The raspy, high-pitched scream of a flat-plane V8 is part of why a Ferrari offers such a visceral, incomparable experience. In the case of the elegant F355, a y-pipe only magnifies the sonorous bark — and individual throttle bodies provide the sort of response appropriate for something that sounds so much like a Formula 1 car.
So, why would one go ahead and scrap the F355’s 3.5-liter V8? Well, with the case of Rene Ruch, a former Ferrari mechanic, he added a Zytek ZJ458 V8 for another 0.5-liter of displacement, a whopping 520 horsepower, and 387 lb-ft of torque. The powerplant — destroked from its original 4.5 liters to comply with Swiss hillclimb regulations — is commonly found in LMP machines, so it’s built for competition. It’s made with the lowest possible center of gravity, constructed as compactly as possible, and provides all the ancillary features that a racing engine needs.
That much power pushing around a car weighing just 2,150 pounds is plenty. It’s demonstrated in the way it surges out of the corner with no fuss and no hint of wheelspin. However, a dedicated racing engine is much more than just peak power figures. While the original F126 motor is often criticized for its lack of torque — producing just 268 lb-ft at 6,000 rpm — this Zytek unit pulls with remarkable urgency from low revs (0:42).
A proper racing engine in a modified road car isn’t completely unheard of, but it seems to be a bit better knowing that the car itself is an F355 Challenge, originally built to run in the Trofeo Pirelli Italian Challenge Cup back in 1996. Ruch is a discerning customer, and fitted the car with carbon bits like doors, a hood, and an engine cover.
Big names make up the footwork. KW coilovers, BBS E28 wheels, and AP Racing brakes help make the car remarkably surefooted, and the braking distances (as seen above) are very short. It looks controllable, yet happy, to break away — see the snap at 1:09 in the footage above. That little mid-corner yaw only makes this four-wheeled scalpel sharper. It’s no surprise this car was one of the ten fastest touring cars at the Eschdorf Hillclimb — an event that had a exceptionally good entry list.