Ferrari Buying Guide- The Affordable Ferraris

This is from the eBay Buying Guide: 

Lots of people dream of owning a Ferrari and for good reason.  Mr. Ferrari was committed to building one less car than there was demand for- this has resulted in a succession of very successful models.  In considering purchasing a Ferrari, remember there is no such thing a bargain.  What might seem like a real deal could turn out costing more than you think, conversely paying a couple of thousand more for a well-maintained, well documented car could turn out to be your best deal of all. 

Certain Ferrari models (generally those with fewer cars produced) have appreciated beyond the realms of most car enthusiasts, models like the Daytona, 275 GTB/ GTS and the 250 GTO come to mind.  However, for those who still yearn for their first drive behind the wheel of one of those special creations from Marenello, Italy there are still some reasonably priced fun to drive models. 

Start with your criteria for your Ferrari.  Key decisions: 

  • Open car or closed.
  • Two seats or Two seats plus two for kids. 
  • Front Engine V12 or mid engine V8. 

For example, for a young enthusiast with a one or two small children- he/she could go for a Ferrari 400i, a C/4, a 308 GT4 or a Mondial.  All these cars seat two people comfortably and will accomodate two small kids in the back.  Although kids under the age of 6 that require a car seat- may find that there is not enough room in the GT4 and C/4 to properly install one.  The C/4 and 400i are both front engine 12 cylinder Ferraris- the 400 is even available with an automatic transmission (supplied by General Motors).  The GT4 and Mondial are both mid engine V8 Ferraris.  The Mondial is available as a coupe or convertible making it the only affordable 4 place open air Ferrari.  I will tell you from personal experience the top mechanism on early Mondials can be a source of frustration-  in fact I have wrestled with many of tops.  You never want to stow one while wet- the fabric can shrink- making it next to impossible to raise.  Like most convertibles, you should store the car with the top up. 

With exception to the C/4 you’re not going to win any road races in the Mondial or 308 GT4.  The 400 with its big V12 can be exhilarating- I once drove one on a Kart track just outside Talladega, AL – it was a 400A (or Automatic).  For such a heavy car- the car handled great and sounded even better.  Keep in mind that many 400s were European models that were ‘imported’ into the US.  The EPA/ DOT required that these car be upgraded to US safety and Emission standards.  Look for DOT/ EPA certification papers on these cars and check your state’s requirements before purchasing.  In my opinion the 308 GT4 with its controversial Bertone styling is a better handling car than its Pinninfarina 308 GTB/ GTS cousins.  If you really desire wind in your hair – some later model 308GT4’s were available from the factory with Sunroof panels.  The GT4 were also available with “Boxer” trim- the lower half of the car was painted black with a black pinstripe at the waistline running around the car. 

With the 400, Mondial and GT4 you can find examples for sale for as little as $18-$22,000- but beware.  Because these cars are relatively affordable- you’ll find many situations where someone who could not afford the maintenance buys one of these models and pursues a strategy of deferred maintenance.  With any used Ferrari purchase do your homework, reach out to the local Ferrari club in your area- get to know folks and ask lots of questions.  Find out who in your area is considered a reliable Ferrari repair shop and if possible have your potential purchase inspected by this mechanic prior to purchase. 

When properly maintained, the 308 GT4 and Mondial can both serve as daily drivers.   Unlike most late model used car purchases, mileage is not a good predictor of quality.  I have seen cars with 60,000 plus miles on the odometer that are much better off than cars with less than 20,000.  You should also beware of cars which indicate that a major service (such as replacing the timing belts) was completed only a couple of thousand miles ago.  Time (ie. number of months) is as important is how many milese ago the work was performed.  In particular, rubber parts dry out, tires can dry rot if left to sit in one spot for a significant period of time.  Think of what happens to a human body when you don’t exercise- things begin to deteriorate- the same is true of many parts and systems of an automobile.   

A major service on a Ferrari V8 can easily run up to the $3-5K range- so you can see purchasing a Mondial with a recently completed major service is worth a small premium or conversely one that is in need of major service should be priced accordingly- this is important when your talking about cars priced between $25K-50K (your talking about 10% of the cost of the car).  Take your time, these are not super rare models- like in real estate- try not to fall in love before the inspection. 

I have heard, but not confirmed that some US model 1980-1982 308GTB/S models had problems with burning oil.  In the most extreme cases Ferrari replaced the engines under warranty.  If buying one of these cars, be sure to check for oil consumption and smoking.  Of all the 308 series cars, I prefer the 1983-1985 “quattrovalvo” cars.   In 1983, Ferrari released this updated version of the 3.0 Liter V8 with four valves per cylinder – enabling the engine to breathe better and increasing horsepower and torque output.  Similarly, to add more power in 1986, Ferrari expanded the 308/ Mondial series V8 to 3.2 liters of displacement.  They also freshened the body with body colored integrated front and rear bumpers.  Door handles integrated into the sides of the door.  Likewise the interior received a updates.  In 1989, Ferrari added antilock brakes (in some cases they were installed on models labeled 1988 1/2.

In 1990, Ferrari replaced the venerable 3×8 series with the 348- the styling echoed the Testarossa that was launched in 1985 as a replacement for the 512 Boxer.  I have heard that the 348 requires removal of the engine/ transmission sub assembly for a major service.  This means the cost to maintain is likely to be higher.

I should take the opportunity to point out that with exception of perhaps the C/4 – do not buy any of the Ferrari models mentioned previously because you expect them to appreciate.  There were simply too many 3×8 series cars produced to expect they’ll appreciate the way the older V12 Ferraris have.  You can however expect that unlike a new BMW – it should not depreciate much if properly maintained.  Perhaps best of all – owning a Ferrari gives you access to whole new social scene.  Like many marques- there are well established, well organized owners clubs for Ferrari, including the FCA (Ferrari Club of America) and FOC (Ferrari Owners Club).  They organize events and tours where you can meet fellow enthusiasts and enjoy your new purchase.   

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