The 360 Spider is Ferrari’s 20th road going convertible. In terms of engineering, looks, and performance it was the best production spider Maranello had ever produced at that time. Thanks to the exclusive know-how Ferrari has accumulated as a Formula 1 constructor, it was the most technologically advanced convertible available of its time.
Despite the car’s mid-mounted 400bhp V8 engine, Ferrari engineers found a way of creating a roof that automatically folds into its own well between the cabin and the engine bay, thus ensuring purity of line. The intrinsic quality of the design is underlined by the two fairings in the bodywork to the rear of the seats which evoke memories of classic Ferraris. These are matched by the two roll hoops that provide maximum safety for both of the car’s occupants. With the top up the car is aggressive, emphasizing the V8 visible through engine cover. Lowering the fully automatic roof transforms the 360 Spider, highlighting its connection to great sports racers. As strong and rigid as the Berlinetta, the 360 Spider offers performance almost identical to the coupe version, achieving a top speed over 180mph while weighing barely 130lbs more and offering the same amount of room for the occupants and their luggage.
The most striking aspect of the 360 Spider’s styling is its convertible top. With incredible care, using the wonderful shape of the 360 Maranello as a starting point, the engineers and designers created a stylish and highly effective, fully automatic folding roof. Top down, the Spider’s rear fairings evoke the great era of sports racing cars, smoothing the lines of the roll hoops that protect the occupants. A design tour-de-force, the Spider gives nothing away to the berlinetta on the road, the track, or the boulevard.
The 360 Spider features a fully automatic roof. The driver needs only to slow below 3mph and press a button to have the roof totally disappear into - or reappear from - the special well between the engine and cabin in a mere 20 seconds. No matter the seating positions, the roof can close to form a total seal with the windshield or open to let in all the sunshine. The mechanism involves a complex two-stage action in which the roof folds double before it slips inside its compartment to be covered by its own special tonneau made of high-density SMC to reduce noise. The roof’s invisible frame is made from a combination of cast aluminum and pressed steel elements, driven by electro-hydraulic actuators. The roof is available in four colours.
Like the 360 Modena, the 360 Spider is made primarily of aluminum. It is thus extremely light and extremely strong. Thanks to its aluminum alloy body and frame, bonded with special Feran welds, the 360 Spider is as torsionally and flexionally rigid as its berlinetta counterpart. While most of the body is of aluminum, the rigid tonneau that covers the folded roof, and the tub in which the folded roof and mechanism reside, are formed from sound-reducing SMC. The roof itself is made from bonded fabrics and features an interchangeable PVC rear screen.
For the Spider, the 360 Modena’s chassis has been adapted to optimise static and dynamic rigidity. This involved strengthening the sills, stiffening the front of the floorpan and redesigning the windscreen frame. The rear bulkhead has also been stiffened to isolate the cabin from engine sounds. The result is a structural efficiency and a dynamic response that sets new standards for open car chassis and body shell construction. The occupants of the 360 Spider are ensconced by an ultra-protective safetycage, backed up by two tubular steel roll hoops that form an integral part of the hood system and work with the windscreen reinforcement to offer maximum resistance in rollover situations. The entire roll bar structure is also coated in a special material that progressively absorbs energy in the area around the occupants’ heads under its soft Connolly leather trim.
The 360 Spider’s 5-valve per cylinder, 3.6 liter V8 engine produces 400bhp and is centrally mounted with dry-sump lubrication. The oil tank is placed, F1-style, on the spacer between the longitudinal engine and unitary gearbox. Pick-up is spectacular thanks to excellent torque peaking at 275lb-ft at 4750rpm, 80% of that available at just 3000rpm. The engine’s flexibility means that the car is relaxing and easy to drive even in heavy traffic. Power output is a record-breaking 400bhp at 8,500rpm (112bhp per liter) the highest specific output yet achieved by a naturally-aspirated V8 production engine. The power unit features a variable geometry intake system, five-main bearing crankshaft with counter-balanced 180° crank throws, titanium con rods, 5 valves per cylinder (3 intake, 2 exhaust, the latter with variable valve timing for improved performance at high speeds) and a Bosch ME 7.3 electronic engine management system which, via the CAN - Controlled Area Network - allows the injection system to transmit and receive data from the ignition which is integrated with the drive-by-wire electronic accelerator connected to the ASR traction control and, where fitted, the system that manages the F1 electrohydraulic transmission.
