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Offline AshSimmonds

  • Geekitecht

  • Joined: Feb 2006

  • Drives: GF's shitbox :(
  • Location: Adelayed
  • Name: Humble Narrator
  • www: AshSimmonds.com
It's Ferrari time

Having decided that supercars are the vehicles of the future, it's time to back up the theory with cash...

By James May

My second paragraph this week is purely for the benefit of those who weren't reading last time. It's presented here in brackets so that the rest of you can skip on to the "interesting" bit.

(Last week, I argued that, contrary to what most people are telling us, the world will soon be full of indulgent supercars, because cars of a practical disposition will be redundant. It wasn't a very convincing argument, except that I was only trying to convince myself, and that's easy. Now read on.)

The weird thing is this. For years the thought of a supercar has pricked at the bubble of my desire, which is a flimsy membrane easily penetrated, and yet I've never had one. I'm discounting the Lamborghini Urraco I bought on Top Gear because it failed within 50 miles, owing to electrical ailments of such magnitude that they are not yet recognised by science.

I have the Porsche Boxster, of course, and that's a fairly selfish car, which is a step in the right direction. But it's a bit sensible. It has two boots, for Pete's sake, and it came with an umbrella. I still have my old 911 from Thatcher's Britain, but even that has been touted for decades as "the only supercar you can use every day", which must mean it's something else. It was driven to work by merchant bankers.

I've decided it's time to be a modernist; time to view motoring in a progressive light, which means, if my contentions of last week are correct, I should have a supercar. Clearly I can't put my name down for a new Ferrari 458 Italia or a Lamborghini Gallardo Balboni, so it will have to be something old with the spirit of a supercar, if not the actual trousers to live up to the name these days.

And after quite a bit of thought I've settled on the GRP-bodied Ferrari 308. I've always liked the look of it, and I know they're a bit rarer and more special than the later steel-bodied ones, and that the oil supply is a dry sump system. But that's about it.

You see, if you wanted to buy an old 911, I could help you. I know what to look out for, what they should cost, which are the best versions to have, how easy they are to maintain and so on. If I'd gone to a posh school I would have been able to bat for my house on the subject of the
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and its derivatives. I'd be fairly confident of buying a Citroën DS, too, or a Volkswagen Golf GTI MkII.

But old Ferraris? I'm not sure I really know what I'm talking about, and despite having driven many, none was a 308. It's probably terrible, but that's not really the point. I'm trying to do my bit to bring on the motoring philosophy of the future.

First up, the 911 would have to go. That means my mate Colin would excommunicate me, but on the plus side it would also mean that when the 308 went wrong, I'd be able to find the tools to mend it. Now I have to pay for the Fezza – and this is only the beginning of my confusion.

I've bought a book, I've been trawling the web of lies and I've been looking up old features in classic car magazines. How much should I pay for my 308? It could be as little as £18,000, apparently, but it might well be more than £30,000. No one seems to be sure.

There's more bafflement. The timing belts are the eternal bugbear of these old V8-engined cars, and changing them seems to cost £500 or £3,000, depending on which bit of Ferrari folklore you read. Some people reckon that replacing any component requires the whole car to be stripped down by a specialist, but I've also found a bloke who claims to have rebuilt the engine with not much more than his Swiss army penknife.

Driving impressions of the 308 suggest its manners are somewhere between those of a caveman and a ballerina. Apparently the ergonomics of the cabin are very poor, unless you're one of the people who says they're very good. I'd expect the electrical system to be terrible, and quite a few people back me up on this. But an equal number don't.

There appears to be no consensus on any aspect of Ferrari 308 ownership whatsoever, and I've never known a car to throw up such a wealth of conflicting expertise. And this, once again, means I need your help.

All I know for sure is that I don't want a red one. Dark blue, ideally, or possibly yellow.


Offline AshSimmonds

  • Geekitecht

  • Joined: Feb 2006

  • Drives: GF's shitbox :(
  • Location: Adelayed
  • Name: Humble Narrator
  • www: AshSimmonds.com

A Ferrari: any colour you like as long as it's red

James May on the agony of choosing the right colour for the Ferrari he craves.

The boss of the motoring section of the Telegraph is a woman and therefore tends to talk a certain amount of sense.

"Look," she said, the other day. "If you are going to have a Ferrari, you might as well have a red one. There's no point having something that prattish and then pretending you know better by having it in blue. You can have one, but only if it's red."
This has been going on for a bit now. I know it's wrong, I know it's inappropriate, I know it's too expensive and I know I should know better, but I can't shake it off. I want a Ferrari.

And why not? I'm nearly 47, and I've been good. Richard Hammond has gone off to live in a tweed jacket in his comedy castle, and Jeremy Clarkson is trying to join the royal family. I have been frugal and I've saved my pocket money for years. Can I have a Ferrari, just for a bit? Then I'll sell it.

I asked as much a few weeks back, and I do take notice of what you say via the comments page on the website. Some of you seemed to be saying that I'd look a berk. This put me off a bit, but not entirely. I still want one.

I have a Fiat Panda for driving around in, I can keep the Fezza in the garage as a sort of automotive garlic to ward off the vampire of Ferrari-branded clothing, since we all know that you can't wear it if you actually own a Ferrari. And I'm coming round to the red.

Just to be sure, I went and looked at other things. An Aston Martin V8 Vantage, for starters (the real one, from the 70s); that's a car I've wanted since I was a boy. A Bentley Continental R. A Maserati Bora. And then a red Ferrari 512BB – and that was the one that gave me the fizz.

Still unsure, I went to consult my lifestyle guru Colin in his wife's summer house, where he is building an aeroplane. Half way through some intricate aluminium assembly – a two-man job – I put it to him, and his reaction is recorded for all time in the mangled rivet that can be seen in the starboard aileron.

"If you buy a Ferrari," he said, "you'll look like such a **** I won't want to be seen with you. And especially not if it's red." But I still left wanting one.

Next I was obliged by circumstance and in the course of my work to visit a well-known broadcasting personality and Ferrari enthusiast; a man who I know reads this section avidly and who had a mint – and red – 328 GTS for sale, and for a lot less than he'd spent on making it perfect.

He has a worse car-care disorder than me and is exactly the sort of person from whom one should buy a secondhand Ferrari.

This also is the right way to go about buying an interesting old car. Never go looking for these things. Save up some money, keep a mental log of those you'd like, and wait for one of them to find you. That's how I came by my old Porsche 911* and it would be how I slipped painlessly into classic Ferrari ownership. "I sold it last week," he said, blandly.

I made him feel quite bad about this, so to make up for his mistake he took me to his local Ferrari dealership for a frothy coffee from a really posh machine with Italian writing all over it. They enjoy his visits, mainly because the sales manager can put his feet up on the desk and leave the tricky job of selling Ferraris to the Broadcasting Personality.

"You should only ever buy a Ferrari you can't really afford," he said, helpfully. We looked at a selection of used and approved F430s, several in red, one in blue, and one in a sort of mystical grey. I especially liked the grey colour but had to acknowledge that the car had been designed to be red, was worth slightly more in red and would be much easier to sell on in red.

"If you actually want to use it, then you don't want an old one. You want one of these. Have red."

Then I had a reality check. Here I was with a man who is much richer than me looking at cars that cost more money than I'd ever contemplated in one go before. And finally, I was able to bring some order and calm to the cauldron of torment that has been simmering away in my head for several months now.


* Which I will keep, whatever happens. You lot where right about that.

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