For many drivers, the idea of owning a Ferrari is a dream, and one that won’t necessarily come true due to such factors as expense and impracticality. But the Ferrari 360 Modena could be the car that turns your dream into reality, since it’s one of the most accessible Ferrari models ever made. The car boasts dropping values, a livable driving experience, reasonable maintenance costs and surprisingly strong reliability, all factors that convinced me to buy a bright red 2004 model about a year ago.
But the 360 Modena is hardly perfect, so you’ll want to watch out for several key factors before pulling the trigger on a used model. You may even need to spend some serious time looking for the right one; it took me several months to find the 360 I eventually bought. To help you through the process, we’ve listed the most important factors to ensure that you know everything you should before buying a used 360 Modena.
The Best Year?
The Ferrari 360 was manufactured from 1999 to 2005 in two body styles: a hardtop model called simply the 360 Modena (or the 360 coupe) and a soft-top convertible dubbed the 360 Spider. Two transmissions were offered: a 6-speed manual and an automated manual dubbed the F1. A high-performance version, called the 360 Challenger Stradale, was available in limited numbers for the 2004 model year. It was only offered as a coupe, and it only came with the F1 transmission.
With cars in general, and especially with Ferrari, you’ll want to buy the newest model you can afford. That rule very much applies in this case, because there are certain problems present in earlier 360 models that are mostly absent from later ones, including frame cracking, motor mount issues, fluid leaks, older engine software, and a cam variator issue (discussed below). As a result, most experts suggest buying a 2002 or later 360, though an early car with documented updates could be just as good.
Cam Variator Recall
Probably the most notorious issue that plagued earlier models was the failure of the cam variator, which could cause serious damage to the car’s engine. This issue primarily affected early 360 models made in the 1999 and 2000 model years. While a simple upgrade from Ferrari easily solved the problem, not all models have received the update.
It’s such a major issue that we strongly suggest checking any early 360 VIN with your local Ferrari dealership to ensure that it’s had the cam variator service action performed. If it has, you won’t need to give it a second thought. If not, you’ll want to ask the Ferrari dealer how much it’ll cost to perform the service and work that amount into the sale price.
Major Service History
Like most Ferraris, the 360 periodically requires a major service to replace engine belts. While older Ferrari models required the engine to be taken out for this service, a skilled technician should have no problem performing a major service on the 360 with the engine in place. Still, the service can easily cost $3,000 to $5,000, and it’s required every 3 to 5 years, depending on your level of anxiety.
If you purchase a used 360, be sure to inquire about the timing of the last major service, and be just as sure to get records documenting the service from a reputable Ferrari dealership or independent mechanic. If you can’t verify the timing of the last service, you should probably carry out another one just to be safe. Since that could set you back several thousand dollars, be sure to work it into the sale price.
How’s the Clutch?
It doesn’t matter whether your 360 has a manual or an F1 transmission, because it has a clutch. While F1 cars can be set to shift like an automatic, the transmission still uses a clutch rather than a typical torque converter to change gears.
Since a clutch is a wear item, you’ll have to replace your clutch at some point, which can be an expensive job. F1 clutches tend to wear faster than manual transmission clutches, and they can be just as expensive to replace. Although my manual transmission 360 never needed a new clutch during the time I owned it, I was quoted more than $5,000 from the dealership to replace it, should the need arise.
Fortunately, a thorough inspection should have no trouble assessing clutch wear in a manual or F1 car. In fact, a mechanical inspection of an F1 car should be able to provide an exact number, since the figure can be discovered through a computer program. In a manual car, a skilled technician should be able to estimate roughly how much clutch life is left through a simple visual approximation.
Although many Ferrari purists enjoy keeping their vehicle exactly as intended from the factory, you’ll find that many 360s have been modified at one point or another. The most common modification is an exhaust system, though other upgrades might include aftermarket wheels, a Challenge grille in back to add additional cooling and aftermarket stereo components.
While you’ll have to decide whether a modified car is right for you, one thing is for certain: Substantial modifications will likely hurt you when the time comes to resell the car. If your 360 has aftermarket wheels, a lowered suspension, a snazzy new paint job and big speakers, expect your potential pool of buyers to be limited and, as a result, your selling price to drop.
You might also want to think twice about a 360 that’s had any performance modifications, such as a roll cage or a racing harness. This could suggest track use, which might involve extra wear on the engine, suspension, brakes or other parts of the car. With that said, we don’t necessarily advocate against buying a car that’s been tracked, but we strongly suggest getting a full mechanical inspection before you do.
Typical Used Car Stuff
Of course, a Ferrari isn’t dramatically different from a normal used car in many respects. You’ll want to check the condition of the tires, brakes, interior, paint and wheels. You’ll want to make sure all the lights work, inside and out, and ensure that the steering stays on-center when going straight and feels correct when turning. And if you test-drive the car (many drivers don’t because the right car might be located thousands of miles away), you’ll want to get over your initial "I’m in a Ferrari!" shock and do your best to remain calm, objective and careful about every aspect of the test-drive process.
Get an Inspection!
Our last piece of advice: No matter what you do, do not purchase a 360 without a strict mechanical inspection from a trained technician. Before I bought my 360, I passed on two different cars after mechanical inspections turned up costly issues lurking underneath the surface. While we’ve listed many of the basic issues here, these cars are costly, complicated vehicles with even more costly, complicated parts, and you never know how much money a $500 mechanical inspection might save you in the future. If a seller won’t commit to a mechanical inspection, we would pass on the vehicle and move on to another option.
In the end, a 360 might just be the easiest way to find yourself in a modern Ferrari. But it isn’t without its issues, as our list above shows.