It was a perfect summer night when I got to meet one of my personal heroes – one that inspired me to pursue a lifelong passion in cars and one that I have lost countless nights of sleep dreaming over. The setting could not have been scripted any better; a clear sky, warm breezes, an open highway, and this – a 2001 Ferrari 360 Modena. It felt like the stars were aligned for me to finally experience my dream car, so naturally, I gave it the beans… “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”
No, this was not the wailing sound elicited by the 360 Modena’s aftermarket Tubi exhaust near its 8,750 RPM redline, but my scream of joy as I put my foot down. The volume increases in sync between myself and the car, and it did not take long for a few drops of happy tears to shed from the corner of my eye. This is it, just me and the 360, living out my teenage dream and I just could not believe it’s real.
The year was 2003, I was a student pacing outside a shopping mall, probably waiting for my parents to pick me up. Suddenly, I heard a high-pitched engine start that immediately had me swinging my head. Remember, this was two years before YouTube was founded so all the reviews of the Ferrari 360 I have read did nothing to prepare me to hear that sound in person for the first time, and man was it the godliest tone to ever grace my ear canal.
Fast forward to this day, where my friend tossed me the keys to his Argento Nürburgring (read: silver) 2001 Ferrari 360 Modena for the week. Naturally, I took my time to admire this piece of Italian art first. After several awkward years where it was outshined by the F355 and F430, the models that came immediately before and after, I noticed the 360 Modena has aged beautifully into a classic of its own.
The flat nose, wide stance, and smooth body contour suggest it is ready to go fast, and its perfect mid-engine proportion just cannot be replicated. The owner had taken the extra step to install a black mesh grille from the 360 Challenge Stradale on the rear that not only made it look sportier, but allowed just enough of a glimpse into the beautiful fabrication inside to keep you intrigued that much longer. A fun fact; the mesh Challenge grille is just about a mandatory upgrade to regular Modena and Spider models as it helps some of the heat from the engine bay escape, preventing the taillights from literally melting.
With my heart racing, I gently pulled onto the little flap on the driver door, and found myself immersed in this rich Bordeaux (red) and black two-tone leather interior that is a perfect blend of sporty and elegance. The optional Daytona seats are surprisingly supportive on the back despite feeling a little short on the bottom, and there is actually a good amount of space for me to feel somewhat comfortable inside. This particular 360 is the only model to be delivered to the Canadian market with a factory removable sunroof, and one of less than 30 cars globally. The roof is removable and stows comfortably in the front storage compartment, letting a nice breeze inside. I am convinced there is no cooler view than when you turn your head to look at the red Ferrari engine covers peeking out from the rear window.
Ferrari outfitted this cabin with aluminium trim and exposed screws for an industrial vibe that was a perfect accent to the vehicle’s centre piece – the sacred six-speed gated manual gearbox. You can see the spring-loaded mechanism just by looking through the shift gate, you can feel the parts meshing into one another just by moving the shifter, and the metal clanging sound while you do that is music to every car enthusiast.
Not able to wait anymore, I fired the 360 Modena up with its little red Ferrari key, and a familiar roar instantly sent goosebumps down my spine. When compared to the sound I heard two decades ago, this is a little muffled, which is understandable since I am hearing it from the inside this time. There is a sense of raw passion instantly elicited through the slight vibrations from around the cabin, and you can tell it just begs to be driven.
Getting the 360 Modena going took a bit of getting used to, but it was not the car’s fault as its clutch is surprisingly light and first gear is easy to shift into. The problem was me – my nerves were running too high to be able to give the rev-happy engine the right amount of gas to get going. Once I got over that though, I quickly headed over to the nearest highway so I can properly enjoy the moment I had only dreamed about.
Powered by a 3.6-litre V8, the 360 Modena outputs a moderate 400 horsepower at 8,750 RPM and 275 lb-ft. of torque at 4,750 RPM. While these figures were respectable twenty years ago, the 360 Modena no longer feels fast, especially when my senses have been numbed forever by all the crazy acceleration forces generated by electric motors and fancy turbochargers. I’m not suggesting it is slow though – it still hustles and can get you into trouble with enforcement quickly if you are being silly; but I would advise you against going for it if Brian O’Connor and Dominic Toretto were to roll up beside you in the new Toyota GR Supra.
In lieu of extreme G-forces, my neurotransmitters were instead activated through a host of other stimulants felt behind the wheel. You can feel the steering and the shifter rumble, you are in constant communication with the chassis, and all your senses are just charged up from your surroundings. Once the tears and emotions settled down, I simply felt alive and kept on driving with the biggest grin on my face the entire time.
The engine starts to sing at around 3,000 RPM or so with a distinct increase in pitch at 6,000 RPM, at which point the 360 Modena neighs at such a high decibel that is surely going to push your elevated dopamine level through the roof. It exhilarates differently than what modern cars do; the absolute time to 100 km/h, to the quarter-mile mark, or to cross a finish line are secondary here, instead you are focused on the process and soak up every bit of physical connection and visceral reaction that have unfortunately been lost in the evolution.
When I finally got to slow down, I noticed the brake pedal is a bit spongy and can be hard to modulate in traffic. I looked around and noticed the interior is very basic with the only luxury features being an aftermarket stereo supporting Apple CarPlay, and power-adjustable seats, and the instrument gauges are quite hard to read at night. There is also the constant fear of the ‘what if’ – what if something minor were to break and it costs $5,000? What if I back into something and damage those Tubi exhaust tips? Well, once the light turned green again, all of these concerns quickly went away and the grin returned.
Somehow, someway, this 2001 Ferrari 360 Modena has managed to escape the test of time, and managed to take me back for a ride to a simpler time. There is no boring moment when you are in and around the 360 Modena; it exudes confidence and carries so much theatre everywhere it goes, and truly captivates everyone along the way – just like that fateful day in 2003 that sent me down the rabbit hole to pursue a dream in the automotive world. Until next time, my hero!
Photo Credit: Desmond Chan and Ste Ho