360 Buyer's Guide

The Ferrari 360 overthrew the exotic-car establishment with its radical combination of performance, refinement and all-around usability. And now it’s affordable, too.

Photo: 360 Buyer's Guide 0
March 2, 2012

If you’re looking for a new-ish Ferrari without the new-car price tag, there may be no better choice than the 360. Sure, the performance of the Modena, Spider and Challenge Stradale has been eclipsed by Ferrari’s more recent V8 models, but the 360 remains a seriously fast car by any measure. Plus, you can pick up a good Modena for as little as $60,000.

Introduced in 1999, the 360 Modena helped revolutionize Ferrari’s road-car lineup. That lineup needed change, because the late 1980s and early 1990s had not been kind to the company, with falling sales of older models (412, Testarossa, Mondial) and a poorly received new one (348). The man behind the revolt was Luca di Montezemolo, who arrived as president in 1991. The 360 Modena was the first V8-powered car designed from scratch under his leadership, and while Montezemolo’s demands were conflicting—the new model had to be larger and more refined yet lighter and faster than its predecessor—Ferrari’s engineers and designers proved they were up to the challenge.

The 360 was different from any Ferrari that came before it, most notably because it was Maranello’s first car to utilize an all-aluminum chassis (co-developed and built by Alcoa inside the Scaglietti works), which helped make it both 130 pounds lighter and 64-percent more torsionally rigid than its nine-inch-shorter, one-inch-narrower, steel-framed predecessor, the F355. The 360’s Pininfarina-penned body was equally radical, with 5,400 hours of wind-tunnel testing resulting in a sleek, streamlined design that produced nearly 400 pounds of downforce at 180 mph without the use of an external wing. (It was the first road-going Ferrari to create downforce, rather than just reduce lift.)

Thanks to its 400-hp 3.6-liter V8 engine and six-speed transmission, the 360 sprinted from 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds and topped out at 186 mph. It was also three seconds a lap faster around the Fiorano test track than the F355, as well as more comfortable and much roomier inside. In addition, it was every-day usable, reliable and much cheaper to service.

That was 1999. The following year, Ferrari unveiled a convertible version. The 360 Spider was identical to the Modena, aside from its fully automatic soft top and some additional chassis bracing. Performance was reduced only by academic levels: It was 0.1 second slower to 60 mph and 6 mph down at the top end.

Then, in 2003, the 360 received a serious performance boost with the introduction of the Challenge Stradale. Inspired by the 360 Challenge race car, the Challenge Stradale featured lower, stiffer suspension, extra-sticky tires, launch control, a faster-shifting F1 gearbox, carbon-ceramic brakes, revised bodywork, a minimalist interior and plenty of carbon-fiber components. With 25 more horses, 240 fewer pounds and more downforce, the CS hit 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and lapped Fiorano 3.5 seconds faster than the regular 360.

So which 360 model is right for you, and how do you choose a good example? Read on.

Pricing & Buying Advice

THE CURRENT 360 MARKET is unquestionably biased toward buyers. A quick look on eBay.com or in the Ferrari Market Letter will reveal dozens, if not hundreds, of these cars for sale. Furthermore, the Modena and Spider appear to be fully depreciated, meaning they offer superb bang for the buck.

Photo: 360 Buyer's Guide 1

The Challenge Stradale is a different story. While it’s the most exciting 360 to drive, its prices remain higher—perhaps due to its performance, perhaps due to its relative rarity (around 1,200 were built, versus roughly 8,800 Modenas and 7,500 Spiders). However, I think the CS will continue to depreciate, especially as prices of F430s fall further.

So what makes one 360 cost more than another? Carbon-ceramic brakes (which were offered as an option on late Modenas and Spiders) don’t command a premium, nor does the F1 gearbox, which was ordered on nine out of ten cars. The stick shift-equipped Modenas and Spiders don’t cost more, either, but they are in greater demand and thus sell faster. Beyond any obvious problems and/or deferred maintenance, the one thing that affects pricing most is mileage. Almost all buyers want a low-mileage car, which means that 2,000-mile examples cost significantly more than 10,000-mile ones, and 50,000-mile cars are virtually sale-proof. That’s unfortunate, since the 360 is a reliable, well-built Ferrari.

One significant factor to consider when buying a 360 is the number of previous owners. Every new owner spends some time seeing just how fast the car will go and how far it can be pushed. After a few owners, the effects can start to add up, especially if the car is flipped regularly and never properly serviced.  Speaking of which, since these cars are inexpensive by Ferrari standards, some owners are unprepared to spend the money for correct and timely maintenance. You want a car with a full, documented service history, even if it costs a little more.

