First "starter" Ferrari - Guidance needed

Discussion in 'Ferrari Discussion (not model specific)' started by CharlesE, Feb 14, 2009.

  1. CharlesE

    CharlesE Formula 3

    Nov 19, 2007
    Johns Creek GA
    Full Name:
    Charles E
    I'm sure I will get some strong opinions but good guidance here. I am thinking about getting a Ferrari which would be my first one. It would be an additional car to the other cars I have which are older and i tinker with. (911 and TR6). My parameters are:

    1.) Budget = $30-35k
    2.) fixed or non fixed roof considered
    3.) 2 or 4 seater considered
    4.) something I can tinker with for minor items (maintenance/brakes/etc) but not major items (engine rebuild).
    5.) maintenance / repair costs "reasonable" for a F car at least
    6.) good driveability...all out performance not first concern but something you can drive reliabily...working a/c a must if fixed roof.
    7.) something that will hold it's value if not appreciate.

    Could you please give me your opinion on the above parameters such as
    1.) what you would look at and why
    2.) potential maintenance cost of what you reccommend.

    The obvious candidates to me are 308 variants, early 328 variants, 400i, early mondial.

    Comments are appreciated.
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  3. J. Salmon

    J. Salmon F1 Rookie
    Silver Subscribed Owner

    Aug 27, 2005
    searchy searchy

  4. cmt6891

    cmt6891 Formula 3
    Silver Subscribed

    Feb 25, 2008
    Encino, Ca
    Full Name:
    Carl T
    '85 308 QV...preferably a Euro version if your state does not have emissions concerns..
  5. Bullfighter

    Bullfighter Two Time F1 World Champ
    Lifetime Rossa Owner

    Jan 26, 2005
    Fullerton, California
    Full Name:
    #4 Bullfighter, Feb 14, 2009
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2009
    If your total $ in the bank for a fun car is $35K, you're probably looking at one of these:

    308 GT4
    1980-82 308 GTBi/GTSi

    I'm assuming you could get a decent car for $30K and hold $5K in reserve for a major service plus incidentals. Any Ferrari V8 can inhale $5000 when the 30K service is due. You'll also probably get a dozen replies here telling you to buy a really good car to start with, because Ferrari parts prices can be steep. I've had an MG and a Porsche, and the (often limited) availability and (often exorbitant) cost of parts for Ferraris reminds you that exotic cars are kind of their own game. (That's why "normal" sports car people buy Porsches, Corvettes, etc.)

    If I were in your shoes, I might try to bank another $10K while searching for a 1984-85 308 GTS QV with ~31K miles on it. That should be very doable for $40K. I would look for an original car (i.e., one that has not been modified with aftermarket wheels, old alarm systems, painted targa top, etc.) with a service history that includes the most recent major service performed by a reputable shop. I like the '84'-85 cars due to the start of rustrproofing and the driveability of the Bosch CIS.

    If you want to buy now, based on your current budget, the 1980-82 308 GTSi/GTBi has the pretty lines of the 308 QV/328, but for less money due to the reduced horsepower of those years. I think $30K would get you a decent car -- there's a stunning, time capsule 308 GTBi being offered at $45K currently, but that's more than you would need pay if you plan to actually drive it. They rust, but if it's a dry weather car and you keep it dry, it will survive.

    If you like the looks of the 2+2 cars on the list (GT4 and Mondial), they are a massive bargain. The Mondial 3.2 has the robust drivetrain from the 328 and costs $10K-$20K less than its two-seater stablemate. A black Mondial coupe is still a handsome car, IMO.

    I think you could find a 348 within your budget ($35k), but it would be a well-used and probably needy one, and parts/service prices on the 348 are notch higher on the Ferrari scale than the other cars I mentioned here. I don't think a good 328 would be available for much under $50K, otherwise that would be the one I would recommend (and I own one).

    Hopefully you'll take this in the right spirit, but $35K is toward the low end of the budget to get started in Ferrari ownership. None of these cars is likely to depreciate, but they are old cars you will likely spend a couple thousand a year keeping one in good shape -- and another several thousand every 3-5 years for the timing belt service. A full 30K major on a 308/328 runs about $5,500 at the independent Ferrari tech near me and about $9,300 at the Ferrari dealer.

