News

Reinventing history

Discussion in 'Ferrari Discussion (not model specific)' started by JoeZaff, Dec 28, 2009.

  1. JoeZaff

    JoeZaff F1 Veteran
    Owner

    Aug 5, 2007
    5,403
    Philly suburbs
    Full Name:
    Joe
    #1 JoeZaff, Dec 28, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2009
    Growing up, I was an avid reader of just about every major automobile publication, sometimes subscribing to three or more at a time. I recalled reading rave reviews of Ferraris of all stripes in the automotive press. Articles that would comment on the spectacular fit and finish, masterful interiors, and outstanding performance. I recalled reading these articles, not just about such obvious masterpieces as the 355 and 328, but also cars such as the 348 and my personal favorite, the Mondial. Then, in the year or so lead up to buying my Mondial, I became an avid reader of this board and looked to more modern Ferrari publications. I began to question my memory. Comments like, mediocre build quality, terrible paint, poor fit and finish, etc, pop up time and time again with excuses such as....well it is a handmade Italian car by a company focused on performance.

    Recently I was given a wonderful compilation of major magazine articles written on the 348/328/Mondial/308 in the 80's and early 90's to supplement those articles I have been able to find online. They said exactly what I recalled. In the 80's and early 90s Ferrari was the gold standard for fit and finish. Magazines glowed over the quality of the paint, the detail of the interior, the build quality AND the performance. Even the 348, which is now considered by some to be a terrible car was ADORED in its day. Heck, major magazines couldn't get enough of it.

    I say all this to say. At some point we have to stop applying modern standards to twenty year old cars. Ferrari has ALWAYS built world class cars, regardless of what measuring stick is applied. Did they require more maintenance---yes, but the cost estimates provided in these older magazines are not dramatically higher then the 911's they were often compared to. Of course, now that parts are scarcer, it is a different story, but we should always be mindful to look at these cars through the lens of the era they were created in. In their day, they were the cream of the crop, no matter what measuring stick was used.
     
  2. To remove this ad click here.

  3. TheMayor

    TheMayor Eight Time F1 World Champ
    Rossa Subscribed

    Feb 11, 2008
    83,538
    Vegas baby
    #2 TheMayor, Dec 28, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
    I've always felt the press was overly complementary about Ferrari's --- and still are today. Part of it is the mystique, and part may be self serving (like extra track time, getting invited back again, etc).

    To be honest, the fit and finish of the 80's cars is not on par with others at the time. It was not the worst, but it was not the best either -- especially for the price.

    When I would sell one to newbies, people would always ask why the paint is orangepealed or why the steering wheel didn't tilt, or why the pedals were offset, or why the AC barely worked, or how the targa fit so poorly, or why the windows went up so slow, or how crumby the radio sounded.

    I would always say... you're not paying for those things. You're paying for the looks, the performance, the magnificent handbuilt engine, and the nameplate. Paint, AC and creature comforts are low priority. Some got it. Others passed.

    So, I sort of disagree. Yes, the 80's were not kind to a lot of cars. But, Ferrari's were not on par with many others at the time in terms of quality. Luca was right about that.
     
  4. JoeZaff

    JoeZaff F1 Veteran
    Owner

    Aug 5, 2007
    5,403
    Philly suburbs
    Full Name:
    Joe
    A fair counterpoint indeed.
    However, while Porsches may have been better built, in the 80's, Porsches were comparable from a price standpoint. Heck, there was even a BMW or two that was as expensive or more so. Having driven many a BMW from that era and been in a couple of 911s and 928s, I don't see the night and day difference in build quality that is now commonly suggested.

    There were indeed some things that Ferrari couldn't quite pull off. Even back in the day, it seems the magazines were griping about the ventilation and difficult transmissions

    However, with the exception of Mercedes, who were building bank vaults on wheels in the 1980's, I I think the difference in build quality between Ferrari and its contemporaries when new was more similar then dissimilar, the articles I have read seem to support this notion.
     
  5. PSk

    PSk F1 World Champ

    Nov 20, 2002
    17,673
    Tauranga, NZ
    Full Name:
    Pete
    #4 PSk, Dec 28, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2009
    Those BMW's and Porsches you are talking about are probably still running without any restoration and now have 4 times the mileage of the same age Ferrari ... very few Ferraris are used for everyday transport and haven't required restorations.

