Ferrari 355 F1
The Ferrari 355 was launched in 1994 and came at a time when things were not going very good for the road car division of the Italian marquee. Things were so bad that production had dropped to 50% and the flagship F40 had lost the title of fastest production car. To get its mojo back, Ferrari broke all conventions, even the old philosophy that real Ferrari’s were only the ones with 12 cylinder engines.
The F355 was a modern classic and an absolute beauty. Ask your elder brother and I’m sure he’ll affirm that at one point of time the car graced his desktop PC wallpaper.
Being a Ferrari meant that a technical nexus between its F1 division was guaranteed and the car did benefit from it as it incorporated an F1 style flat bottom with airflow channels to offset any lift by generating enough downforce.
But that’s not only why the car has found its way onto this list. The 355 became so successful that it spawned many variants over the years and in 1998 the 355 F1 variant was launched which incorporated a “paddle-shift” transmission as seen on F1 Cars.
The technology was invented by Ferrari in 1989. John Barnard is credited with employing the idea of a semi-automatic gearbox in an F1 car but he went a step further and eliminated the traditional gear stick and instead employed two paddles on either side of the steering wheel for up-shifts and down-shifts. The tech was run for the first time in the Brazilian Grand prix and it won on its debut. The tech was immediately taken by all the teams up and down the grid and within two years became the standard feature of an F1 car.
It’s fascinating that within 10 years of its introduction in F1, Paddle shift found its way to road cars and the 355 F1 became famous for being the first road car to employ that tech and today all super cars are using paddle shifters.