    BTW, the driveability of the later 308s and 328 is excellent, but the egonomics are old school Italian (tight, small offset pedals, tilted steering wheel) and the a/c isn't very good. I would bet most of us drive with the windows open and the top off most of the time.
  6. TommyFerrari

    TommyFerrari Karting

    Feb 6, 2009
    There is a 91 348 on ebay with a "buy it now" price of 37K. Recent service and 42K miles.

    There is a 89 Mondial T with 89K miles with a "buy it now" price of 22K. They say it has recent service, new brakes, and a new clutch.

    Would you be willing to sell your 911 and increas your Ferrari fund? Your options would increase.
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  8. vunico

    vunico Formula Junior

    Feb 20, 2007
    southern florida
    great post,jon !
    where can i find the 308 gtbi you speak of?
  9. TommyFerrari

    TommyFerrari Karting

    Feb 6, 2009
    Searching a little more yields this|65%3A12|39%3A1|240%3A1318

    I would buy that in a heartbeat. $33k price, under 30K miles, all service records.

    I wonder why the 348 is so underappreciated compared to the 308/328.
  10. nathandarby67

    nathandarby67 F1 Veteran
    Rossa Subscribed Owner

    Feb 1, 2005
    Full Name:
    You are about to make the most exciting purchase of your life! There has been some very good advice so far in this thread, but I will add my 2 cents and offer a little moral support. I had a similar set of criteria as you when I was looking for my first Ferrari a couple of years ago, but my budget was even a tick smaller than yours. (I was trying to keep it under 25K). So I was looking at the same basic set of cars as you, minus a few that could be on your higher end like a cheap 348 or a 308QV or Mondial t. I was at a bit of a financial advantage becasue I had the willingness do most all of my own mechanical work. So when I was looking at cars that needed a $6K major service that really meant more like $1K in parts to me. You said you are wanting to do some of your own work, so you can count on saving a good bit here, the amount depending on what you are willing to tackle. Even the major service on the V8's mentioned here is pretty straightforward, and there is TONS of guidance available right here on fchat. If you are comfortable spinning wrenches, there is very little you can not handle on these cars.

    My wife is hounding me right now to go eat lunch, but I will add some more detailed thoughts on the items you listed above and some of the cars you are considering when I get back!

    AWESOME Karting

    Jan 29, 2009
    Burlington, VT USA
    Full Name:
    Matt L.
    haha, I was just looking at that listing when it first posted, and I too thought it to be a good deal. I also love the 348, its prob my fav 90's F-car.

    One thought, instead of buying one you dont like as much, just because "its cheaper, and its a ferrari" I would say wait and get what you really want. If a 308 or Mondial is what you want, fine. But if you want a 355, TR ect, but get a 308 just for it being a "starter Ferrari", I'm not sure you'll stay content very long. I know if I did that, I would be happy to have the car, but would still wish it was the other car I wanted more. This same principal has happened to me in everything from cars to guitars to shoes. Maybe it wont apply to you, but its something to think about.


    also remember that no ferrari is cheap, in the long run. pay less for the car, pay more for upkeep. or vice versa.
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  13. DGS

    DGS Four Time F1 World Champ

    May 27, 2003
    Full Name:
    #10 DGS, Feb 14, 2009
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2009
    Based on that criteria, I'd say go looking for a clean 308GT4.

    And a floor lift.

    The "Dino" is still carb'd. The others in that price range (Mondial, 308i) are CIS, which require a special set of equipment and a special type of patience to maintain. They're reliable, but if they do go wrong, it's a pain for a DIYer to fix.

    These are all mid-engine cars, and you generally get at the engine through a wheel well, so you need a way to lift the car. Maybe I'm just getting old, but jack stands and cinder blocks just don't seem to be the way for routine work. ;)

    (While it's less of an issue in GA, the other benefit of a floor lift is the ability to use summer/winter wheel and tire packages on your daily drivers -- swapping wheels with a lift is fairly easy.)

