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Can I get some advice on the in's and out's of the 550?

Discussion in '456/550/575' started by riverflyer, Mar 7, 2004.

  1. riverflyer

    riverflyer F1 Rookie

    Nov 26, 2003
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    John
    I have an opportunity to get into a 550 at what seems to be an attractive price. I have always loved this car, ever since the first time I saw one in 98. I know some think it stodgy in design but cars are like women and different shapes move different people. What I am hoping is some of the 550 owners who often post here, can offer some suggestions in what to look for when examining the car. I have always had a great 6th sense concerning the evaluation of how a car has been cared for but this is by far the biggest($) car purchase I have ever considered. So please help me out if you can. (And yes, I have searched and read many clips from the archives)
    I will arrange a PPI but want to be able to look and identify things that are particular to this model (or at least 12cyl fcars). What are the issue areas?
    What things about this model would you avoid? The car is low miles 1998 car and has not had belt service yet. And I admit being a bit confused about this. Some people I have spoken with are adament that if the car is running well and not being driven hard, that the whole belt service thing is way overdone, others say it is absolutely necessary. How important is this if the car has been well maintained, not abused or tracked and has had regular fluid service? Thanks for your help on this, John
     
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  3. Boxer12

    Boxer12 Formula 3

    Jun 1, 2003
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    Use common sense. Why would you want a car that was not fussed over by the owner? Treated with absolute love and devotion (like a woman). The lack of a service tells me that this car is not that one. That doesn't mean there is anything wrong with it, but every experienced Ferrari owner will opt for a car that has been driven regularly (no garage queens) and even has miles so long as there is good service history and evidence that the owner took exceptional care of the car.
     
  4. riverflyer

    riverflyer F1 Rookie

    Nov 26, 2003
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    Well, regular oil service and good attention to inside and out of car does not, to me, mean the car has been neglected. The only thing missing is the belt service, otherwise the car seems very nice. Mileage reflects regular driving but not excessive in any year.
     
  5. Texas Forever

    Texas Forever Four Time F1 World Champ
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    1. 550 prices. All last year 550 prices where falling like, from my favorite Napolis quote, "keys dropped out of a Lear Jet." I brought a 1998 550 last May for roughly $120k. When I first started talking to the dealer in November 2002, (it was a cosignment car), the price was $150k firm. By January, it had dropped to $135k. When the price fell below $120k in May, I pulled the trigger. My car is a silver/bordeaux, had 10.6k miles, 5k and 15K services done, and 2 anal owners who took care of all the little things that go bump in the night. (The car was originally sold by FOH and all work has been done there.)

    The dealers' explanation for the free fall in prices was (1) the newer 575 was finally started putting pressure on the 550 models, (2) 550s were out of warranty, (3) the 360 was the hot, hot car that was soaking up available buyers, and, frankly, the economy was sucky. (The economy may not affect 1st time Ferrari buyers, but it sure impacts the poseurs like me.)

    Lately, I'm pleased to see that 550 prices have been firming up somewhat. There are still a lot for sale, and I expect to see the street price of a 1998 Maranellos to ultimately fall to the $95k range. However, I don't see this happening next week.

    2. Things to watch for:

    * Wheel recall. The Euro cars might not have had this done.
    * Pleum hoses. Make sure these have been replaced. I didn't and it cost me.
    * Dashboard leather. Some have shrinkage. Some don't.
    * Actuators/Motor Mounts. "Maranelloman, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you." Search the old archives for Dave's post on this issue. I haven't had any problem with mine, but apparantly some folks have had.
    * Check engine lights. Get some black tape and mask off the light.

    3. Timing belts:

    More digital trees have been wasted on this one that any other topic. Breaking timing belts is not an issue that is unique to Ferrari. Every overhead cam engine that uses belts has this problem, even Hondas! The Ferrari problem, from what I have been told, is that there are no "stops" on the value guides to prevent a value from kissing the sky when the belt breaks. So instead of being a PIA when a belt breaks, in a Ferrari, this means a new engine. Thus, the never-ending paranoia about breaking a belt.

    Are Ferrari belts more prone to break than Honda belts? I don't think so. But again, the pain is much more when it does happen.

    I have heard that low-mileage Ferrari are more likely to snap that those with some miles. Sitting in the garage for months on end is not supposed to be good for belts.

    Bottom is that a well exercised 1998 550 with less than 30k miles shouldn't need a timing belt service, even though the car is over 5 years old and the factory specs call for replacement the earlier of 5 years or 30k miles.

    4. New Power 1 Warranty

    Cutting to the chase, I went ahead and bellied up to the bar and got this new warranty on my car. I like to drive my car, not worry about it. So, for me, having this warranty is great. (BTW, track days don't void the warranty.) For $2,500, it is money well spent. Even though it only covers one-year, I can renew for several more years. Plus, guess how much fixing the plenum cost me? It was over $2,500 bucks.