    My father for example used to own a '73 BMW 2002 Tii when it was ~20 years old. It was still as solid as, including trim and it had done ~100,000 miles. No Italian car would be the same.

    Compare a Toyota Corolla build quality to a brand new Ferrari and they will be the same (I'm assuming here that Ferrari have improved and now can reach Toyota levels), only difference is that the Ferrari uses more expensive materials, ie. leather and carbon fibre, etc., but that does not mean it has better fit and finish.
    Pete
     
  6. JoeZaff

    JoeZaff F1 Veteran
    Owner

    Aug 5, 2007
    5,403
    Philly suburbs
    Full Name:
    Joe
    #5 JoeZaff, Dec 29, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
    Well that is something we may never know because nobody drives their Ferraris (LOL)

    In any event, Ferraris live a very hard life. Many are seldom driven, forced to sit and decay for long periods of time, and then driven like they were stolen for short bursts before being put away. The Ferraris from the 80s that see very regular use are remarkably problem free 20 plus years later.

    Not to trash the brand, but I drove a few 80s BMWs in the 80s and they were anything but problem free (the 2002, BTW ceased production in 1975). As for Toyota, again, many of the magazines of the day put the contemporary Ferraris at the top of the fit and finish, and quality, scale--along with Porsche. This is not something I am making up. You can question the honesty of those articles as bdelp has suggested, but not their existence.

    However, the point of this thread was to merely emphasize that the automotive media had a far better opinion of Ferrari in the 80's then they are now willing to admit, AND, IMHO these cars were no worse, and perhaps a whole lot better than the cars being produced by other luxury marquees during the same period.
     
  7. To remove this ad click here.

  8. VGM911

    VGM911 Formula 3

    Apr 8, 2007
    1,355
    New Jersey
    #6 VGM911, Dec 29, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009


    I have no stake in this discussion, but it's an interesting exhange of ideas that nevertheless grabbed my attention. Two points I'd like to make:

    FIRST
    I basically agree with bdelp's observations about what the buyer is paying for. Other cars, too (German sports cars come to mind) required similar explanations ("Porsche puts its money into important mechanical systems, including drive train, steering, braking, suspension, etc." to partially clarify why there was no wood trim, or why the ride was a bit too stiff for someone who mistakenly thought that a smoother, 'boulevard ride' was important and to be expected in a car with a high price tag).

    SECOND
    Seeing bdelp's reference to "fit and finish" made me wonder about what the term means by others in the industry. So, here's a definition advanced by Consumer Reports as they look at test cars interiors:

    "Experienced engineers evaluate every test vehicle's interior qualities. They want to see that the trim pieces have minimal gaps and properly align with one another and that the texture of adjacent panels matches. The testers also judge the tactile quality of the plastics, leather, fabrics, and switchgear-the parts that people normally touch. They look for quality in sewn seams and for ill-trimmed plastic mold flash, rough edges, and hard, hollow plastic surfaces. They also pay attention to the way nooks and cubbies are finished inside and out, whether cup holders are sturdy, flimsy, or ill-placed, and whether compartment doors open and shut smoothly."


    Here's another definition, from babylon.com:

    "The evaluative standard of a vehicle's cosmetics. Good fit and finish means all the body panels and trim are evenly spaced, aligned, and secure. The paint is evenly applied with no bubbles or pit marks.)


    Did Ferrari measure up to its peers/contemporaries? Did Ferrari deliver deliver fit and finish levels commensurate with the buyers' expecations? I don't know enough about Ferrari build quality in the 1970s or 1980s to evaluate and compare them to their competition. It seems to me that Joe's articles/road tests are about the best indication we have from third party sources.

    It's tempting (but not exactly fair) to criticize an older car, using today's performance or fit/finish standards as a yardstick as some other people do. Those of us who own (or have owned) older cars already know that from a performance, quality, reliability, fit/finish standpoint, of course these cars can't compare or compete with newer cars. And so they're not right for everybody. Yet those of us who own (or have owned) them love and enjoy them nevertheless. Go figure.

    My 1976 Porsche 912E had only 86hp. Despite being an interesting legacy car that I liked very much, I needed a bit more power and replaced it with a 911. That brought me into a wonderful new realm of performance, quality, reliability, and fit/finish, and I love it!
     
  9. Mitch Alsup

    Mitch Alsup F1 Veteran

    Nov 4, 2003
    7,571
    THose magazines are (at best) pulling your leg, and writing in a style to make any car they reviewed look acceptable to the manufacture. Why? Because the magazine stays in business because of the manufactur advertizing.

