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PH Service History: Buying a black sheep

Prices on the exotics you want to buy putting them out of reach? Maybe it's time to have a look at the ones you supposedly don't...

By Alex Robbins / Sunday, August 19, 2018

I've read it a million times before. I'm probably even guilty of writing it a million times myself. "This is the model you want." The implication being, of course, that there are other models of the particular make in question that you don't.

This sort of thing is at its most prevalent in the world of exotics. Where a Ferrari 355 is hallowed turf, a 348 or a Mondial is... well... not. There are reasons for this, though; in the 348's case, it's the tricky driving experience. The Mondial, meanwhile, suffers from those awkward looks.

But are these reasons enough to forego them, if they're all your budget will stretch to? A recent article in our esteemed sister title, Classic & Sports Car, made me think otherwise. It discussed the ins and outs of buying a Mondial, and in fact, made some very good points.

For one thing, the Mondial's a terrific grand-tourer. If you don't want to spank your Ferrari down a B-road periodically, but instead plan to take it on jaunts to visit friends or across Europe, that means it makes a lot of sense.

You also get one of the best interiors of a contemporary Ferrari - light and airy, and spacious too. Let's not forget, of course, those rear seats - enabling you to take the whole family out (and, perhaps, justify it to other members of the household who might need to be placated).

But you still have those familiar Ferrari tropes of an open-gate gear change and a mid-mounted V8; not to mention terrific, user-friendly handling ideal for a Ferrari novice. Ok, so it wasn't that quick even by the standards of the day - but thanks to that V8's yowl, it'll still make you feel special.

So, how about it, then? This one will cost you £27,950. So if you've always wanted a Ferrari, that makes it perhaps the most cost-effective way to treat yourself. And who here would begrudge anyone the chance to live that dream?

There are a few other exotics that deserve to come in from the cold, too. Perhaps the most obvious of these is the Lamborghini Gallardo. Sure, when it was new, it was the 'not-Murcielago' - but to see it purely through that lens is to deny that it's still a desirable car in its own right. Massive grip and traction, fabulous steering and beautifully judged balance all combine with styling that looks tame only in the shadow of its bigger brother - by any other measure, the Gallardo is a heck of a head-turner.

And when £67,500 gets you this rakish, black UK example with reasonable miles and a good history, it's a very tempting toy indeed. It needn't just be a toy, mind you; let's not forget one of the Gallardo's key benefits is its usability, with fantastic ride comfort and a properly-built interior.

You might not say the same about the Aston Martin DB9. Indeed, when it was launched there were a few too many Ford bits still floating around inside it for some road testers to feel it befitted the money it cost. And while the DB9 is an unutterably lovely thing, there's no doubt it lacks the finesse of later Astons.

This example features the slusher; the manual version is around £10-15,000 more. Either way, £35,995 is not a lot of money for a car which looks and sounds this good. The mileage is right, the history's there, and the colour scheme's suitably old money. Nice.

But maybe £35,995 is still a bit rich for you. In which case, let's look for a truly cut-price exotic, one you'll be able to afford for less than ten grand. How about this Maserati Quattroporte?

Anyone who's ever heard anything about the Quattroporte will take one look at the fact it's an early Duoselect auto and run a mile. Possibly with good reason. These things eat clutches - a new one every 20k miles will cost you £1,500 or so - and when they're not doing so, they're chomping hydraulic gear selectors, which are even more costly. So, y'know, buyer beware and all that.

And yet, here we have a truly exotic four-door with one of those achingly beautiful Maserati interiors and a fabulous V8 engine for the price of a base-model Skoda Fabia. Budget correctly for the repairs and ownership might not be too onerous an experience.

Still, it's the Mondial whose time in the sun is, I can't help but feel, most overdue. It's certainly the one that's grabbed my fancy most of all. And there's a phrase I never thought I'd hear myself say.

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