Target: Supercar

Chris Doggett turned to forced induction to give his 360 Spider serious performance credentials.

Photo: Target: Supercar 1
February 26, 2015

Pennsylvanian Chris Doggett claims that he had the idea to build a supercar back in 2013. Yes, you read that correctly: Build a supercar! Without a doubt, this is an ambitious task, especially when you take into consideration the attributes of a modern-day supercar. And if that doesn’t seem like enough of a stretch, then throw in the self-imposed constraint of doing it on a budget.

Sound crazy? Maybe. But Doggett had a plan. Over the years, he had developed a soft spot for anything wearing a Prancing Horse badge, so finding the right older Ferrari would be the crucial starting point. “I wanted a Ferrari that I could play with, and play with severely,” he explains.

Initially, Doggett’s plan was to purchase a reasonably priced F355 Spider in decent shape. After numerous failed attempts to find one that met his criteria, an unexpected good deal presented itself. “I was at an auction and spotted an ’05 360 Spider equipped with an F1 transmission,” he recalls. “Overall, it was in remarkably good condition, with just a shade over 30 grand on the odometer. The only fault was with the interior, which exhibited signs of wear.”

Photo: Target: Supercar 2

Needless to say, the 360 had found its new home. While the car wasn’t what Doggett had originally envisioned, the newer Ferrari was a better place to start. Introduced as a replacement for the F355 in 1999, the 360 represented a huge engineering and technological leap forward. The Modena’s all-aluminum spaceframe chassis offered a more than 40-percent increase in structural rigidity over the F355’s steel chassis yet weighed almost 30 percent less. The 360 Spider, which arrived in 2000, weighed 130 pounds more than the Modena, but since the platform had been designed with a convertible version in mind, the topless 360 boasted similar torsional rigidity.

Mechanically, the Spider was mostly identical to the Modena, which meant a stout 400-hp 3.6-liter V8, a 0-60 mph sprint of 4.6 seconds and a top speed above 180 mph. These were stellar figures at the time, and many enthusiasts considered the 360 to be the best sports car ever made. Some went as far as calling it a genuine supercar, but in the LaFerrari era that moniker no longer applied. The obvious question for Doggett was, what could you do to a 360 to bring it to the next level?

The answer, of course, was to add power. To get the project going, Doggett enlisted the services of Bill Moss, the owner of Bill Moss Auto Repair in Warminster, PA. Moss has long cared for the rest of Doggett’s collection, an eclectic mix of cars that have one thing in common: They are all supercharged or turbocharged. The 360 would therefore be the next candidate to receive some forced-induction magic.

Photo: Target: Supercar 3

AS DOGGETT OUTLINED HIS IDEAS for the car and the specific budget he wanted to hit, Moss offered only one caveat: “It’s a Ferrari—throw that budget out the window!” Doggett eventually agreed, and it was time to get to work.

Moss is no stranger to extracting massive horsepower from turbocharged engines, from building 700-plus horsepower mills for Buick Grand Nationals or pushing his own twin-turbo AMC Gremlin past the 200-mph mark on the dragstrip. But the Ferrari presented a new set of challenges, most significantly his complete lack of familiarity with the available resources for such a build. In addition, Doggett didn’t want any internal engine modifications, so Moss had to come up with a system that would work with the stock powerplant.

“I thought the engine would be fine,” Moss recalls. “The compression ratio, at 11.0:1, was going to be a bit high for a turbo motor, so 6.5 pounds of boost would be the limit, but this would still allow for respectable gains in power.”

Photo: Target: Supercar 4

Once Moss started gathering information, he found there were a number of options, with either one or two turbos, available. Most didn’t appeal to him, but then he found a company that seemed to have the right setup. “The system was symmetrical and they were using good quality parts,” says Moss. “It had Tial wastegates and blow-off valves, along with Precision turbos, which is all stuff that I’ve used.” The kit also included custom-built air-to-water intercoolers and a stainless-steel exhaust.

He quickly ordered the twin-turbo system, but when it arrived his optimism quickly turned into frustration. All he received was a box of parts; basic items like instructions, mounting brackets and fasteners were not included. Moss estimates that the kit only contained about 80 percent of what was needed to get the job done; he would have to fabricate much of what was missing.

While the extra time required was a nuisance, says Moss, “My main concern was making sure the tuning was right. That’s why I didn’t build the whole assembly from scratch.” The company that supplied the kit remapped the ECUs, so after a long build the engine was finally fired up—and, to everyone’s relief, ran perfectly, if a little rich at idle. It also made plenty of power on the dyno: 565 hp at the rear wheels, which translates to around 650 ponies at the engine, a nearly 40-percent increase over stock.

Photo: Target: Supercar 5

As the engine work was being finalized, Moss turned his attention to the Ferrari’s brakes, wheels and tires. Choosing the right brake package couldn’t have been any easier, as O.E. supplier Brembo offers a 360-specific upgrade with six-piston calipers and cross-drilled and slotted rotors at all four corners. The kit was easy to install, works seamlessly with the stock master cylinder, traction control and ABS—and even included instructions.

Wheels, on the other hand, were a much more subjective choice. There were plenty to pick from in a wide range of styles, sizes and prices. Doggett decided on a set of 360 Forged Straight 5 three-piece wheels, with a carbon-fiber applique, which measure 9×20 inches in front and 10.5×20 inches in back. These were wrapped in 235/30ZR20 and 305/30ZR20 Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber. The factory suspension setup was left unchanged.

In the meantime, the somewhat scruffy interior received a makeover. The seats were renewed with a fresh set of skins and a boost gauge was installed on the A-pillar. Moss also ordered numerous aftermarket replacement trim pieces, many of them crafted in carbon fiber, and everything else was thoroughly vacuumed, scrubbed and cleaned. Afterward, the car’s cockpit looked impressively factory fresh.

Photo: Target: Supercar 6

Indeed, after many months of hard work, the end product was a remarkably stock-looking Ferrari. Only the wheels, massive Brembos and carbon-fiber taillight panel hinted at something less docile.

THE ONLY WAY TO FULLY UNDERSTAND the true nature of this modified Ferrari was to drive it. When I buried the right pedal into the carpet, I quickly realized just how fast this car has become—no question about it. It launched with controlled violence and no sign of wanting to break loose, unlike the similarly high-powered Dodge SRT Viper and Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z06 I had driven recently. Low-end torque was improved over stock, and power delivery was very linear, but when the turbos fully spooled up around 3,000 rpm acceleration was brutal, the engine pulling without hesitation to over 8,000 rpm—behavior Moss mostly attributes to the engine’s design efficiency.

The 3.6-liter engine really screamed as the revs piled on, shrieking a note not usually associated with a V8. Stopping was effortless; the big Brembos easily erased the car’s speed and were unperturbed by repeated hard stops.

Photo: Target: Supercar 7

The only trade-off appeared to be ride quality, which is a little harsher than stock. Doggett says, “We’re still sorting that out, but other than the ride, there is no downside to the car. It is just silly fast.” I couldn’t agree more.

With about $150,000 invested, Doggett’s twin-turbo 360 delivers serious performance for a relatively bargain price—in Ferrari terms, at least. Predictably, however, projects like this one never seem to be complete. The list of proposed changes includes a smaller-diameter front wheel and tire combination for better ride quality and an upgraded clutch assembly to handle the additional power. There will soon be even more power to handle: The plan is to rebuild the engine with a lower compression ratio and more boost. It would be hard to complain about more ponies, but I don’t think they’re really necessary; Doggett’s Ferrari has already earned the title of supercar.

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