The 360 – Ferrari’s jump from sweet to boisterous
A New Era of Power
If, up until 1999, you had asked any admirer of the most iconic marque in international motoring what characteristics they had come to associate with the name ‘Ferrari’, the adjectives that they would have given you would have likely evoked many of the traits of its famed Prancing Horse logo.
Of course, Ferrari had always been associated with Italian passion and the highest levels of performance, but as of the late 1990s, there was also a tinge of sweetness, even gallant failure, about the brand.
The company’s fabled founder, Enzo Ferrari, had passed away in 1988, but no Formula One constructors’ title had headed to Maranello since 1983, and the wait for driver’s championship honours had been even longer (1979). The factory continued to produce quick cars clothed in pretty bodywork styled by the Turin-based Pininfarina design house, yet some wondered whether the time had come for the Prancing Horse to develop some real bite again.
Enter the Modena
The transition from the F355 to the new-for-1999 360 Modena was a case in point of a certain changing of the guard for Ferrari. Whereas the F355 had certainly been good-looking and finely balanced – not to mention the most-produced Ferrari of all time up to that point, with sales exceeding 11,000 units – it was more sweet and tactile than it was grunty or brutal.
Its replacement set out to change that. The signals were clear enough even before the latest addition to the Maranello stable peeled off onto any B-road, its new Pininfarina body showing a noticeable departure from the typical 1990s Ferrari design language of sharp angles and flip-up headlights.
However, the real evidence of the difference was to be found once the 360 started moving across the tarmac. Although the 360 Modena – as the initial coupe version of the car was called – did have 20bhp more power than the F355 at 394bhp overall from its 3.6-litre V8, the game may have been moved on rather more by its innovative engineering, including in its sleek aerodynamics and use of aluminium structures.
A fabric-roofed convertible version, the 360 Spider, followed in 2000, the range expanding again in 2003 with the arrival of the 360 Challenge Stradale. But to fully appreciate the latter’s origins, we need to go back to 1999, and the launch to much fanfare of the competition car that it was effectively a road-going version of – the 360 Challenge.
The Challenge and its part in a storied motorsport history
It’s July 1999, and we’re at the legendary Nurburgring racetrack in Germany. The factory-owned Ferrari importer, Ferrari Deutschland GmbH, is holding its latest Racing Days event, which has been one of Europe’s most important Ferrari-related events since its 1996 debut.
But this year’s running is a little bit different. The legendary Scuderia Ferrari Formula One racing team’s latest hero, the then still only two-time World Champion Michael Schumacher, is in attendance to unveil the new 360 Modena Challenge car for the one-make Ferrari Challenge racing series.
As Ferrari’s own website was to detail years later, “Ferrari’s GT cars have always been highly competitive in the hands of privateers, and their racing achievements have played a fundamental role in the company’s motor sport history. That’s why the Ferrari Challenge one-make racing series was created – it was Ferrari’s way of getting owners of its road-going GT cars back on the track.”
It’s fair to say that the results of such efforts were to the satisfaction of the factory back in Maranello. Between 2000 and 2013, the Ferrari 360 Modena Challenge is recorded as having featured in no fewer than 172 events, favoured by such drivers as Santiago Puig, Luis Perez-Sala, Manuel Cerqueda, Javier Diaz Mata and Chano Arias.
The Challenge was not the only version of the car to see service on the world’s racetracks – the GT model developed by Ferrari’s Corse Clienti department in Maranello also excelled in its class. Nonetheless, the Challenge may be the 360 variant that has most convincingly captured the imaginations of Prancing Horse enthusiasts and admirers worldwide.
Now you can experience the 360 for yourself
With production of all iterations of the 360 having ceased in 2005, the thrilling and sophisticated two-seater that had such a much-loved predecessor to live up to in the form of the F355 has long made its own passage into Ferrari legend. However, it is still alive and well in our stable of performance cars right here at U Drive Cars!
Yes, that’s right: we have our own 360 for you to take the wheel of, presenting you with the chance to enjoy the response, grip, noise and – of course – sheer power of this mid-engined, rear wheel drive, two-seater Ferrari for yourself.
Our experience package includes not just six instructor-led laps behind the wheel of the 360 on our exclusive Heyford Park circuit in Oxfordshire, but also tea or coffee on arrival and a commemorative certificate on completion. It could all be yours from just £89, which we think is quite the deal for that experience experienced by all too few people: the feeling of getting behind the wheel of a red Ferrari on a race track.