Ferrari Experiences

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Sir,

I cannot resist Mr. J. H. Thomas’s invitation to be classed as a “public spirited and knowledgeable member of the Ferraristi”.

I bought my 330 GT four years ago when it was already three years old and had done 24,000 miles—though it had been beautifully kept. I purchased it in Italy as, living abroad, I needed 1.h.d. and incidentally avoided the crushing English purchase tax. This amounts to around £2,000 on a new Ferrari which is of course reflected in the used market price.

The car has now done well over 40,000 miles which puts it into the category of Mr. Thomas’s enquiries. The old joke that one drives this type of car with a mechanic permanently in the passenger seat proved to be just that.

Parts renewed during my ownership have been points, condensors, a hose, a brake servo unit, steering pins and bushes, a dip-switch assembly and the routine brake pads (Girling), plugs and oil filters. The only serious mechanical trouble occurred last summer when the head gaskets had to be replaced—an expensive job. The silencer’s have needed welding and the door bases had to be treated for rust, though these were the only places so affected. The present set of very broad High Speed Cinturatos have done 13,500 miles and still have plenty of wear in them, which is just as well as the last time I was in England they cost £20 each. In my view, for a car of this age, the above list is not scandalous.

But spares are expensive. At least, they seem so to me, although not knowing the equivalent prices for English cars, I have no yardstick. I recall grunting sourly when charged £28 for a new brake servo and £10 for fitting, whereupon the garage foreman said brightly “Well, sir, if you will run a Ferrari . . .” Spares are readily available for the older Ferraris as the design of the car (and that includes the impressively elegant body by Pininfarina) has undergone no radical changes in many years. Naturally, one cannot slip into the corner garage for them, but when I took my car to Maranello Concessionaires on the Egham by-pass for attention to the steering and brakes, they had all the bits in stock.

Petrol consumption is heavy, especially if full advantage is taken of that flashing performance—but what do you expect with 12 cylinders and three yawning double-bore Webers? Oil consumption on my car is negligible, but periodical oil changes of 18 pints a time fray the wallet at the edges.

Cool as the proverbial cucumber at auto-route touring at well over 100 m.p.h., it suffers from over-heating in prolonged traffic dawdling, although it is perfectly tractable, despite the poor steering lock often found in this type of car. Initially mine used to oil a plug or two, an ailment which gives the Ferraristi the chance to use the throw-away line “There I was cruising along at the ton on only ten. . .” To cure this, I experimented with one or two well-known makes of plugs (including the one recommended by Modena) to no avail until a letter from K.L.G. put me on the right track and I haven’t had a mis-fire since. Ferraris seem to have a very individual reaction to plugs—another Ferrari owner I know swears his will not run properly except on a certain Japanese plug. Despite the special plug-spanner supplied in the tool-kit, changing plugs requires a certain dexterity.

If Mr. Thomas has read this far without being depressed and daunted, let me assure him that if he still intends a Ferrari he is in for a rare driving experience that is almost sensual in its appeal and may spoil him for other marques for life. I have not had such a thrill on wheels since I straddled my first motor-cycle, a D. R. Douglas, at the age of 14, and that, alas, was many years ago. Even after four years’ ownership, it still gives me rare pleasure to hear the distinctive mechanical sound of that V12 when it breaks into life.

If I seem unduly impressed by the Commendatore’s product, allow me to add that I did not graduate to it from some small box but a Maserati 3500 GT. That I bought, used and ran for four years as my policy has always been, on limited funds, to buy a used quality car rather than a mass-produced new one. I get more fun out of my motoring that way. I hope Mr. Thomas joins the club and I wish him luck.

Antibes, France. R. Hudson-Smith.

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