Your Handy 1994–99 Ferrari F355 Buyer’s Guide

Hagerty Media/Angus Peel

When Honda launched its NSX in 1990, it seriously disturbed the traditional European supercar equilibrium. At a stroke, supercars were no longer show ponies to be coerced into occasional use while spending most of their lives hooked up to a battery charger in the garage. Ferrari was caught on the hop and its then-current 348 quickly looked dated next to the NSX. The answer to this, and the NSX, arrived in 1994 with the launch of the F355.

As with many of its cars, Ferrari drafted in Pininfarina to look after the styling, and the Italian design firm pulled off a blinder. Classically clean lines, curves, and just the right amount of aggression came together in a pertly pretty, compact, mid-engined design. Ferrari had not offered such a desirable entry-level model since the Dino 246 and buyers were quick to queue up and get their orders in.

Even if the F355 had been all frock and no go, it would have sold well thanks to those looks. However, Ferrari was determined this new car would not just get on terms with its upstart Japanese rival but better it. To this end, the F355 came with a new 3.5-liter engine with five valves per cylinder, which is where the model’s name comes from. Along with new engine management and titanium connecting rods, the V-8 could rev to a blissful 8500 rpm and produce 380 hp, which works out to 109 hp per liter and made the F355’s engine the most powerful production car per litre at its launch. This potency equated to 0–62mph in 4.7 seconds and a 183 mph top speed.

1995 Ferrari F355 GTS engine

As well as performance that lifted the F355 into a whole new category from the previous 348, this new Ferrari came good on its promise to be easier to live with. The new engine management made the motor untemperamental in traffic, while the gearbox gained a heat exchanger to warm its oil quickly from cold starts and do away with the traditional recalcitrant shift of Ferrari ’boxes. The gear change was also helped by using rods rather than the cables of the 348.

For 1997, Ferrari uprated the engine management from Motronic 2.7 twin ECUs to a single Motronic 5.2 unit, which was largely for emissions reasons but also because it made the engine even smoother around town. At the same time, Ferrari also offered its F1 semi-automatic transmission, which used paddle shifters to select gears and an automated single clutch. It was billed as a bit of Formula 1 tech for the road, with lightning-fast shifts, but it was not the easiest system to live with. Tellingly, around 75 percent of all F355s sold had a manual gearbox rather than the F1 gearbox.

1995 Ferrari F355 GTS GTB and Spider group

When the F355 first debuted in 1994, it was available in GTB coupe and GTS targa-roof styles. This aped the previous models of small Ferraris, but the company had a new fully open Spider model waiting in the wings to go on sale starting in 1995. Unlike some other mid-engined cars with the roof removed, the Spider kept its looks and proportions, helped by the electrically folding roof sitting almost flush with the rear deck. Model year 1995 also saw the introduction of the track-only F355 Challenge race car, though some of these have subsequently been converted to very raw, very fast road use.

In 1999, Ferrari offered the Serie Fiorano as a final send-off for the F355 and built 104 examples. Not long after, the F355 was replaced by the 360. By the time the curtain came down, 11,522 F355s of all types had been built to make it one of the most numerous models in the company’s history. Popularity has not dimmed the F355’s desirability and it perfectly straddles the divide between older classic models and later, more technically advanced Ferraris to be an ideal choice.

What’s an F355 Like to Drive?

1995 Ferrari F355 GTS front cornering action
Hagerty Media/Angus Peel

If you have not driven a Ferrari F355, you are in for a treat when you do. It is the ideal mix of hands-on driver input with just enough assistance to do away with the drudgery of parking and slow-speed maneuvers. The hydraulic power steering offers plenty of feedback when you begin to push the F355 harder in bends, yet it will track straight along the motorway or an imperfectly surfaced country road without trying to deviate along every ridge in the road.

That blend of easy usability and superb driving is further underlined by the suspension. It has unequal length double wishbone suspension with coil springs over gas-filled shock absorbers front and rear. While not luxury car-compliant, it’s more supple than you might at first imagine, allowing the Ferrari to make swift progress without being jolted off the line chosen by the driver. It also means the car’s occupants are not wincing at the sight of every ripple or dip in the road ahead. That said, you still need to exercise caution when driving over speed humps to avoid scraping the low, smoothly aerodynamic underside.

