The Streets of San Francisco

f360gtb1_2_4945639354a4b-lightboxFull throttle into the tunnel as the shriek of the exhaust reverberates off the walls. The Ferrari orchestral movement crescendos as four other Modenas join me in rapid succession. The wild banshee scream is deafening. Pure music. Huge smiles etch our faces as we burst into the sunlight at speed. Down the slope onto the Golden Gate Bridge. Streaking across the stately bridge in light early morning traffic, we see the Marin Headlands and the Pacific on the left, and Alcatraz to our right. Paradise…

I purchased my 2000 Ferrari 360 Modena almost 3 years ago. My first Ferrari was a 550 Maranello. What a torque monster that was! It could spin the rear tires even with the traction control on. But it was a heavy car. More of a GT. It was a blast to drive, but I wanted a sports car that was more chuckable and nimble. The local Porsche dealer let me drive a 996 Turbo with the X50 package. Wow! This was the driving experience I wanted. Immediately afterwards I went to Ferrari of San Francisco to discuss selling my Maranello. When he found out I was considering a Porsche (sacrilege!), he showed me this gorgeous Blu Le Mans 360 sitting in the showroom. Carbon fiber racing seats in Cuoio leather. 6-speed manual. I fell in love with it. My fate was sealed within minutes.

The original owner was a former Ferrari Challenge driver. He took superb care of the car. The interior looked new, which was all the more surprising as it had 16k miles on it. Everything is swathed in either leather or aluminum. Plastic is visible only on the vents, the digital clock, the radio, rear view mirror and on the surrounds of switches. The only quirky items are the cheap plastic digital clock that looks really out of place in such luxury, the AC button that must be pushed in to turn it OFF, and the battery that can be accessed only from the passenger footwell. There is plenty of luggage space in the front trunk, as well as behind the seats.

When the door handle is lifted, the window slides down automatically a fraction of an inch. Upon closing, the window pops back up into place, thus ensuring a good seal. Once ensconced in the CF racing seats, you sit very low to the ground. The racing seats have minimal seat padding, and manual rake, fore and aft adjustments only, and no height adjustability. The seats come in small, medium and large. I understand the racing seats are uncomfortable for many people, and apparently reduce the resale value or desirability somewhat. I personally find them snug and very comfortable. Visibility out the front and rear are good. As can be expected from the mid-engine layout though, the blind spots on both sides are quite significant. One has to turn the passenger side mirror away from the car so that the sides are no longer visible. Relying so much on the mirrors is a little disconcerting at first, but once the confidence level rises, it becomes second nature.

Before that first drive, I had never been a big fan of the Modena’s looks. To me, the 355 was the epitome of contemporary Ferrari classic design. The 360 shape was too radical. Or so I thought. I quickly got over that notion. From any angle, I can’t resist staring at the sexy curves, the low roofline, the incredible width, and the muscular rear haunches poised ready to leap into action. In a sea of red Ferrari’s, mine stands out. I’ve had people come over and introduce themselves by telling me they had seen my car at another event.

The only complaint I had was the quiet exhaust. I quickly rectified that with a Cargraphic exhaust. The rear plastic panel was quickly replaced with a Challenge grill, a metal piece with hundreds of round perforations to aid the heat clearance of the mid-mounted engine. The front grill was also replaced with Challenge grills which appear to block debris into the air intake better than the standard egg crate grill. Eventually the stock 18″ Michelin Pilot Sports were replaced with Pirelli P-Zeros on 19″ Hamann Editions, 255/30-19 in front, and 355/25-19 in back. The front fenders were crimped (not rolled) a la Challenge Stradale so rubbing has not been an issue at all.

I debated briefly before choosing the traditional manual transmission over the high tech F1 system. Although the F1 can shift far faster and consistently than any human, my intent is not merely to go fast. I want to go fast because I did it. The dance of both feet to finesse the car. The clack of the chromed gear shift on the gate. The smooth up shift. The perfect heel and toe down shift. Blipping the throttle with my own foot. Hitting that sweet spot is what it’s all about. The engine roar. The howl of the exhaust. It’s the driving experience I enjoy, not just the speed.

This is no garage queen. It had almost 16,000 miles on the clock at the time of purchase and is now up to over 31,000 miles. Most Modena’s have under 10k miles. The dealer says this is one of the highest mileage 360’s he’s ever seen. He drove it a few months ago and pronounced it as tight as the day he sold it to the original owner. What a testament to the engineers at Maranello. It’s been trouble free except for a few minor items like a dead battery and the seat adjustment lever coming loose. Oil changes are performed every 5,000 miles at just under $1,000 each. The major 30k service was completed along with replacing the water pump at the same time. The grand total for that was $6,000. Ouch.

I try to drive it as much as possible. The racing seats are very comfortable even on the 380 mile trip to Los Angeles which I’ve done at least four times. I’ve displayed it at the Italiano Concorso on the Monterey Peninsula three times. I’ve done several runs up the Pacific Coast Highway in Northern California past Bodega Bay to Sea Ranch. I’ve taken it on track a few times. I even drive it to work at least once a week. I’ve been stuck in bumper to bumper traffic in the hot California summer with no overheating problems.

Overall, the 360 is a wonderful exotic sports car that is both practical and reliable. Nowadays there are many cars that can give a 360 a run for its money, but few of them can provide the same driving experience.

 

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Norman Yung