The Ferrari F355 Berlinetta Is A Modern Classic From The Cavallino Rampante Stable
Photography by Tom Hains
When the opportunity arose to chat with Marcus Willis about his Ferrari F355 Berlinetta, I knew the car would be an immaculate example. Willis is a dyed in the wool Ferrari enthusiast, and as a founding partner at Girardo & Co., he knew what to look for. He puts it a bit more simply, though; “If it’s your first Ferrari, I think you’ve got to have a red one.”
As I photographed the car with the sun dipping down into the horizon of the English countryside, Willis and I chatted as I snapped, touching on how he came to own this car, and what its future might hold.
“I like the history of this car. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t really want to buy a car like this if I don’t know where it’s been and how it’s been cared for.” The understandable desire to really know a particular car’s history is one thing, but Willis’ ability to track down data and paint a full picture of a machine’s provenance is why he is one of the best in the field of finding the right cars for his customers. And of course he applies the same meticulous approach when looking for himself. His 1996 F355 Berlinetta is crisp, clean, sorted, and all the rest of the synonyms we use to describe the cars worth pulling the proverbial trigger on.
Willis is no newcomer to the prancing horse stable. “To me the ultimate Ferrari are the front-engined V12s from the ’50s and ’60s, the sports racers that the brand built it’s already strong reputation on.” But with 250s and 275s and the like belonging to the upper financial stratosphere, his search was always going to be on the more modern side, as he tells me. “I had always wanted a 550 Maranello, especially after watching a video of Michael Schumacher blasting around Fiorano in one. I kept tabs on that market, and I really wasn’t looking for an F355 at the time.
“I think we can agree that these mid-engine V8s are among the most beautiful Ferraris to leave the factory in the last 30 years, so I was always fond of them. In the case of this car, everything just fell into place when I started looking at what could be had. For this particular one, I put together a list of everybody who has ever owned it, so I know where it’s been since it was sold new.”
The car was registered in Italy first, and Willis was even familiar with the small town in the north of the country where this F355 found its first home, having been there for work years before. As part of his research into the car, he spoke with a friend who oversaw F355 production at the time, and they were able to give some pointers on the things to look out for when assessing the condition beyond your typical half-assed buyer’s guide. As a matter of course, the official Ferrari records were checked by Willis and his team to ensure that everything checked out. Peace of mind is an important determinant for the amount of enjoyment one gets out of expensive-to-fix sports cars, after all. Willis is certainly having his fair share of good times in his.
“I have totally enjoyed it since the start. It’s so easy to drive, and so easy to smile while doing so. It’s a car that likes to be revved, that loves to reward its driver. I keep it in the Cotswolds, but it could easily serve as my daily runaround if need be; it’s comfortable and pretty practical all things considered, and during the lockdown I’ve found it to be a very useful ferry for this current life of ours; the front luggage compartment for instance is more than capable of carrying a small barbecue back to my place!”
But when asked if he’ll be hanging onto it for the long-term, Willis is quick to reply with in the negative. He still has his heart set on a front-engined V12 in the future, a connection to the marque’s past. “At some point it won’t be mine anymore, I’ll just add my time with it to the records and pass it to the next happy owner. But until then, I intend to make the most of our moments together.”