My final 360 advice is the same advice I give every Ferrari buyer: Do your research, buy the best car you can afford and make sure you have it inspected by a shop that knows the model inside and out. The cost of repairing a bad 360 can easily run 25 percent or more of the purchase price.— Michael Sheehan

Model Low High
Modena $60,000 $75,000
Spider $75,000 $90,000
Challenge Stradale $120,000 $130,000

These prices are for cars in good condition with roughly 10,000 miles; however, there’s a significant premium for cars with fewer miles. For the Spider and Challenge Stradale, add $10,000 for a 6,000-mile example, and $20,000 for a car with less than 2,000 miles. On the other hand, cars with 20,000-plus miles easily can fall below our range.

Driving Impressions

IT MAY BE MORE THAN A DECADE OLD, and a generation-and-a-half removed from the current 458 Italia, but the 360 still looks like a modern car. Its stance is practically perfect (even if the wheels are a touch small and the tires’ sidewalls a little too tall) and the bodywork’s sweeping curves feel timeless, rather than feminine as they did when the model was new. The 360’s design nods to Ferrari’s heritage (e.g., the 250 LM-esque air intakes on the rear fenders and the 156 F1 Sharknose-style nostrils) also seem to work better than when the 360 was new, and the glass window in the rear deck that showcases the mid-mounted V8 engine is a masterpiece.

This sense of timelessness continues inside the cockpit. The organic lines of the dash and door panels, the aggressive-looking seats and the bare aluminum trim still look great, although a few of the details, such as the exposed bolt heads in the instrument panel and door pockets, haven’t aged as well. The interior’s ergonomics are very good, and the controls feel suitably solid.

The Modena and Spider offer very similar driving experiences. The 3.6-liter engine fires instantly with a turn of the key (no start button here) and settles into a steady idle. Push the gas pedal and the F1 gearbox (90 percent of 360s were so equipped) cleanly engages the clutch and smoothly propels the car away from rest. Those cars equipped with a traditional stick shift combine a firm clutch pedal with a fairly light and very positive gear lever.

Photo: 360 Buyer's Guide 2

Once on the move, the 360 reveals an all-day comfortable ride (although sharp bumps are felt clearly) and impressively nimble handling. The lightly weighted steering is very quick, and the car responds equally quickly; it’s also very accurate, and goes exactly where you point it. While the narrow 215-section front tires feel a little vague upon initial turn-in, once the chassis is loaded the grip and stability are excellent.

The 360’s standard seats nicely blend comfort and supportiveness. The optional sport seats lack padding but really lock the driver in place in the corners.
On bumpy back roads, the 360 feels rock solid, a testament to the rigidity of its aluminum chassis. The Spider suffers from a bit of cowl shake when the going gets rough, but the car’s composure remains mostly unruffled.

There’s a noticeable difference in power between ’99 models, which lack pre-cats, and later examples, which have them. A ’99 feels significantly stronger in the mid-range, with serious thrust arriving around 4,000 rpm, rather than the 5,500-rpm surge found in later cars. That said, if you haven’t driven a ’99 you won’t feel like anything’s missing; while only rated at 20 more horses than the F355’s 3.5-liter V8, the 360’s free-revving 3.6-liter V8 feels stronger throughout the rev range. The robustness of the howling exhaust note at high revs reflects this difference.

The F1 gearbox is a willing partner in the action. When the tachometer approaches the 8,500-rpm redline, pull the right-hand paddle; two-tenths of a second later, the ’box bangs into the next gear and the car shoots forward. Downshifts are smoother, with the engine automatically blipping to match revs. On the other hand, the traditional stick-shift provides a more-involving driving experience.

All in all, the 360 Modena and Spider deliver a superb balance of performance and sophistication. In addition, they are comfortable and refined enough to be daily drivers, which is high praise indeed for an Italian exotic.

Then there’s the Challenge Stradale. The CS’s more aggressive bodywork, Challenge-style wheels and slightly lower stance give the car a fresher feeling than its stablemates—and while it is in fact a newer design, it also comes across as more special. That’s true inside, as well, where carbon-fiber door panels, rubber mats in place of carpet on the floor and serious sport seats leave no question about the experience to come.

On the road, the Challenge Stradale feels as different as it looks. While it’s still a 360, it’s hard to think of any part of the driving experience that hasn’t been intensified. The CS is louder, lower and stiffer; its standard F1 transmission shifts faster and its engine is more powerful (although its torque curve feels a lot like the ’99’s); it turns in more confidently and delivers more grip; its brake pedal is firmer and its standard carbon-ceramic brakes slow the car more quickly.