    What you probably read is closer to "spectacular styling", maybe "masterful suspension", but Ferraris of the 1980s did not have "outstanding performance" compared to other less expensive brands (911 Turbo).

    You see, up until the 430-era, Ferrari mid engined road cars were lascking in straight line performance to cars as lowly as a Mustang, and cornering to cars like the Vette, Viper, Porsche 911 Turbos,...

    Ferraris are about passion, that blending of "styling to die for" that no other car has mastered (ne even Porsche nor Loti need apply) with "enough performance", but more importantly the lith feeling of being "one with the car" that none of the other car can quite muster. Its the package not any individual item that make a Ferrari Ferrari.
     
  10. JoeZaff

    JoeZaff F1 Veteran
    Owner

    Aug 5, 2007
    5,403
    Philly suburbs
    Full Name:
    Joe
    #8 JoeZaff, Dec 29, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
    Mitch,
    My initial post was more directed at the perceived "quality" of the older Ferraris, not necessarily their performance. That said, if I could diverge a bit off topic,
    with all due respect, I don't really know what in the heck you are talking about? :) I can understand and appreciate your cynicism towards Automobile magazines, but there is some relatively "objective" data that you seem to be ignoring, at least as related from the magazines of the day. In 1986 a Ford Mustang made 200 HP, a Viper didn't exist, A Corvette made 235 HP. While the 911 Turbo was faster and cheaper then a 328, at least in Europe, a Porsche 928 S4 was MORE expensive then a Mondial 3.2, MORE expensive then a 328 and a Porsche 911 Carrera Sport was MORE expensive then a 328! As for acceleration, Motor Trend gave the 328 an acceleration edge over the Porsche 911 Sport, Corvette, Lotus Esprit and Lamborghini Jalpa. I am not saying that the Ferrari was the fastest car of its day, because it wasn't. But it was a hell of a performer. Though far more subjective, the "Fit and Finish" box in every article I found that addressed such matters, checked the box off next to "Excellent." One side note, while writers of the day were not terribly impressed with the "unpredictable" handling of the 328 (similar gripes about the 911 of the day), they glowed about the Mondial 3.2 and the T. Ironically, the now much maligned Mondial T coupe was an outstanding performer! From an historical perspective, in case you are interested, it wasn't until the 348 era that the Corvette saw its big boost once again to 300HP and beyond, that the deadly 90's Japanese trio of 300zxTT, Supra, and RX7 came to be, as well as the Acura NSX, and the Mustang got its 225HP "5.0L" engine. In the 1980s, the magazines appear to have seen it as a Porsche vs. Ferrari world, and the two compared VERY favorably.

    I concede that obviously I do not possess every automotive document drafted in the 1980's, but I do have a pretty healthy selection of car magazines to draw from--and, right or wrong, this is what I am seeing.
     
  11. Bullfighter

    Bullfighter Two Time F1 World Champ
    Lifetime Rossa Owner

    Jan 26, 2005
    20,700
    Fullerton, California
    Full Name:
    Jon
    I think you're conflating ergonomics and design with fit and finish. The Italians never subscribed to conventional wisdom when it comes to ergonomics, and the Germans didn't figure out air conditioning until the '90s.

    But I agree with your basic point. I drove a 1986 Merc 560SL, and have driven several '80s Porsche 911s, and the build quality is astonishingly good.

    On my ex-Ferrari 328, the original (massive) orange peel in the paint remains on the rear section of the car around the tail lights, where it could never be buffed, and there is extra metalflake in the paint around the antenna.

    And that was the 328. Quality then nosedived in the '90s, the age of sticky plastic, cracking c-pillars, etc.

    There are also trim pieces and interior bits that were just bad quality when new. U.S. version 308 bumpers are garbage, probably because Pininfarina was upset with us for disfiguring their design... The orange gauges in the TR/512 TR/288 GTO/328/348 are fade prone. Ferrari seat leather is the least durable I've encountered. The 308 QV center console sags due to lack of support. The list could go on.

    I love Ferraris, but realistically the hype probably did overshadow some fit and finish issues.
     
