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Ferrari 348

GETTING INTO THE RED Published: 3rd Jul 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Ferrari 348
Ferrari 348
Ferrari 348
Ferrari 348
Ferrari 348
Ferrari 348
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Jeff Bailey always wanted to own a Ferrari and lived the dream – but was it a nightmare?

Man and boy, who doesn’t dream of owning his own Ferrari – and a red one at that? Those curves, the presence, the power, the glory, the moody sexual undertones. But life is never without its surprises; one day I found all the hard work had paid off and there on the drive sat a nice shiny fi ve year old, 18k mile 348TB – the one without the Targa top. People who know Ferraris say the Targa versions are all very well when the sun’s out, but there is body flex. This, together with the inevitable water leaks steered me towards the closed Berlinetta version.

Although any Ferrari is attractive, for me it had to be the 348 rather than the earlier 308/328 models because, quite simply, I was always more Miami Vice than Magnum PI. The plan was that I’d keep the car for about two years and hopefully not lose much on the deal. I’d had a few Italian cars before, such as a Lancia HPE and an Alfa Spider, but this was really the big league and you can’t afford to make a mistake at nearly fi fty grand for a used car.

I decided to consult an offi cial Ferrari dealer to get the benefi t of a properly sorted car with a factory backed warranty, but frankly the warranty wasn’t much different to ones you can buy direct these days. I was disconcerted to see a limit of £2000 any one claim as I was told a 348 engine rebuild would cost £20,000! Reassuringly, the dealer did add that it had never had to do one for a road car customer…

What was different though was the impeccable service history – a critical requirement on Ferraris. The dealer agreed to carry out a full service and cam belt change which is essential every two years whether the car has turned a wheel or not – and this little lot costs the thick end of £3000!

SHATTERED DREAMS?
On the test drive, first impressions were amazingly lukewarm. I thought the performance, whilst quick, was not much better than the supercharged Jaguar XJR I had just sold and second, the suspension was buckboard hard. On the positive side, the handling and roadholding were delicate and intuitive and once I had got used to the dog-leg first gear, everything suddenly fell into place; I was hooked.

So, day to day what is it like to own one of these supercars? Ecstasy or agony? The answer is a bit of both. Sorry to be so un-PC here, but ‘she’ is a fl amboyant Italian mistress and mostly does what she wants. A lot did go wrong, but they were niggling faults rather than mechanical Armageddon. In truth, the engine never seemed to be strained, no matter how hard it was revved and the harder it was revved, then the better that V8 sounded!

One day I nipped into the pub for lunch and afterwards when I tried to start it the battery was fl at, which triggered the alarm; the car just would not start and the mirth on the faces of drinkers sitting outside will stay with me forever. Don’t ever break down in one of these unless nobody can see. The battery went fl at on a number of other occasions and had to be replaced. So did the alarm. The offside headlamp also refused to retract and that was due to a short – another fix.

The worst things that happened were, as it turned out, minor, but were quite capable of bringing on a coronary seizure. One of these was a red light appearing on a fast drive around the Oxford ring road, accompanied by a notable loss of power and then a total loss as the engine cut out. It was checked out and the heat sensor found to be faulty and replaced under warranty. The second one did the same a month later… Another was more unnerving still. The top hose blew in dramatic style, with Old Faithful seemingly erupting somewhere behind my head. I had no idea what it was, but did see pound signs in front of my eyes for some time. No damage was done, apart from the usual ribbing from passers-by, but it had to be trailered to the dealer yet again, which was a pain.

Thus far, this seems a litany of disaster, and to be frank, it shouldn’t happen after spending £50,000 on a used car. A Ferrari, however, is not a car you can just jump into and run down to the shops; nor is it the sort of bulletproof build you take for granted driving say a Mercedes SL500. But that’s to miss the point. It is, for better or worse, the ultimate automotive status symbol and that is part of its problem.

PUBLIC IMAGE
Other people’s attitudes to it mean you can’t just go out for a drive unnoticed and that includes the police. If you’re going for it in a Ferrari, better keep your wits about you and don’t dice with other road users. Men see it as testosterone personified and when parked up it attracts more blokes than women, which I hadn’t noticed until my girlfriend pointed it out!

It also polarises other drivers’ reactions. One type looks on wistfully, the other will do anything possible to baulk you – there are no grey areas. This would often be topped off with a two-fi nger fl ourish, but you learn to ignore it – with a Ferrari what is there to prove? Time with the 348 was an experience rich in extremes and passion, which is as it should be. Ultimately, rising early on a summer Sunday morning and seeking out a nice deserted Gatso-free rural B road will find the best in this car.

Concluding with a swift half and admiring its perfect shape outside a country pub at lunchtime makes sense of it all. However, at the time, fi nancially the Fezza didn’t really add up. After 22 months I lost £9000 on the car, but then the purchase price included that all-important cambelt service. There were no maintenance costs involved during ownership, thanks to that very handy warranty, but insurance was over £1000, even for an old boy like me. Fuel wise, it drank on average a gallon of 98 RON every 16.4 miles.

When the shine had worn off I sold her. For my part, she will be remembered as the beautiful Italian mistress with whom I was lucky enough to spend stolen moments – and like a nostalgic scent, the sound of a passing Ferrari on full chat still sends tingles down the spine. She’s gone, but not forgotten. Rather like a diffi cult relationship – with time, you only remember the good bits. These days, the 348 has bottomed out and the only way is up, value-wise. On the other hand, they’re now old enough for classic car insurance, so that cost is going the other way. Win-win then.



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