Overall, the Challenge Stradale delivers a “race car for the road” experience, for better and worse. Its ultimate limits are much higher than the Modena or Spider’s, but it’s much less suitable for the daily grind or a long trip, both in terms of noise and ride comfort. However, if you’re looking for the ultimate 360, there’s no question the CS is it.— Aaron Jenkins

Photo: 360 Buyer's Guide 3

Problem Areas & Service Costs

AS A FERRARI TECHNICIAN FOR NEARLY THREE DECADES, I give the 360 a big thumbs-up for its build quality and reliability (not to mention its performance). In fact, the 360 gets my highest endorsement: I would be happy to own one.

Like every Ferrari, the 360 has some potential issues prospective buyers need to be aware of. Few are serious, and many will have already have been fixed, so don’t be concerned by the length of the following list. However, there are two big-ticket items to consider: the potentially enormous costs of carbon-ceramic brakes (around $30,000 to replace pads and discs at all four corners; $2,000 per axle for pads alone) and the F1 gearbox’s hydraulic components (the two major parts that can fail cost around $15,000 each), if the car is so equipped.

For a positive ownership experience, it’s crucial to buy a good car. To ensure you do, you absolutely must have a thorough pre-purchase inspection performed by a shop that both knows the model inside out and has one of Ferrari’s diagnostic computers. I’ve seen too many disappointed new owners who relied on the seller’s mechanic rather than researching and hiring a knowledgeable, properly equipped technician.

Finally, a note about crash damage. Low-speed fender benders are typically not a concern, but your local body shop can’t properly repair the 360’s aluminum chassis; that requires a top-level shop with high-end fabrication and aluminum welding skills. However, there are so many cars available that there’s usually no reason to buy one that’s been seriously damaged.— Brian Crall

Major Issues

  1. VARIATOR AND LEFT-BANK TENSIONER FAILURES UP TO MID-YEAR 2001: The variator, which controls the 360’s variable exhaust timing, sits on the end of the exhaust cam. If one fails, it can cause severe engine damage. There was a factory campaign to fix the problem, and many early cars will have already been repaired, but it’s important to verify this has been done before purchase—a call to an authorized Ferrari dealer with the car’s VIN is all it takes. (VINs above 123399 left the factory with the updated parts.) If the two variators haven’t been updated, it can get expensive: The units cost around $400 each, but the total bill can exceed $3,000 due to the amount of labor involved. A new tensioner costs roughly $750, but adds little in labor if it’s replaced at the same time as the variator.
  2. CRACKING MOTOR-MOUNT FRAME BRACKETS ON 1999 CARS: The bracket that connects the motor mount to the frame can crack, and if it’s not caught early can turn into a big repair. While a new bracket that solved the problem appeared in 2000, it’s more difficult to install it in a ’99 than it is to simply weld and reinforce the original. Prices are hard to judge, but as a very rough estimate expect to pay up to $1,000.
  3. F1 HYDRAULIC PUMP RELAY FAILURE: All but the very late cars had an underrated relay that controlled the F1 system’s hydraulic pump. If it fails, the pump will run continuously until it burns out. There’s an easy fix: Replace the original relay with a 50-amp version. It should cost $100-200 at most.
  4. MOTOR MOUNTS: The first-generation motor mounts wore out extremely quickly, and should be replaced with the second-generation mounts, which were introduced late in production. The two mounts cost around $300 each, and it will cost another $300-400 to have them installed.
  5. TRANSMISSION MOUNTS: Both the first- and second-generation transmission mounts suffer from short life spans, but fitting an F430 transmission mount solves that problem. The later-model part costs about $200, and the total job will run roughly $700-750.

