Almost every Ferrari is remarkable—both diehard enthusiasts and car casuals see the prancing horse logo as prestigious and desirable. Over its decades of manufacturing, the Italian automaker has shaped the design of high-end sports cars, and many of their technological innovations have been used in mass-market vehicles.
One such source of technological innovation is the Ferrari F355, produced in the mid-to-late 1990s. Housing the smallest engine in Ferrari’s lineup, the F355 did not garner as much attention as the legendary F50 or F512M… but it did leave a mark on the automotive world that still impacts cars today.
The 1995 F355 was slated to replace the Ferrari 348. Unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show a year prior, it was the result of efforts to improve performance while enhancing drivability.
The F355 used a modified version of the 348’s engine, increasing the displacement from 3.4L to 3.5L and adding 5-valve cylinder heads. This new cylinder head design and larger displacement resulted in the F355 putting out 375 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque. Upon release, the F355 achieved the highest horsepower-per-liter rating of any production car at the time. It only took 4.5 seconds to reach 60mph from a standstill, with a top speed of 183 mph.
Several improvements enhanced the steering and transmission to make the F355 more drivable. Replacing cables with a rod-driven system made shifting more precise. Hydraulic power steering made it easier to drive at lower speeds. The F355 even came with a coolant heat-exchanger to warm the gearbox oil quicker to speed up cold weather shifting.
Initially offered in a coupe as the F355 Berlinetta, the F355 Spider soft-top would join the lineup a year later. A special race-ready F355 Challenge version dominated the tracks straight out of the factory, and 108 of this model were produced. Overall, through its 1995−1999 production run, 11,273 F355s were produced. The F355 was the first production car to come with a paddle-shift transmission, earning the car its place in automotive history.
Ferrari had unveiled the technology in the Ferrari 640 in 1989’s F1 season, securing multiple wins however reliability problems plagued the car and prevented Ferrari from winning the season. Regardless, the introduction of this transmission had started a technological revolution, and by 1995, every single F1 team had a paddle-shift transmission derived from Ferrari’s design.