At the turn of the century Ferrari introduced the 360 Modena. It was the latest chapter in its storied line of two seat, mid-engine V8 sports cars which began with the 308 GTB in 1975. With a base price of around $150,000 Ferrari’s entry-level model was hardly inexpensive. But in the world of exotic cars it was a relative bargain.
Automobile Magazine said, “The Modena’s performance envelope is too huge for mailing” (Nov. 2003). Such a statement was understandable for a car with zero to 60 mph times of 4.3 seconds, lateral acceleration of 0.95g and a top speed of about 185 mph.
The design adhered to the classic formula of more power, lower weight and better handling. Compared with the outgoing F355 model, Ferrari extended the wheelbase, increased chassis stiffness and reduced weight some 200 pounds. This was accomplished in large part through extensive use of aluminum in the chassis and suspension.
Brakes are 13.0” vented and drilled discs all around, mounted inside 18” wheels. In addition to standard anti-lock brakes and traction control, electronically controlled shocks offer standard and sport modes, with settings varying with vehicle speed and input from three accelerometers.
Styled by Pininfarina, Ferrari’s long time design firm, the body was sculpted to reduce the drag coefficient to 0.335 while increasing downforce to some 400 pounds at 180 mph. A contributing element is the lack of a front grill. Instead one radiator is mounted on each side of the nose. The resulting center channel enables air to be better directed along the flat underbody and through the rear diffuser.
The heart of the car is a 3.6 liter aluminum V8 featuring five valves per cylinder. Redline is a dizzying 8,500 rpm. The 40 valve unit produces 395 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque at 4,750 rpm. Its red intake plenums are visible through a tempered glass cover on the rear decklid.
A dry sump oil system, titanium connecting rods, drive-by-wire throttle system, variable intake valve timing and servo controlled variable length intake runners round out the longitudinally mounted powerplant.
Output is channeled through either a six speed manual transmission or a semi-automatic version with paddle operated shifters. In automatic mode it was reported to be clunky in city driving. But the electro-hydraulic system can execute shifts in as little as 150 milliseconds and precisely blip the throttle on downshifts.
The 360 Modena formed the basis for several variants including the 360 Modena Spider, 360 Challenge and 360 Challenge Stradale. The Modena Spider, while similar to the hardtop berlinetta, features a power operated canvas top and chassis reinforcements which increases weight by about 400 pounds. In 2000 the Spider’s starting price was about $165,000.
The 360 Challenge was built for the one make Ferrari Challenge race series. At approximately 2,800 pounds it weighs 260 pounds less than the standard 360 due to the use of carbon fiber door panels and bodywork front and rear, and the absence of air conditioning, power windows and much of the interior trim.
A roll cage and associated safety equipment (e.g. fire extinguisher) were added. The semi-automatic gearbox received its own oil radiator and a beefier clutch. Brakes were upgraded to larger 14” discs in the front, and four piston calipers front and rear. Shocks are non-adjustable but camber, toe, and ride height are. Pirelli P Zero slicks, combined with lower and stiffer suspension were the finishing touches for the track. Sticker price was in the region of $185,000.
The 360 Challenge Stradale, the ultimate roadgoing 360, was introduced for the lineup’s final year of production in 2004. A revised rear spoiler and bodywork increased downforce, while larger 19” wheels and carbon ceramic brakes all around and a stiffer suspension – offering sport or race settings – help translate that to mechanical grip.
The cylinder heads were ported and polished and the exhaust system was tuned for lower back pressure, bumping power up to about 425 hp.
The Challenge Stradale is about 240 pounds lighter than the standard coupe through the use of carbon fiber inner door panels, seat shells and center tunnel, and Lexan instead of glass for the engine cover. A racing stripe and sliding Lexan side windows were optional. Really. Some 250 units were allocated for North America at about $200,000 apiece.
Significantly, Ferrari’s utter dominance of Formula One between 2000 and 2004 largely coincided with production of the 360 Modena, which was replaced for the 2005 model year by the F430. The advancements made with the F430 reflect the racing lessons learned during Ferrari’s racing hot streak.