today, the design of the 360’s underpinnings has seen only incremental improvements under the F430, 458 Italia and 488 GTB models. If you are looking for a Ferrari that won’t break the bank, the 360 is a sensible choice. Stay with us for all your Ferrari news & reviews.