The 458 Speciale was not the first Ferrari to use this name. We remember the 348 Serie Speciale
The 2014 Ferrari 458 Speciale marked the first modern-day use of the Speciale name in exemplary style. Celebrated by critics, it was hailed as one of the finest driver’s cars of its generation – a thoroughbred Ferrari that immediately secured its place in history. The Speciale name had been used on two earlier design studies, the 1966 Ferrari 365 P Pininfarina Speciale and the incredible 1969 Ferrari Pininfarina 512 S Berlinetta Speciale. However, the 458 was not the first Speciale road car: a model built exclusively for North America got there first.
That car was the 1992 Ferrari 348 Serie Speciale, which it made its debut at the 1992 Los Angeles Auto Show. Only 100 were to be built, all destined for the North American market. Today, it is highly sought-after as a bespoke Ferrari tailor-made for the most enthusiastic clients. Engineering changes were detailed and focused. The 3.4-litre V8 engine, for example, received a free-flow exhaust and some changes to the ECU, taking output up to 312 horsepower. The gear ratios were optimised by a shorter final drive, which also reduced the 0-60mph acceleration time to just 5.3 seconds – extremely fast by early 1990s standards.
Ferrari’s engineers also widened the rear track by 50mm and fitted a custom set of Pirelli P Zero tyres. These were developed just for the 348 Serie Speciale, and worked with the wider rear track to improve cornering grip and traction. The 348 Serie Speciale received body-coloured front and rear splitters, plus enlarged side skirts, also in body colour. A characterful custom touch was the single front air intake on the left-hand side. The prancing horse on the front grille was finished in chrome and, at the rear, the standard 348’s black grille covering the tail lights was removed. This gave the car a ‘naked’ look and helped enthusiasts identify it immediately.
Inside, a fantastic set of carbon Kevlar-backed leather seats were available. These were modelled on those fitted to the Ferrari F40. Leather trim was extended to the door panels and dashboard, and all Serie Speciale were fitted with an individually numbered plate inside the passenger door. The 348 Serie Speciale was available in both tb coupe and ts targa styles, and of the 100 built, 35 were coupes and 65 were targas. Records show that 12 Serie Speciales were built in 1992, with the remainder completed in 1993. Today, the 348 Serie Speciale commands a loyal following in North America and beyond. As special as its name suggests, it remains one of the rarest V8-engined Ferraris of the modern era.