    But when buying a used Italian car, be sure to budget big for the first service. Even in a "pristine" car, there will be things the previous owner stopped noticing that might drive you sparse, unless you fix it. If you plan to do your own service and use it as a "toy", there isn't the absolute need to do the full engine-out "make it so" service that you'd do to a driver model. (Italians can be reliable, but only if serviced religiously.) But having things go wrong every other drive might impact your "joy of ownership", so you may still want to do a thorough going-over once you get the car.

    A few "must dos": Timing belts. These *must* be maintained. If they break, the engine eats itself. Check the service records on a car you're looking to buy. If the belts haven't been done lately, then make that priority one *before* taking it out "for a little fun", or you may have a long spell of seeing a disassembled car in your garage. (Or a $15-20K bill from a shop.)

    Fuel lines. If they're old, replace them. And carry a fire extinguisher. (The carb'd cars run less fuel pressure than CIS, but the engine bay is still hot enough to light off a fuel leak.)

    And: Moderation. Don't try to be Schumi the first time you sit behind the wheel. Mid-engines have low angular momentum. They can get sideways very quickly. These cars talk to you, but you have to learn the language. With a little practice, you'll learn when the car is nearing the limits before it sends you for a spin.

    Oh, and one more thing: Drive the heck out of it. The more you drive them, the more familiar you get with them, and the more you get out of driving them. If you only take it out once a month, you'll spend the entire drive re-familiarizing yourself, rather than enjoying it.

    Just my tuppence worth.
  14. Bullfighter

    Bullfighter Two Time F1 World Champ
    Lifetime Rossa Owner

    Jan 26, 2005
    Fullerton, California
    Full Name:
    FChat sponsor Sports Car Company has it on their website. Also FChat'er rimoore (Richard) works for them and would have the full scoop.
  15. MBFerrari

    MBFerrari F1 Veteran

    Jul 2, 2008
    Full Name:
    Matt B
    #12 MBFerrari, Feb 14, 2009
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2009
    As one to often throw my opinion in, I will tell you what I think.

    I bought a 348SS about 8 months ago. With a major from the same CA independent that Bullfighter had his done by...with the Hill Tensioner Bearings etc, the total came to about ~$6500.

    NOTHING else was needed on my car. Nothing. My point is this - if I had your budget I would choose these cars:
    1) 308GTSi
    2) 308 GT4
    3) Mondial

    Stay away from any car (see:355) that will eat up tons of money right off the bat. Meaning what Jon said is correct. I am trying to help two other guys buy 348's right now, and they have heard out of my mouth 1000 times already, if you buy a 348 for $35, you had better have $10k in the bank and be ready to spend it in short order.

    If you buy a 308 in that price range you can keep your "back-up" fund and pay for the major when it needs it, or do it immediately like I did and be extremely happy with a new to to you Ferrari with a fresh major. The 348's you are seeing in that low price range are mostly pieces of crap. They look like crap (I know because I looked at a bunch of them) and will need a ton of work. What specifically you ask? Torn leather, dashboards that are warped and shot. TONS of paint chips and wheel rash, and the like. Some of them may be saved, but it won't be cheap (just ask VVassallo).

    Many who originally bad mouthed the 348 are starting to realize that it's reputation and popularity is gaining ground to the masses slowly but surely, but the 308 is already well loved, and the 308GT4 is making a huge comeback too in popularity.

    Find a car that looks pretty good, and has a very good service history, and buy it. Be patient, it may be a few months before you see it. When you do, you will know it.

    Best in the search. When you get it (whatever you decide on) you will love it. People on Fchat are jaded. They think it actually matters what kind of Ferrari you have. Once you get out into the world with your car you will realize that it doesn't.
  16. JF308

    JF308 Formula 3

    Jan 17, 2007
    Boulder, CO
    Full Name:
    John Feeney
    #13 JF308, Feb 14, 2009
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2009
    Agree with MB.

    the 2Valve cars listed would be in your budget with cash backup.

    If you can go a bit more into the $30's, I'd try to step up to a 4V car, Quattrovalvole or 3.2 Mondi.

    Add a bit more, and you can move to a Mondial t cabriolet or coupe with 348 engine/drivetrain, more HP and some modern equipment (power steering, ABS, adjustable shocks)...