Then we come to what is the star of the show for many F355 owners—the engine. It’s a V-8 that soars to 8500 rpm and loves doing so, accompanied by a sound that positively encouraged such use. By the standards of the latest supercars, the F355 is merely fast rather than outright ballistic, but that makes it all the easier to enjoy this Ferrari’s ability more of the time. Working up and down the intermediate gears on swoopy roads is a joy, aided by the open metal gate of the manual gearbox’s shifter. Choose an F355 with the F1 gearbox and you need to adapt your driving style a little to account for the automated clutch, but this is a skill to be relished instead of reviled as so many road test reports in period claimed. Sure, the F1 ’box is nothing like as slick as current dual-clutch offerings, but it can be made to work very smoothly.

As for practicality, the F355’s cabin provides plenty of space, it’s decently refined on longer drives, and there’s even some storage in the front boot as well as behind the seats. Those seats are supportive and the dash is much more logically arranged than in previous Ferraris.

How Much Does an F355 Cost?

1995 Ferrari F355 GTS badge lettering
Hagerty Media/Angus Peel

While Ferrari F355 prices remained rather stable during the early 2010s, they rose very dramatically during the late 2010s and into the 2020s to the point that these are six figure cars in most cases. Over the last 10 years, the median condition #2 (excellent) value in the Hagerty Price Guide has increased by 338 percent. Strong demand for the F355 from those wanting a Ferrari to use regularly as well from collectors looking to add one to their garage has helped. The entry point to a running and driving Ferrari F355 is $106,000 for a 1995 Spider in #3 (good) condition, or $152,000 in #2 condition. Next is the coupe at $150,000 in #3 condition and $202,000 in #2 condition, and finally the targa-topped GTS at $174,000 in #3 condition and $218,000 in #2 condition.

The standard manual gearbox is more common than the F1 transmission, with around three manuals for every F1 car, but they are the more desirable to own and drive. As a result, expect to pay about 25 percent less for a paddle-shift car.

What Goes Wrong and What Should You Look for When Buying an F355?

1995 Ferrari F355 GTS rear
Hagerty Media/Angus Peel

Anyone in the market for a Ferrari F355 is most likely buying from a recognized specialist or having any prospective purchase checked over by a Ferrari expert. However, it still pays to do your own research, so here are the key points to look for when buying this exquisite Italian.

The body is the first place to start. Look for any tears in the roof of the Spider and signs of leaks from old, brittle seals in both the Spider and GTS. The Spider’s roof can also stop working if the potentiometers or hydraulic pump fail, so be sure it goes up and down smoothly. The point where the back wing meets the rear buttress is a known rot spot and almost every F355 that has seen regular use will have had a repair and respray here. The quality of the work will affect the value of the car, so look carefully at the work and receipts in the history folder.

The same is true for the front of most F355s, as the bodywork becomes stone chipped. A high-grade respray is not something to worry about, but do check it’s been done by a good bodyshop. You can also check for front-end crash damage by looking at the inside of the bonnet, as this usually reveals any tell-tale creases, plus the original factory satin black finish on the underside of the bonnet is very difficult to replicate—if it’s glossy, it’s been repaired. While checking the body, look at the wheels, too; they have an insert when the bolts pass through and this cracks with age. New inserts can be pressed in, so look for evidence this work has been done.

Aside from the usual bodywork checks, have a look inside the radiator apertures to see if they are clogged with leaves and mud, as this will rot the radiators and bodywork. A car where this is clear and clean points to a careful ownership history.

In the cabin, it’s quite simple but you need to look at the finish on the switches and buttons, because this rubberized coating goes soft and sticky. It can be sorted by re-covering the switches, but it can be costly to remove all the controls to be redone. The leather on the dash and door cards also becomes creased with age, and re-trimming is the only proper long-term fix.

1995 Ferrari F355 GTS engine bay vertical
Hagerty Media/Angus Peel

From a mechanical standpoint, the F355’s V-8 is robust, but look for a full service history. A clutch will last around 15,000 to 20,000 miles, though F1 cars can get through a clutch more quickly if it’s been driven a lot in town. Any rattles when the engine is started should sound warning bells. The cam belts can be replaced with the engine in situ, but most experts reckon it’s better to remove the motor, as this will help spot other issues that can be sorted before they develop into a problem.

The exhaust manifolds can crack, which can lead to the motor running hot and burning out the exhaust valve. A lot of F355s now run with an aftermarket exhaust, notably from Tubi or Capristo, which won’t harm the car’s value. The bypass valve in the original exhaust can fail and cause a rattle, so keep an ear open for this. Also, make sure the car has had the relevant recalls to prevent engine fires, which have destroyed several F355s because of leaks. While peering into the engine bay, have a look at the engine’s support cradle for any signs of corrosion. To sort this means taking the engine out, repairing the cradle, and repainting it.