Minor issues

  1. The pre-catalytic converters (or precats) on post-’99 cars sometimes fail. Although this is very rare in well-maintained, unmodified cars, if it occurs it can cause severe engine damage. The precat’s condition can be easily checked by an experienced 360 mechanic; if the catalytic matrix has come loose, the exhaust manifolds must be replaced.
  2. Interior wear can be an issue. Kick panels and door sills get scuffed, the leather-covered dash can shrink if the car is left in the sun, and plastic parts like buttons wear, score and get sticky.
  3. Cars with VINs below 124875 left the factory with a poor version of the F1 transmission software. Any transmission control unit with a part number of 189542 or higher can be upgraded.
  4. Front-end paint chips are common. This isn’t a problem with the paint quality, it’s a function of airflow over the car’s low front end. Many owners install protective clear film on the car’s nose.
  5. Early Spiders have no access to engine-compartment subframe attachment bolts, and so require more labor for many types of routine service. The top was redesigned at assembly #41464 to remedy the problem.
  6. Electrical gremlins were quite common early on due to the aluminum structure being a problematic grounding source. This is not usually a big hurdle.
  7. The instrument panel’s illumination can fail. Ferrari sells new panels, but there are outside companies that will repair the existing one.
  8. It’s very rare, but broken transmission oil heat exchangers can cause severe transmission damage. I have never seen a failure be non-symptomatic, so make sure your shop investigates any strange, new noises.
  9. The stick shift’s shifter bushing can go bad. Ferrari sells replacements, but I recommend Hill Engineering’s upgraded part.
  10. Some early cars suffered from prematurely failing*ball joints*. Since Ferrari only sells complete A-arms, I use Hill Engineering’s replacements.
  11. The Challenge Stradale’s carbon-fiber engine-bay panels can become discolored. Ferrari replaced a number under warranty, but if it happens to you the only option is to buy new ones.

Service Costs

Prices vary significantly; these are rough estimates for costs at an independent shop.

  • Minor service (every year): $1,000
  • Major service (every 30,000 miles): $3,500
  • Clutch replacement: $5,000
  • Brakes (pads plus rotor resurfacing): $750-1,000
Photo: 360 Buyer's Guide 4

Owner Impressions

Mike King
1999 360 Modena

Purchased in October 2011 with 8,500 miles for $72,000

Is this your first Ferrari?
It is. I’ve always been a car guy and I always wanted some kind of weekend car, but I was never serious about it. Then I started doing auto appraisals part-time, and exotics really spoke to me. When I saw this car, I really liked it. I wasn’t in the market for anything at the time, and my wife asked me, “Why do you have to have a Ferrari?” I replied, “I don’t have to have a Ferrari, I have to have this Ferrari!” It was very serendipitous.

What did you think of the price?
I knew the car was within the usual range, and it wasn’t in the six figures, so I could afford it. It’s probably not going to depreciate much more than it already has.

What do you like most about the 360?
The F1 gearbox—I wouldn’t own a car without it. I enjoy driving the car, enjoy looking at it and think it’s a car you can have a lot of fun with over time. My daily driver is a Mercedes-Benz S500, which goes when you put the pedal down, but when I want to enjoy driving there’s nothing like this Ferrari.

Tony Chiesa
2004 Challenge Stradale

Purchased in January 2012 with 7,145 miles for $130,000

How did you come to buy your CS?
I had owned an F355 and a 360. I was considering an F430, but I figured I had done the refined, leather-lined Ferrari thing, and that I wanted something different. So I bought the Challenge Stradale.

What did you think of the price?
I followed the market for quite a while, and it looked like it ranged from $125,000-150,000. There was a car with 7,000 miles that sold for $150,000, so I’m really happy with this one. I wanted a car with less than 10,000 miles, well, just because. A Challenge Stradale costs about as much as a 2007 or ’08 F430.

What do you like most about the car?
It’s a raw experience. It almost makes you feel like you had a track car and you just decided to leave the track. It gives you that visceral feel—the rocks hitting the underside, the sound, the light feel—like you’re doing something illegal, and you’re just waiting to be pulled over.

Any dislikes?
No, but then there was nothing I didn’t like about the 360. I guess it’s down a little bit on power because of its age…another 100 horsepower would be pretty cool.

Jeff Wolf
2001 360 Spider

Purchased in 2001 with 200 miles for $240,000

The car has depreciated a bit since you bought it….
[Laughs] I was the guy that paid $40,000 over sticker when the 360 was four months old and it’s worth maybe $40,000 now, but I got a decade of fun. The car is still beautiful, it’s still fun and I haven’t outgrown it—it still impresses me!

How reliable has it been?
It’s been really great. I do the fluids once a year, the tune-up every three years. The only problem I’ve had was when the hydraulics that operate the top stopped working. I also had the clutch replaced at around 38,000 miles—it’s a stick shift, and the mechanic said that was the longest he had ever seen a 360 clutch go—and when it wouldn’t pass smog last time, I had the cats replaced with aftermarket units and a Tubi exhaust put on. After that, it felt like a new car.
I have gone through tons of tires and brake pads, though, since I take it to the track all the time. I get maybe 6,000-8,000 miles on the rear tires, maybe double that on the front. Once I put on cheap tires, but that was a mistake; you get what you pay for.

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