  12. To remove this ad click here.

  13. davebdave

    davebdave Formula 3
    Silver Subscribed Owner

    Mar 18, 2007
    2,377
    Northern VA
    Full Name:
    Dave W
    Hi Joe,
    Interesting thread. When we bought the Mondi the first thing I did was to get the back issues of R & T and C & D to see what they thought about the t when it was new. I don't have the articles handy but as I recall they were pretty positive with the biggest complaint being the back seats (not that they were small but that they existed in the first place).

    Somewhere I read that early on Enzo didn't develop much new technology in his racing cars. Instead he made the best of what was out there and let others spend the big money on R and D. I feel like the Ferrari road cars of the 80s and earlier were the same. The point of Ferrari (besides making a profit) wasn't to have the newest technology, the tightest door seal, or the fastest car but to make limited production cars that looked and felt like none other.

    I don't really think history is being reinvented but that the culture is changing. The news media and society in general is much more negative than it used to be. I blame it on the internet. Back in the day the only sources of information I had about new cars were the Magazines. Now with the internet there are plenty of people who can trash a car, person, or whathaveyou, but few who can write as eloquently as you do about the actual experience of driving a Ferrari. Today the professional writers probably feel like they have to exaggerate flaws in order to appeal to a flaw obsessed society.

    Dave
     
  14. scot993

    scot993 Rookie

    Feb 27, 2008
    26
    I might be wrong but Ferrari has always built street cars so that they had money to race.
     
  15. PSk

    PSk F1 World Champ

    Nov 20, 2002
    17,673
    Tauranga, NZ
    Full Name:
    Pete
  16. DennisForza

    DennisForza Formula 3

    May 23, 2006
    1,721
    Arlington, VA
    Full Name:
    Dennis
    Enzo Ferrari built street cars to pay for the race cars, Fiat has built the street cars to make money and only paid for the race cars in order to sell more street cars, mugs, T-shirts, and HotWheels.
     
  17. JoeZaff

    JoeZaff F1 Veteran
    Owner

    Aug 5, 2007
    5,403
    Philly suburbs
    Full Name:
    Joe
    #14 JoeZaff, Jan 12, 2010
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2010
    I know its probably more popular to be cynical. However, to believe that Ferrari is nothing more than a business enterprise to FIAT is to misunderstand an essential element of the Italian character. We place a strong emphasis on Art, Passion and competition. Ferrari is more than the jewel in FIAT's crown, it is an object of pride to all Italians. From those working in the factory (which was ranked as the best place to work in Europe), to those waving the Scuderia flags at Monza, Ferrari is our story.

    The value the brand brings to FIAT by virtue of its legend is almost unquantifiable in monetary terms and worth far more than whatever money they bring in from hats. FIAT's mere association with Ferrari brings prestige to the whole company. However, Ferrari's continued involvement in racing is essential to their legitimacy and if FIAT pulled the plug, they would face a backlash at home not terribly dissimilar than if they decided to shut down Italy's National Football team.


    Bottom line, FIAT pays, but the Scuderia plays...and they play to win...not just to sell hats.
     
  18. DennisForza

    DennisForza Formula 3

    May 23, 2006
    1,721
    Arlington, VA
    Full Name:
    Dennis
    #15 DennisForza, Jan 13, 2010
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2010
    Good points, but the Scuderia is not a charity case for FIAT either, should its cache not help the bottom line, be that directly or in the marketing department, the accountants(even Italian accountants) would do their best to put an end to it. FIAT bought out Ferrari way back when because of the money making potential that such a feather in the hat could bring, not as a patriotic duty.

    As for build quality, our gt4 had the potential in design/engineering, but its quality of material was obviously not the cream of its era, but due to the great engineering it was easily up graded when it needed to be completely rebuilt from tires to sunroof less than a decade after its birth. I wonder how much of a complete picture we have today of the machines from the mid70's to the late 80's since they have almost all been fully sorted in the many years since birth. I do remember 308's feeling very much Italian, they felt like they had passion built in between cappuccinos and mid-day siestas, while the Porsches, BMW's and even Caddilacs of the day felt solid of assembly and materials, but that was the mind of a young teen, but got the same feeling sitting and riding in 348's.
     
  19. cosmicdingo

    cosmicdingo Formula Junior

    Nov 14, 2005
    457
    Clemson SC
    Full Name:
    E Evans
    Will be interesting to see if the current generation of cars will fare better, mechanically, IF they are regularly driven. Once asked a top sales guy at good ole Ferrari of Houston what the 308's greatest tech problem was, and he said "lack of use".
     

Share This Page