    But there is a catch. (There's a-l-w-a-y-s sumthang...) To qualify for the warranty, I had to have the 30k timing belt done. I ain't gonna say how much that cost me other than to say it costs a lot to use the best, and FOH techs are some of the best <heavy sigh>.

    But here's the good news, remember my comment about actuators and motor mounts? Who cares? I have a warranty!

    I am seriously considering driving my car to Pebble Beach and back next Summer. Just me, and one of those long, lonesome Nevada highways. My car will do some serious munching.

    Having the warranty means never having to wake up at 2 am wondering whether your belt will break tomorrow.

    5. Total Cost of Ownership

    I'm still hoping that my total cost of ownership, including depreciation, will be about $2 a mile. If I end up putting 20k on my car and my total rent bill is $40k, these will be dollars well spent.

    By comparison, I'm fixin to take a $30k haircut on a E55 that I have had for 33k miles. While the cost per mile in the E55 will be less, the smiles per mile in the 550 will be more. The E55 is a great car, but it's not a Maranello.

    I hope this helps. At the end of the day, don't fret too much. Life is too short to lose sleep over a car. Just go and get her and have a ball.

    DrTax
     
  6. Tomf-1

    Tomf-1 F1 Rookie
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    Dr.Tax, this is pretty meaningful info....I am currently looking at a 98 Euro 550M with similar milage. I'd like to entertain your thoughts and others on where its value will fall 6 month from now?

    Also, I am less than distinct with the wheel recall you eluded to with the euro model. Could you elaborate?
     
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  8. riverflyer

    riverflyer F1 Rookie

    Nov 26, 2003
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    Dr TAx, I was hoping you would weigh in on this as I appreciate your posts and humor. Sounds like the warranty is a good idea. What is the company?

    I was thinking about having the belt service done anyway, just as you say, for peace of mind and resource protection, if you will. I will make note of your list and compare when I get the inspection papers.
    Thanks for your detailed and very helpful post. Will of course, let you know how it turns out. John
     
  9. Texas Forever

    Texas Forever Four Time F1 World Champ
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    Riverflyer: The warranty is through Ferrari and can only be done at a dealer. This also means that the 30k must be done at the dealer. Finally, dealers are free to pick and choose which cars they will let into the program. Thus, a Euro car could be a problem.

    Tom F-1: If you check the DOT (or is it the FTC?) recall website, you'll see the info on the wheel recall. Because many US dealers, under pressure from FNA, refused to work on Euro cars, this wheel recall may or may not be done.

    DrTax

    ps The 550 is a hella of a car. You will not be disappointed.
     
  10. bobafett

    bobafett F1 Veteran

    Sep 28, 2002
    9,193
    I don't know about Euro cars (although if it has been US certified, maybe this still happens), but in '99 they updated the Motronic and regular ECUs, along with the thermocouplers.

    Check to see if this car has had the updates. From what I can tell, the new thermocouplers are green. The other two are hidden away and can't be determined upon visual inspection.

    With respect to the actuators: know that there is no fix. Some do it, some don't. It takes about 30 seconds to "unspin" the actuator by hand if you want, so don't shell out the $600 FNA will ask you to for a part that continues to be defective. The actuators in question have been used since the mondial, and they spin *only* ni the front of the 550, not even in the rear. Ferrari has been boggled about it and has no fix. It's not a big deal to unspin them - the thing is to check them often enough to make sure that the cables don't rip out. I suspect they don't, as I've seen cars (my own included) where they were extremely tight, but didn't move. Perhaps the cable being tense holds them in place, I don't know, but if it goes, you're SOL.

    --Dan
     
  11. bobafett

    bobafett F1 Veteran

    Sep 28, 2002
    9,193
    By the way, see if you can bargain in the price of the major and just have it done. It's worth the peace of mind. Mine cost me ~6500 I think, including a new water pump which ran a grand. Seems to be the average price.

    John: where in CA are you? I can help you look at cars if you're not too far away. I'm in the bay area.

    --Dan
     
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  13. nerd

    nerd F1 Rookie

    Oct 12, 2003
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    I actually have little to add to DrTax's comments, including the plenum hoses that cost me as well. The 550 does SO many things well. It's easy to drive around town (like a BMW, Mercedes, etc.), but is a profoundly competent and powerful car at, or near, the limit. It’s not as nimble at turn-in as a 355, 360, M3, etc. but is a true GT in the Ferrari tradition. I can’t think of a car, short of spending 4-5 times the money (thinking F50 here) I’d rather own and drive regularly.
     
  14. whart

    whart F1 Veteran
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    Dec 5, 2001
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    Dale(Dr. Tax) hit most of the highlights. Coolant hoses, belt service, occasional ecu failures, wheel replacement, all of which were cataloged in detail in the "old" chat archives, findable by search. The rear window delaminates, at least on the older ones. The newer ones give you the option of carbon fiber (which frankly, looks better than the expensive plain plastic), a quilted rear shelf (a matter of taste) and those small, hidden running changes that seem to improve the car as it matured. There was a world of difference between my 97, which i bought used and my 2001, which i bought new, most of which related to the earlier car having sat for a spell.

