Alwyn Brice went fishing for a Ferrari in November 1994. His fantasy was fulfilled in Issue 68...
EVER FANCIED A FERRARI..?
YOU CAN'T HELP BUT HAVE noticed that the classic car market has fallen on hard times. This is, of course, bad news for dealers who may be stuck with slow-moiving stock; it's also annoying for car owners wishing to sell, for falling values may well have left them with an overpriced investment on which it's hard to recoup lost money.
The good side to all this, though, is that the likes of you and I can, cash permitting, have a whale of a time trawling the markets. And if you've always dreamed of having something racy and Italian in your drive, then now's the time...
Mention Italy and fast cars and the chances are that the recipient will conjure up the name Ferrari and blood red, swoopy vehicles which go like the wind and are the ultimate automotive statement. And today there are a lot of them for sale, at prices that would have been derisory just a few years ago.
To check up on the realities, I dropped into Kent High Performance Cars on the Parkwood Industrial estate at Maidstone. I had a hypothetical £25,000 in my pocket; it may sound a lot but it won't buy anything too special these days, believe me!
The options were interesting, to say the least. For £17,000 I could have netted a presentable 1974 365GT 2 2 in silver which required a little work to make an excellent car. Continuing with four seats, there was the diminutive red 308GT4 Dino, its wedge shape penned by Bertone in 1973. That was a little over £20,000. But I was attracted by the two-seater 308GTB in dark red, the shape that most associate with a "real" Ferrari. And yes, I could have a drive in it...
On offer at £24,000 (you might try cash for a discount!), this model was in production for just 6 years until 1981. Altogether some 6,000 cars were produced in targa and fixed roof format, making it one of the more common Ferraris. That said, it's still very desirable since it has the classic head-turning looks that guarantee a parking place in Tesco's.
Look along the car's flanks and you admire those long scoops which make the 308 so distinctive. A smallish cockpit sits at the start of a wide and dipping bonnet; behind you sits the engine, under a flat panel which is ventilated by two rows of louvres. At the other end is a rounded off rump in which are set the four typically circular lights, another Ferrari trademark. In fact you almost hesitate to get in the thing, so gorgeous is the car to look at!
But, in the interests of our readership, I really felt obliged to try out this particular prancing horse, all the way from Modena in Italy, and just one of a whole line of thoroughbred stock. For we must be honest here: no-one buys a Ferrari to do the shopping in, despite my earlier comments.
Slipping into the car isn't as easy, say, as your modern hatch. You have to be a little agile, bending your torso and sliding you legs down into the narrow footwell. It's narrow because the wheel arch intrudes and consequently the pedals are close set; they're also bunched to facilitate heeling and toeing, so beloved of sports car drivers.
Leather seats and trim are there to welcome you but the seat is on the narrow side, perhaps designed more for the Italian buyer. A pleasingly small wheel fronts an alloy dash in which sit five main dials, prominent amongst them the speedo and tachometer, the former of which is calibrated up to 180. It's a little optimistic, actually; you can expect 155 mph, though, if you're pushed...
To your left on the console are other switches, notable amongst them the air-conditioning. This is a definite plus on Ferraris since the glass area is quite large and tends to cook the occupants in summer. But, reclining there on an overcast day, that thought was far from my mind.
Three round air vents are set into the vast, flat dash top and there are a host of little switches which control minor functions. There's not a lot of space for odds and ends in the car either. But of more interest is the slender gearstick which emerges from the famous chromed gate on the floor. Let's be frank: Ferraris are about driving and not much else.
A twist on the key and the 3-litre V8 grumbles into life. Surprisingly, despite its proximity to your cranium, the engine's noise isn't too intrusive. There's a series of whines and clatters as the various components take up their roles and then you're ready for the off.
Much has been said and written about the joys of Ferrari ownership and there's not a great deal I can add, having only used the car for three quarters of an hour or so. If you are seduced by this Italian thoroughbred, however, there's a couple of litle facts you should know.
For a start there's the gearbox. It's not the familiar, anglicised item but essentially Italian. There's a dog-leg first i.e. you have to go down and the left, crossing the box and moving up for second. Second gear is also a nuisance to engage until the box has warmed up; force it and you'll wind up destroying the synchromesh. Knowledgeable owners go straight from first into third. Mind you, it's a lovely box with the steady "chock" "chock" as you guide the gearlever through; once mastered you begin to enjoy the Ferrari package.
On the move there's performance aplenty, as you'd expect. Progress is rapid and the engine feels quite unburstable; indeed it relishes being revved. With 255 bhp on tap a lot of power is transmitted to those wide rear wheels. Push the car hard and you'll end up doing around 22 to the gallon; pussy foot and you'll extract a bit more...
I found the car cornered flatly with very little roll and felt quite safe and solid, despite its 13 years. There were no worrying noises and everything seemed to work as it should. True, the cabin looks nothing spectacular compared with today's cars but it was functional and full of purpose. And despite its size and reduced rear side vision, the car didn't feel too intimidating.
Sadly, the drive finished all too soon. I was quite enamoured with the car and it was with great reluctance that I handed back the keys to David and Roger. Now, where's my bank manager's number...
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