The drive-by-wire system incorporates a motorized throttle tegulating air induction. On the 360, the accelerator pedal activates a potentiometer connected to a pair of engine management units. The CAN system also allows the various control units to communicate with the ASR traction control system and the F1 gearbox control so that, taking into consideration performance parameters and vehicle speed, the engine management system decides on the appropriate throttle angle. The drive-by-wire system makes a vital contribution during gearshifts, ensuring they take place at the engine speed recommended by the control unit. The 360 Spider has benefited enormously from Ferrari’s experience with Formula 1 engine technology, which also contributed variable-length intake manifolds to optimize torque at all engine speeds. The system incorporates two plenums each supplying air to one bank of cylinders, either through short direct tracts connected to the same bank or through longer indirect ones connected to the opposite bank via valves.
The 360 Spider’s 6-speed gearbox is available with either the classic gate-shift or the F1-style paddle shift. The manual system offers triple cone synchronizers on 1st and 2nd gears, with a double cone on the others. The single dry plate clutch has coaxial hydraulic drive and the limited slip differential has different locking percentages (25% on acceleration and 45% on lift off). Ferrari introduced paddle shift to Formula 1 and this solution is now used by all teams. The 360 Spider’s F1 transmission, which changes gears in a mere 150 milliseconds, has an optimized full automatic option as well as manual mode, and a low grip Snow and Ice mode. Manual changes are effected through the two paddles behind the steering wheel - the right paddle selects a higher ratio, while the left drops a gear. The pedal-less clutch is automatically activated by the gearbox’s electronic control unit, and engages only when the engine revs are correct. If the sports suspension setting has been selected the gearbox software adapts the speed of changes to suit, and the 360 Spider is thus stable in conditions beyond the capabilities of most sports cars.
The 360 Spider has superb road dynamics thanks to a long wheelbase, wide front track, a superb suspension geometry, and electronic control. The car rides on an adjustable suspension with dual aluminum wishbones front and rear. Anti-dive and anti-squat geometries are incorporated front and rear so the car remains level under braking and acceleration. The aluminum dampers, co-designed with Sachs, are equipped with an electronic control unit. All body and wheel movements are thus guided in a process that takes just 0.04 seconds to eliminate any rolling or pitching.
Befitting a high-performance sports car, the 360 Spider’s brakes include large 13" diameter vented and cross-drilled discs with sensitive hydraulically actuated two-piston aluminum calipers, controlled by a braking effort proportioning valve and an ABS system that prevents wheel lock-up in deceleration. The large rotors also help maintain a low thermal load, and improve resistance to fading without forced cooling. Although Ferrari engineers placed emphasis on decelerative stability, the 360 Spider stops in record short distances.
The cabin of the 360 Spider is identical to the coupe’s: the first things of note are the ease of access offered by the ample door aperture, whether the rooof is up or down, and the striking effect of the aluminum kick panel that recalls the lightweight but extremely rigid extruded aluminum sill below. The Spider’s interior dimensions are virtually identical to those of the berlinetta, offering a far more spacious cabin than the F355 Spider, right down to the golf bag slot behind the seats. The only differences are the practical, electrically operated strongbox set between the two seats at the centre of the roll bar structure and the two storage nets on each side of the rear console. The 360 Spider is available with a choice of 12 different Connolly leather trim options, highlighting the aluminum detailing that reflects the car’s sophisticated construction technology. All the major instruments are grouped in a binnacle in the driver’s line of sight, with the tachometer positioned centrally. The three-spoke steering wheel incorporates a full-size airbag.