    Its all up to what you like, and each step in price gets you a bit newer and some added steps up. The question is what do you prefer?

    more vintage (308 GT4), or moving to a bit more modern (328-esque Mondial 3.2 or t)

    2V, 4V, 3.2L4V, 3.4L4V

    2 seats or 4

    Cabrio or fixed roof

    I would not recommend a Mondial 8 (2V). See TommyFerrari thread in the general Ferrari section. There is one for $15k, but I think you'd own it along time. Not one of the most favorite Mondials.Although the Mondials themselves are a great starter Ferrari in my opinion. ( I started with a 308 GT4 which I loved) but I find that for me, fuel injection and a few more modern goodies are more up my alley. I have an 89 Mondial t cab right now (for sale in F-Ads. Moving up to 348 SS or 355)

    Right now on FAds there is a 308 Euro QV for $35, a Mondial QV Euro for $23, and 2 Mondial t cabs from $40 - $45K asking.....
  17. nathandarby67

    nathandarby67 F1 Veteran
    Rossa Subscribed Owner

    Feb 1, 2005
    Full Name:
    Alright, I'm back. Lunch was GOOD! God, I am glad I live in the South.

    But I digress....on to your Ferrari hunt:

    You mentioned the following models, 308, 328, Mondial, 400i.

    If you are concerned about servicing costs, I would probably take the 400/412 out of your search. You have 4 more cylinders worth of stuff to go wrong and potentially have to fix. I **think** parts in general tend to be a bit more expensive on these as well. They have their set of known issues like any other old car. But if you find yourself equally attracted to a 400 and a 308 for the same price, the service and running costs will tip the balance towards the 8 cylinder cars.

    You could maybe find a 328 in your price range, but it will probably need at least a little work, so shop carefully if you go for one of these. There ARE deals to be had, but you have to be certain you are not buying any big hidden problems. The 328's are wonderful cars, though. Price no object, that would probably be my top choice of the ones you have listed, but for 35K max I would probably skip them and go for a 308 variant or Mondial.

    Between the Mondial and 308, service costs will be pretty much identical. Since you will be doing a lot of your own work, however, keep in mind the engine bay of the Mondial is a lot roomier and easier to work in. The engine is really tucked into the 308 engine bay tightly. You can do the major service without removing the engine in a Mondial, although a lot of folks remove it anyway just because it is easier to get to stuff. On the Mondial the entire engine and transaxle assembly is mounted on a subframe that you can drop right out of the bottom of the car after removing about 8 bolts. This is not the case with a 308, and removing their engine is a bit more involved. The Mondial does have more electrical gizmos that can act up compared to a 308. Stuff like warning lights, remote trunk and fuel filler releases, power mirrors, etc. There is nothing computerized or complicated about all this. No real "black boxes" like modern cars, just switches and relays and such. You can trace out and fix most any problem here yourself, it is just a matter of patience and how much you hate solving electrical gremlins. It is only one data point, but I have had a grand total of ONE electrical problem in the 2 and a half years I have had my Mondial, knock on wood. So the system is not as terrible and unreliable as some would have you believe. Most of the problems that crop up are common and have happened to others before, so there are known fixes out there.
  18. rudy355

    rudy355 Rookie

    Sep 27, 2008
    Full Name:
    i have a 1986 328 gtsi, black metallic,tan interior, 39k miles for sale, a car that i feel is in good order and would fit your
    budget. it can be viewed on and i would be glad to answer any questions you may have directly
    if you are interested.
  19. tjacoby

    tjacoby F1 Rookie

    Nov 1, 2003
    Vancouver Canada
    Full Name:
    They can all be good cars, if you buy the right one and know what you're getting into.

    Sounds like the older/simpler cars may be more to your liking. Is it the sound of a V8 carb'd exotic that gets the hair on the back of your neck excited? The curves of the 308GTB, wind in the hair of a Mondial Spider, the extra seats in a 308GT4, or the torque of a 400/412?

    My wife thought I was nuts (still does - but that's a different story) for not buying a new 360 rather than the 348 Spider I picked, and kept, for my first.

    We can pontificate forever (and will) - but until you drive them and understand the differences and similarities, it's all theory ;)
  20. DGS

    DGS Four Time F1 World Champ

    May 27, 2003
    Full Name:
    Probably the best advice yet. Don't buy whatever you can afford. Save up and get the one you want.

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