Since I was 10 I always wanted a red Ferrari. And at the age of 17 with increased clarity the goal was to one day own an F355 6 speed manual.

The design of the F355 is automotive art to me, and has a timeless shape. To this day the F355 is also one of the best sounding cars on the planet with an F1 sounding howl unlike any other.

The F355 was the first Ferrari I had ever been driven in at the age of 16 and I still remember it like it was yesterday. Since that first drive the F355 was just a dream that one day I too would own one.

F355

At 16 my first ever passenger ride in a Ferrari

The next close up encounter was to be 7 years later on my wedding day, as my wife and I had arranged for 3 Ferrari’s to be in our wedding car entourage. An F355 , a 360 and a then new F430 all Rosso Corsa red , in Spider configuration and with F1 transmissions.

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Our wedding day

 

The F355 drive was not meant to be on that day, in typical Ferrari fashion the roof blew a fuse and got stuck half way leaving the car and me stranded on the way to the church, I had to reluctantly arrive in the Ferrari 360 spider, which I never really liked the shape of much at the time, and this one with Nero (black) interior and Bordeaux (red) carpet was doing little to help. Besides this hiccup our wedding day was amazing and so too were the cars.

The hire company mentioned to me at the time that when I reach 25 years old I would be able to hire the cars out and drive them myself. This was only 2 years away so I mentally locked that date away in my diary. The very day I turned 25 I rang up the company to book in my drive day as a birthday present- I’d finally get to live the dream of driving a Ferrari, especially the F355!

The Ferrari drive that I had longed for eluded me with the company telling me over the phone that unfortunately the insurance company would no longer cover 25 year olds and that 30 is the new age limit for the drive day. The operator told me not to worry, wait 5 years and they will have even newer models to drive. I told him “within 5 years I will have my own one” and hung up!

At the age of 26 I had saved enough to start looking for my own Ferrari and still had not driven one yet. It seemed to me that the only way to drive one was to buy one. I flew to Melbourne to look at an F355 and the owner refused to let me drive it, the deal fell through, and another in Sydney but the car wasn’t worth looking into further given its condition.  Being only 10 F355’s for sale in the country at the time compared to 40+ newer model 360 variants, slim pickings did not help the selection process.

Soon after I got to drive a 2004 360 Spider through the kindness of a new friend, and this made me switch my focus from the F355 to a 360. The 360 now seemed more likely to happen after so many misfires and set backs with finding, experiencing and buying an F355.

With the 360 being a generation newer car and complete clean sheet design over the F355 on paper and in reality it is a much better package overall, more useable, more reliable, cheaper to run, more powerful and much more modern looking. Everyone I had spoken to steered me in the direction of the 360 which made the decision more about what others thought and what I could find rather than going for my true passion the F355.

Soon after my first drive of the Ferrari 360 Spider, I negotiated with the owner of that car to buy it off of him. It was too good of a car to pass up, and the perfect first Ferrari for me, with the added reliability of the 360 over the older F355, the cars condition and the super low mileage of this particular car made the decision easier to pull the trigger on.

1.5 years later, and while I absolutely love my car and the whole Ferrari experience so far, I have not been able to shake the F355 from my mind. The question needed to be answered, what is the F355 like to drive? Should I meet my hero and get behind the wheel of a car that had occupied much of my thoughts as a teenager and into adulthood?

James May of Top Gear fame didn’t seem to think so, after he met his hero- the Lamborghini Countach, which left him feeling dejected and is quoted to have said “ a part of me sustained by blind romantic faith was ruthlessly slaughtered”.

But who cares what James says when Jeremy Clarkson reviewed and subsequently purchased his own Ferrari F355 and claimed it as “The best car in the world. Ever.”

As luck would have it I made friends with Paul, a fellow 360 owner and discovered he has a neighbour who owns a 1999 F355 F1. Finally I had access to someone who actually owns my dream car. The owner is car obsessed and an all round great guy, we met up and he invited me to drive the car then and there… I almost wet myself!

Of course by this time the rain clouds that had threatened earlier had made good on their promise, and it was now raining heavily and we both did not wish to drive it in the pouring rain- another opportunity missed!

Thankfully not long after our first meeting I had the chance to get behind the wheel of his F355. I had finally driven the car that was pinned up on my wall as a kid and it was unreal! I was asked to drop the car off to my mechanic for the owner and once it was serviced I picked it up and had it in my possession for 4 weeks. I got to know the car quite well in that time and compare it directly to my 360 all without having to buy one!

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The good news is that the F355 did not disappoint, whilst it is not better than my 360 on some levels (Being equipped with an F1 transmission may have had something to do with this) the sensation of driving my dream car, the sound and the rawness made the experience thoroughly enjoyable.

Sitting in the F355 it fits me like a glove, it just feels ‘right’. Once the ignition is on and the engine fires up, the lumpy idle and the raw feedback of noise and sensations enhance the whole Ferrari feeling. The F355 bridges the gap between the classic old school Ferrari and the modern high tech models without being too much of either and that is a nice place indeed.

The F355 being a generation older than my 360 and behind on build quality, power, technology and many other aspects should have let me down and destroyed my desire for the car, yet it didn’t it only made me want one even more.

The dream is still alive that I will have an F355 in the garage. Sometimes it turns out that our heroes are as good as we hoped they would be.

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Elliott