Wednesday 7th December 2011

PH Carpool: Ferrari 348tb

Sometimes your heart wants a car so badly your head doesn't stand a chance...

Mike Brownhill
1989 Ferrari 348tb
Owned since:
Mid 2006
Previously owned:
Various MGs and Healeys over the years plus an E-Type Jaguar, Scimitar GTE, VXR8 Monaro and a Mini Cooper S.

Why I bought it:
Like most blokes I'd thought about having a Ferrari in the garage one day, mainly because they look great, sound like nothing else and had the exclusivity of a Hobbit (...until fairly recently anyway) but I didn't really know much about the various models or even the Ferrari brand.

Then about five years ago I was ambling around a showroom and, sat at the back looking rather sad and lonely, was what was to become my red Ferrari 348. It had obviously been pampered in the past, so I bought it. And then I did the research, only to find that I had got what is reckoned in popular half-truth, myth and rumour to be the worst dog of a Ferrari ever made. But thankfully the truth has turned out to be a bit different.

Non standard BBS wheels allow more tyre choice
Non standard BBS wheels allow more tyre choice
Things I love:
I still can't get the smile off my face even after five years driving it. I had made a silly offer for it because one cylinder bank wasn't firing at all and the problem turned out to be that one of the MAF sensors was stuffed (and a new one wasn't cheap either) but amazingly nothing else was required apart from a new battery, and that was after a full survey by the main dealer.

Anyway, based on my experiences I'm very pleased I didn't do much research first because I probably wouldn't have bought one and I now think the 348, at today's prices, must be one of the best kept Ferrari secrets going.

I like looks of the car and the purity of the Pininfarina DNA. The steering, being unassisted, is kart sensitive and a real joy once you are under way, as is the throttle response. The open gate manual gearbox, when its warmed up, is very tactile, the exhaust note from the aftermarket Larini system (highly recommended) is lovely when changing up at 7,400rpm and I have yet to experience any serious reliability issues after 16,000km of spirited driving, new clutch and tyres excepted.

I have owned various acknowledged sports classics over the years and I'm now fortunate enough to have a Maserati GranTurismo as my daily drive, but honestly nothing compares to the Ferrari for the sheer fun of the driving experience, particularly on more modern rubber at track and club days.

Belt changes are an engine out job - and costly
Belt changes are an engine out job - and costly
What I wish I'd known:
Maintenance can be a downside as the fabled cam belt changes necessitate hooking the engine out every few years. Exactly how often is debateable apparently but Ferrari says 50,000km or five years and my car has had four belt changes so far, the last one less than a year ago but everything else, including the clutch, is relatively easy for an enthusiast with a bit of garage space. If not then the independents are pretty cost effective these days anyway, but keep the oil and filters nice and clean and conventional Ferrari wisdom says the 348 engine is bullet-proof. It thrives on being used often too.

Things I hate:
It's not that easy to drive. You have to be quite forceful and concentrate very hard and it's always chattering to you through the steering wheel and via your bum in the firmly bolstered seat. It handles like a cat on a carpet most of the time but it is prone to snap oversteer that's difficult to catch if really pushed, but do all the braking in a straight line and don't lift off in the corners and she'll be fine.

Drive within yourself and the 348 can reward
Drive within yourself and the 348 can reward
I think it's probably this slightly unforgiving 'on the edge' handling trait that's contributed to the 348's reputation over the years, but treat it with a bit of respect and drive within your own ability and it's very rewarding when you get everything right. It will never be the fastest car out there but 0-60 in about 5.5 seconds and 170+ mph in a 22-year-old road car isn't too shabby.

Apart from the scheduled maintenance mentioned above and a new steering rack recently, I did put a set of period 18-inch BBS LMs on it which suit the car well aesthetically and allow for a useful step-down in tyre profile. Other mods have included a Larini exhaust, F360 Challenge steering wheel, a shift light, harder brake pads and a bit of carbon fibre inside to fix up where some of the original black plastics had gone slightly 'sticky' (a known problem apparently).

I wouldn't deter anyone who is handy with the spanners from getting an older Ferrari if you fancy one, and the less-loved 348 could even be an informed choice. In my humble opinion it's a good looking, budding classic Ferrari at a price that should help forgive its reputation and put a smile on anyone's face.

Sympathetic interior mods lift the ambience
Sympathetic interior mods lift the ambience
Where I've been:
Mostly out and about with the Ferrari Owners Club and the odd track or club day, but I wouldn't use it as a daily driver (that's for the F355 and beyond) as you could easily grow tired of the heavy low speed steering and the slightly agricultural gearbox when it's cold and in traffic. But save it for a sunny weekend and it comes into its own as a plaything - either doing a bit of tinkering or driving it is equally good.

What next?
There will be people out there with horror stories about older Ferraris for sure and some may think that what I have done to mine is a touch too non-purist, but it suits me and I wouldn't be without my old girl now even though she likes a drink and is a bit high maintenance. After all I did buy with my heart, so I will probably have to keep her a while longer.

Author: silversixx

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Last comment was by cjb1
on 18th April 2014