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Exceptional, ‘holy grail’ specification, ex-Chris Rea Ferrari F355 now available at Bell Sport & Classic

posted on 20/12/2023
Exceptional, ‘holy grail’ specification, ex-Chris Rea Ferrari F355 now available at Bell Sport & Classic

Bell Sport & Classic brings to market what is perhaps the world’s finest example of the iconic Ferrari F355 Berlinetta, presented in exceptional condition and ‘holy grail’ collector specification, previously owned by musician and Ferrari aficionado Chris Rea.

The exceptional example is offered for sale by the world-leading Ferrari specialists, just as enthusiasts prepare to celebrate the 355’s 30th anniversary, with the model joining the rarefied ranks of bona fide Maranello classics.

A highly collectable early-production run F355 Berlinetta, the car presents in superb condition after a comprehensive mechanical and cosmetic refresh by Bell Sport & Classic’s renowned specialist Ferrari technical team, which is led by former Maranello factory personnel.

Tim Kearns, Managing Director, Bell Sport & Classic, said: “We’re proud to offer this ultra-desirable example of the Ferrari F355. This sale represents a rare opportunity to acquire the 355 everyone wants: an early right-hand drive, ‘2.7 Motronic’, non-airbag, manual Berlinetta in a timeless specification. The model also has a compelling backstory, purchased new by noted Ferrari collector, Chris Rea. 

“This 355 represents the ‘holy grail’ for Ferrari collectors– a useable example of Maranello’s mid-engined masterpiece, in its purest, most intoxicating form. In terms of design, technical innovation, performance, and handling, the F355 easily eclipsed the competition when it was launched and still offers a beguiling and wholly immersive driving experience today. As the F355 reaches its 30th anniversary, it also represents an astute investment.”

The F355 Backstory

Introduced at the 1994 Geneva International Motor Show, the F355 made an immediate impact on media, Ferrari owners and the public alike. A replacement for the somewhat underwhelming 348, the F355 was a true game changer; a harder-hitting, more modern mid-engined Ferrari that was just as wonderful to drive as it was to look at.

Kearns, comments: “As the F355 reaches this landmark anniversary, now is the perfect time to take stock of just what a significant car it was for Ferrari. The F355 holds a special place in the marque's history, emerging at a crucial moment for the brand, signalling the return of Ferrari technical, design and sheer driver engagement dominance after a period, some would argue, of drift and mediocrity. 

“The F355 is highly significant: the car that the then new CEO Luca di Montezemolo delivered to bring the passion back to Ferrari, and the last of the truly hand-built V8 Ferraris. For many, the model represents a high-point for the marque – particularly in its early and purest form. It offers the perfect blend of old and new, combining contemporary performance with captivating analogue character – all wrapped up in a beautifully proportioned Pininfarina body. As a package, it really is hard to resist.”

At the F355’s heart as with all Ferraris, is the engine, a flat plane crank V8 masterpiece. An engineering tour de force which, at the time of the car’s debut, delivered the highest specific output of any road car (107bhp per litre) – eclipsing even the mighty BMW V12 of the McLaren F1. With titanium con-rods, and five valves per cylinder, hugely innovative technology inspired by Ferrari’s Formula One programme, the F129B engine produced 375bhp at a heady 8250rpm – all from just 3.5 litres of displacement. So proud was Ferrari of this F1-inspired engine that the F355 Berlinetta’s model name unusually comes from a combination displacement and the number of valves per cylinder – ‘3.5 5’.

With the ability to surge to 62mph in a mere 4.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 184mph, the performance of the F355 was in a different league to not just that of the 312bhp 348 that preceded it, but also contemporary rivals such as the Honda NSX, Lotus Esprit and Porsche 911 993.

The chassis of the Ferrari F355 was equally important to the car’s phenomenal performance, offering nimble mid-engined handling. Double wishbone suspension, electronically adjustable, two-stage dampers and hydraulic power steering lent a dash of modern sophistication to the classic Italian supercar recipe. Compared to its predecessor it was faster, safer, more comfortable, and genuinely a car that could be used daily, whether charging up the Col de Turini or commuting into the city.

The F355 was, as Autocar concluded in its 1994 road test, “a landmark car”, while Jeremy Clarkson hailed the 355 as “The greatest car in the world, ever”. It’s a car that only looks more significant as the years go by.

Kearns adds: “The F355 Berlinetta’s game changing technical innovations, higher production volumes and overall bandwidth paved the way for successive Ferrari models to be truly great cars. One could argue that it’s the most significant car in Ferrari’s history. With almost 30 years to reflect on the car’s impact, the 355 is ready to assume genuine classic status as it reaches this landmark anniversary.”

The ex-Chris Rea F355

This original, right-hand drive UK car offered by Bell Sport & Classic was ordered new by musician Chris Rea, a well-known and highly regarded Ferrari enthusiast, via Maranello Sales. An early 1995 example, it features the desirable Bosh ‘2.7 Motronic’ ECU system, which improved throttle response and was also rumoured to offer more power – as much as 30bhp, according to some experts. As a sought-after non-airbag car, this example also sports the more driver-focussed Momo steering wheel, lending the cabin a clean and timeless look.

Specified in the rare colour of Blu Scuro Micalizzato over Crema hide with Blu carpets, the car covered just 25,500 miles before being the subject of a comprehensive refresh by Bell’s team of sector-leading experts, at its state-of-the-art Hertfordshire facility. Bell Sport & Classic is renowned worldwide for its peerless restoration and refurbishment expertise, with a technical team of Ferrari trained experts, who worked on F355s in period. In recent years, the company has garnered international acclaim for numerous Ferrari projects including the sensational remastering of a 330 LMB, an extraordinary nut-and-bolt restoration of both an ultra-rare, L-Series 246 Dino GT and a Concours winning Ferrari 330 GTC.

As with all cars the company offers for sale, Bell Sport & Classic’s technicians have gone through this F355 from top to bottom. Their approach ensures that the car is in exceptional mechanical condition. The same care has been lavished on the F355 cosmetically, both inside and out, with paintwork brought up to the very highest standards in its original Ferrari factory colour, reconolisation of the beautiful cream leather interior, and the crucial refresh of all switchgear, so often the Achilles’ heel of cars from this era.

Kearns concludes: “At Bell Sport and Classic we’re accustomed to handling and restoring the very finest Ferraris, from the ‘60s classics right up to the contemporary hypercars. This F355 ranks among the best we’ve encountered. The team has, as ever, put everything into the painstaking recommissioning process, and the results speak for themselves. This F355 is the perfect example of a truly great Ferrari, one that can hold its own in the world’s most exclusive collections. Now presenting in perfect condition, this unmodified example of an iconic model, in the ultimate specification with a compelling backstory, is ready to be enjoyed by its new owner.”

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