Which Is the Right F355 for You?

1995 Ferrari F355 GTS rear three quarter
Hagerty Media/Angus Peel

Purists will head for the Ferrari F355 in GTB form with the manual gearbox, because it offers the ideal mid-1990s Ferrari experience with a lower price tag in today’s market than the GTS. For those who want some fresh air as part of their F355 experience, you can’t go wrong with either the GTS or the Spider. It just depends on individual taste.

The other major choice when picking a Ferrari F355 is whether to go manual or F1 semi-auto. Most buyers now want the proper full manual gearbox, as it’s easier to drive and live with, and you get that gorgeous aluminum open gate on the transmission tunnel for the click-clack noise when changing gear. The F1 gearbox does have its fans, however, and you will get used to driving it, so don’t disregard an immaculate F1-equipped car in preference to a shabby manual F355. The most important advice, though, is to buy the best, cleanest, and best-documented example you can find and afford.


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    The Ferrari is something cool but the care and feeding is just plain crazy.

    On the other hand the C8 new is the price of the Ferrari and much less care and feeding.

    I’ve read that F1 gearboxes are notorious for eating clutches making them super expensive to keep on the road. Plus you’re buying an old Ferrari so it seems to me that a gated shifter is manditory!

    “Ferrari had not offered such a desirable entry-level model since the Dino 246”
    I think maybe the 11,000 308 GTB/GTS Ferrari sold might have a different take on that. Hahahaha.
    Also, I thought the North/South orientation of the 355’s engine made in-situ replacement of the timing belts impossible or nearly so…unlike the 308/328 with their transverse engines.

    I think back then, that the F355 was the first serious Ferrari in years. The 308~328s were slow and not that rewarding to drive. I bought a Renault R5 Turbo back then, and have enjoyed the experience ever since. The F355 was fast, handled well, and had proper, modern systems. But then, I already had an R5Turbo…
    Today, with 6 figure Ferrari prices… I just can’t see it as being any sort of a good value, unless you bought it new, and kept it (properly maintained) all this time. Like I did with my R5turbo.

    Today, an F355 an old car with lots of areas that require attention, mostly by specialists, but perhaps by the occasional owner with the requisite skills and connections. And, time has given us a couple of alternatives.
    I happen to like the Alfa 4C, which has proven to be somewhat owner serviceable, quite reliable, faster than any F355 and easier to drive on our local Santa Monica Mountains canyon roads. It’s Italian, and modern. A bit small, but it fits me.

    And, of course, the supercar bargain of the century, the C8 Corvette, deliverable with a full warranty and dealer service for far less than a perfect F355. Probably gets better fuel economy as well.

    I am a big Ferrari fan, but there are no bargains with that nameplate anymore. Even the 2+2s, which were fodder for GTO and 250 TR reproductions are now over 6 figures for a mediocre one. The 250 GTP2 I played with in college is now a million dollar car. I want something that is beyond just the possession, sitting in my garage.

    If one is looking for an exotic, there are other cars… Maserati has lovely V8 coupes with manual gearboxes, as does Aston Martin with the Vantage V8. These cars trade for half the cost of an F355, and are actually easier to maintain, and, being newer, quicker and handle quite well.

    But if you have to have a Ferrari, and want to pay less for it than you would for a 246 Dino or a Boxer/TR, then the F355 is a pretty good bet to drive and enjoy.

    I gave up on the exotics… I have a hot rod Morgan +8. Have not had so much fun in years…

    Probably the best sounding exhaust of any car. I owned one for a while and sold it before too much went wrong with it. They are very fragile cars. As mentioned, the switches will go sticky on all of them. The leather on the dash will shrink on all of them. The exhaust manifolds will crack on (nearly all of them. The cats will blow out. The valve guides needed replacing on a fair number of them.

    The operation of the top on the spider is a joke. Unlatch the top and manually pull it back about 10″. Now if you are doing that, you might as well keep going and have the top down in seconds like a Miata. But no, this is a Ferrari, so you then push the top retract switch. The seats motor forward, the windows go down, the top retracts, the seats motor forward again. Then you get out and put on the cover for the top. Think much can go wrong with that system? You’re right!

    A ‘fair’ example of an F355 at a bargain price with ‘some’ issues and needing ‘some’ work and missing ‘some’ small parts would be the perfect next car project for Webster once he gets his Dino on the road. How hard could it be?

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