    A warranty would be a good thing but i don't know what the ferrari "used car" warranty covers. Dale, is your warranty an aftermarket, non-ferrari specific program? Chances are you'll put fresh tires on the thing, too, so a car that has not has belt service, needs a thorough going over, etc. can cost you another unit and a half by the time you've done a number on it (figure units on these are worth 5k, that way, you don't have to think in dollars). If you get a late one with warranty, it may not be much more?#$#?
     
  15. Doody

    Doody F1 Veteran

    Nov 16, 2001
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    note that there was a TSB released in 2001 (?) regarding the motor mounts failing. basically, the motor mounts were reasonably stupidly designed, and they can fail. there seems to be some anecdotal correlation of failure to cars with lower mileage (that is, infrequent use or long sit times) - but don't go trade stock on that data. the redesigned part is very different and obviously smarter.

    as best we can tell, FNA has been stepping up to the plate on these if you do the work through an authorized dealer and push hard.

    doody.
     
  16. Texas Forever

    Texas Forever Four Time F1 World Champ
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    There was an article about this recently in the Ferrari Owners Mag. The requirements are:

    1. Car must be purchased thru a dealer
    2. Car must be less than 12 years old.
    3. Good title and ceritification
    4. Recalls must have been done
    5. Complete dealer service history
    6. Only US cars
    7. 101 inspection, including compression
    8. All aftermarket stuff, e.g., pipes, must be removed.


    For V12 cars, here is how it works:

    Year 1 & 2 - Factory New Car Warranty
    Years 3 to 6 - Factory Power 1 Warranty
    Years 7 to 12 - FNA Powertrain Plus

    Power 1 covers: engine, gearbox, transmission, suspension, steering, heating, air conditioning cooling, fuel and brake system.

    FNA Powertrain Plus covers: engine, transmission, drivetrain, steering, heating, air conditioning, electrical, and brake system.

    In addition, the Factory also offers various extensions of the factory warranty that must be purchased no later than 30 days after the original warranty expires.

    According to FNA, their plan is to shift dealer sales of used/new from 50/50 to 70/30.

    Because FOH sold my car new, and has done 100% of the services on the car, I had zero problem qualifying. I don't know how tight Ferrari plans on holding to this rule.

    DrTax
     
  17. riverflyer

    riverflyer F1 Rookie

    Nov 26, 2003
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    Dr Tax, this is not a euro car, and seems to meet all qualifications. It does have tubi though, so does that have to go?

    Dan, most generous of you and as it turns out, the car is in the bay area. My email is yogajohn@mcn.org. Drop me a line with a number and I will call you, or just email and we can go from there. I don't have the day picked out yet, but it will be this week and I would love to have your help. thanks, John

    Whart, I like that thinking in units. I figured I would have to put around a unit in it and as it always goes, you are probably right at a unit and a half.
     
  18. Texas Forever

    Texas Forever Four Time F1 World Champ
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    One thing to check out is that you might have to buy the car used from a dealer, not a private party. I'm not positive on this, but I think that this is how it works.

    The Tubi shouldn't be a problem because just about everybody keeps the stock system. Sounds dumb to unbolt the tubi and put on the stock, but whatcha gonna do when dey come fer you?

    DrTax
     
  19. bobafett

    bobafett F1 Veteran

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    John: check yoru email.

    --Dan
     
  20. whart

    whart F1 Veteran
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    You mean Dr. "We've got you covered" Tax. (Pretty good stuff, Dale.)
     
  21. ghost

    ghost F1 Veteran
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    Has Forza released a 550 Buyer's Guide? If so, can somebody email it to me.
     
  22. ralfabco

    ralfabco Two Time F1 World Champ
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  23. ralfabco

    ralfabco Two Time F1 World Champ
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    I am amazed. I always "assumed" that you bought your car new. Well I
    saw you at the Ferrari Party with the expensive Rolex, 21 year old blond,
    $500.00 silk shirt, and gold chains. I always assumed you were a hi-roller
    who was given special red carpet treatment at F of H. Surprise, surprise,
    surprise.
     
  24. whart

    whart F1 Veteran
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    Ralph, the reason why Dale can afford to act like a high roller is because he doesn't pay retail. Smart man.
     
  25. ralfabco

    ralfabco Two Time F1 World Champ
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    I hope you know that I was kidding. Really. I just am trying to rub the
    Tax Man. He gives it back you know. LOL
     
  26. whart

    whart F1 Veteran
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    You mean the rolex was fake, or the blonde was?
     
  27. ralfabco

    ralfabco Two Time F1 World Champ
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    It was the watch. And that phermone cologne ?
     
  28. Texas Forever

    Texas Forever Four Time F1 World Champ
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    Pretty funny from a pusher who drives a white kit car....

    Actually that should be pimp. But, hey,who is counting, eh?
     

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