Ferrari had a hard act to follow when they set out to design a replacement for the universally acclaimed F355 model. Derived from the then ten year old 348 model, the F355 was ready for replacement in 1999, but Ferrari did not discard everything from the 'old' model; the 40 valve V8 engine was pretty much carried over into the all new chassis. Dubbed the 360 Modena, the new car was quite a departure from the styling that had evolved from the 308 all the way through to the F355.
Where the F355 was a departure in engine design compared to its predecessor, the 360 Modena saw a whole new approach to chassis and body design. To safe weight, the Modena's chassis consisted mostly of aluminium, replacing the steel used in its predecessors. The end result was a construction 40% more rigid and 28% lighter, despite a 10% increase in the overall dimensions. The lightweight chassis is suspended independently all-round by adjustable double wishbones. Fitted in the chassis was a slightly larger version of the F355's V8, good for 400 bhp.
Even more striking than the new chassis, was the Modena's new exterior design. Designed in Pininfarina's wind tunnel, the 360 Modena extensively uses ground effects aerodynamics. Air is fed to the radiators through two intakes, leaving the centre section of the nose free to feed air to the underbody tunnels. This setup removes the need for the traditional grille, giving the Modena a very unconventional look. Another major styling change was the inclusion of clear headlights, replacing the pop-up headlights, used on all previous V8 models.
The 360 was available as the 360 Modena coupe and 360 Spider convertible, which meant the targa model was no longer included. Soon after the launch of the road car, a Challenge model was introduced to compete in the Ferrari Challenge Championship. At the end of the production run a stripped version, the 'Challenge Stradale', was launched. It featured a more powerful engine, new body kit and carbon fibre disc brakes, which significantly improved braking to the extent that it can challenge the 'Challenge' car on the track.
Increasing popularity of GT-racing created an interest with Ferrari customers to race the 360 Modena. Ferrari specialist Michelotto set out to design a full blown GT version of the Modena, which complied with FIA and ACO regulations, making it eligible for endurance races. Built in sufficient numbers the 360 Challenge car was used as a base for the GT racer. The first seventeen examples built in 2001 and 2002 were modified Challenge cars. A second series of twenty examples were constructed in 2002 and 2003 by Ferrari and Michelotto and were built from the ground up as racing cars.
Considerable success was had by these racers, but stiff competition from Porsche's 911 prevented the '360 GT' from claiming a class victory in the most prestigious of all endurance races, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A final series of competition 360s was produced in 2003 and 2004 by Michelotto with the 360 Challenge Stradale as a base. Dubbed the 360 GTC, it was again fully supported by the factory.
Pictured is the Scuderia Ecosse entered 360 GTC, which lined up for the 2005 Le Mans 24 Hours race. In the June 5th test session it finished sixth in class.
If looks win races, then the 360 GTC is sure to win every time! In the real world however looks seldom have a bearing on performance. I would really like to see the 360 GTC do well in the FIA GT Championship, but I would especially like to see the 360 GTC do well in the really long distance races (e.g Le Mans, Bathurst, Spa, etc.). I've noticed that Ferraris used for sports car racing tend to be rather fragile unless considerable amounts of time, money and effort and expertise are spent on them. Contrast this with Porsche 911 GT3s, which seem to be able to run for 24 hours straight out of the factory. I'm quite sure the 360 GTC will keep the 911 GT3s honest in the relative short rounds of the FIA GT championship, but I have my lingering doubts about them doing the same in the enduros.
A Nice Improvement
There is no doubting that the Ferrari 360 Modena is a very fast and potent machine, but to me it has always been...tame I suppose. It has never looked like the highly capable car it is. Until now...the new rear end with diffuser and huge rear areofoil is superb, and the modifications compliment the car rather well, rather tahn uglifying it. The 360, to me, has always seemed very square. It is short, wide, and doesnt look low. It looks rather box like, maybe that is why i have never thought it looked that fast. But the GT-C is a good improvement. The car now looks like the trackblazer it really is.