Shaquille O’Neal once spent $350,000 on customizing his dream Ferrari, but yet his teammates ridiculed him. For the 7’1″ superstar to fit in the cabin, its fuel tank was swapped from that of a lawnmower, which held fuel worth just $9. The supercar was sold for the price of a Ford F150.

Shaquille O’Neal, often referred to simply as “Shaq,” is undoubtedly one of the most legendary figures ever to grace a basketball court. It’s hardly a surprise that he is widely considered as a true icon and one of the most recognizable personalities in modern sports history. Standing at an impressive 7 feet 1 inch tall and weighing in at 324 pounds, Shaq’s towering physical presence matches his larger-than-life personality and multifaceted career. While it might have helped him become one of the most dominant players in NBA history, his massive frame hasn’t always been an advantage.

Via Instagram / @shaq

Being a big man, it was always difficult for Shaq to fit into most cars. However, it was almost impossible for him to squeeze into sportscars, which are often too cramped for a person much smaller than Shaq. The only way to fit the NBA legend inside a sportscar was to heavily modify it, and that’s exactly what Shaq did when he decided to buy a Ferrari for himself in the 1990s. This story is about the Frankenstein Ferrari that was specially built for Shaquille O’Neal that had enough space inside the cabin to accommodate his 7-foot-1 frame.

Via Instagram / @shaq

Shaquille O’Neal is well known for his love for cars. Throughout his career and even beyond, the NBA superstar has demonstrated a deep passion for collecting and customizing automobiles, especially larger-than-life vehicles that match his own personality. In the summer of 1996, a golden era for the Los Angeles Lakers started when it managed to sign Shaq on a seven-year, $120 million contract. It was unprecedented in those days. To celebrate the big move, Shaq decided to splurge on a drop-top Ferrari.

Talking about the Italian exotic on Conan O’Brien’s eponymous talk show, the Big Diesel said: “When I first came from Baton Rouge, Beverly Hills, you see all the fancy cars come by. So one day I see a Ferrari come by. I was like: ‘I want one of those guys.’ So I went to the thing and the guy was like: ‘You’re too big.’ And I hate those words.”

Also read -  Dwayne Johnson cannot fit into the LaFerrari, loves its performance though

Image – Bring a Trailer

The Prancing Horse Shaq chose to add to his garage was a 1998 Ferrari F355 Spider, a two-seat sportscar that debuted in 1995 and stayed in production till ’99. Legendary Italian design house Pininfarina penned the beautiful design of the roadster, reportedly spending around 1800 hours honing the lines in the wind tunnel to make it both elegant and aerodynamic. It was also the first Ferrari to feature an electronically powered automated manual soft-top.

Cabin of Shaq’s Ferrari F350

However, Shaq’s Ferrari had to undergo a lot of serious customization and alteration to open up enough space inside the cabin. There are conflicting reports on the list of modifications carried out on the Ferrari; interestingly, a lot of those confusing claims have been caused by the NBA legend himself. At Conan O’Brien’s talk show, he hinted (quite possibly as a joke) at getting a Frankenstein sportscar with a long wheelbase created by joining two Ferraris. However, in his book titled Uncut, he talks about moving the Spider’s engine to the front. Thankfully, Shaq’s Ferrari F355 Spider turned up for auction three years ago, which gave us more concrete details of the modifications that were made to the sportscar.

The original fuel tank was swapped with a one from a lawnmover. Image – Bring a Trailer

Shaquille O’Neal tricked out Ferrari F355 Spider
Some major modifications were made to the drop-top Ferrari in order to make it usable for Shaq. According to a report by The Sports Rush, the customizations were so complex that it cost him $350,000. The NBA superstar being over 7 feet tall, the spider’s electronically powered soft top was pretty much useless. As a result, it was taken out to free up space and was replaced with a custom body-colored tonneau cover. The Ferrari also was given a custom two-tone black and silver interior, which included wider aftermarket seats with the Superman logo on the headrests.

Custom seats with Superman logo. Image – Bring a Trailer

Additionally, racing harnesses were added along with a custom sound system with Alpine drivers and tweeters in the tonneau cover and door panels. The Ferrari was also fitted with silver 19-inch Giovanna Luxury wheels. The F355 Spider’s original 3.5-liter V8 was retained and in its original position. However, the biggest modification made was replacing the factory fuel tank from the back with a smaller tank fitted to the front. This modification created a lot of space inside the cabin, helping Shaq comfortably inside. However, this created a big problem.

Also read -  Ferrari 458 Italia China Limited Edition is listed at $880,000

Storage space in Shaq’s Ferrari is next to negligible after the modification.

The Ferrari F355 Spider’s frunk is really tiny and to use the space to accommodate a fuel tank meant it had to be really small in size. According to reports, the customized Ferrari was fitted with a gas tank borrowed from a lawn mower which had enough capacity to fill $9 worth of gas.

Via Instagram / @shaq

Shaq’s teammates at LA Lakers saw this as an opportunity to constantly tease him for his Ferrari’s puny gas tank. While the exact size of the tank is not known, $9 could only get you 7 gallons of fuel considering the average gas prices in the US in those days which hovered around $1.25 per gallon. In comparison, the original fuel tank has a capacity of 23.2 gallons. That would have given the modified Ferrari a severely restricted range of less than 100 miles; not that Shaq would have really cared.

Shaq’s custom Ferrari was surprisingly auctioned for the price of a Ford F150 Truck
You’ll expect a custom Ferrari owned by none other than Shaquille O’Neal during the peak of his career to be in huge demand amongst collectors. However, that was not the case when it was listed for sale on Bring-a-Trailer with no reserve back in 2020. Obviously, the Ferrari F355 isn’t as rare or collectible as some of the other sportscars with the legendary Prancing Horse logo from the ‘90s. However, the ownership history should more than compensate for that. Nevertheless, the heavily personalized 1998 Ferrari F355 Spider once owned by Shaquille O’Neal could only fetch $65,000, which surprised many. It should be noted that the Ferrari didn’t come with any documentation to prove Shaq was its previous owner.

Tags from the story
Written By
Sayan Chakravarty, a Senior Writer at Luxurylaunches, brings over 10 years of automotive journalism expertise. He provides insightful coverage of the latest cars and motorcycles across American and European markets, while also highlighting luxury yachts, high-end watches, and gadgets. An authentic automobile aficionado, his commitment shines through in educating readers about the automotive world. When the keyboard rests, Sayan feeds his wanderlust, traversing the world on his motorcycle.