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Sorry, You Can’t Get That Part Here
Ferrari has shown no interest in supplying vintage parts, and many common spares to keep old Ferraris on the road simply do not exist
As appeared in:
Sports Car Market—August 2008 issue
by Michael Sheehan
Much has been written—both positive and negative—about Ferrari Classiche, the arm of Ferrari set up as an official certifying organization for its cars. For decades, Ferrari had no interest in the older cars and only pricked up its ears (and its legal department’s pens) when the elusive William Favre began building and selling 250 GTO replicars in the early 1980s.
Enzo Ferrari was personally incensed, and Favre was soon out of business. Ferrari feared that if outsiders had access to Ferrari records, this information could be used to build replicars, and so Ferrari stopped providing build sheets or blueprints to anyone outside the factory gates.
Ferrari’s involvement with older cars was taken up another notch when the FIA decided it would be the supreme decider in certifying any–and–all vintage racecars, Ferraris included, for eligibility in European race series. Claudio Berro, who then managed Ferrari and Maserati racing activities outside the F1 team, was more than upset. “It is not up to the FIA to tell us what is a Ferrari,” he said, and so the Corse Clienti program was expanded, adding the Ferrari Classiche department to counter the influence of the FIA.
Authentic does not mean genuine
From the beginning of the Ferrari Classiche division in 2006, the raison d’être has been to “certify the authenticity” or originality of owners’ Ferraris, but not necessarily to certify that a Ferrari is genuine. To understand these Italian semantics, a Ferrari could leave the factory as a race car and later be modified over its racing career, and so it is a genuine Ferrari, but it is not an authentic or original Ferrari, as delivered by Ferrari, so it cannot be “certified.”
Further complicating the situation, if a car came back to the Factory for updates, it is then genuine as last delivered by the factory, regardless of its race history in its initial itineration. Ferrari thus became the only high–end manufacturer directly involved in authenticating its cars, while supplying minimal service and no vintage parts to its clients.
By certifying cars such as the 250 SWB California Spyder s/n 2377, which sold at RM’s auction at the Ferrari factory on May 18 for a world–record price, Ferrari risks falling into the trap of rewriting history. There was a very large question mark over what engine was in s/n 2377, and Ferrari’s answer was simply to restamp the block, assigning both a new engine number and numero interno to match the chassis number. By giving s/n 2377 the Ferrari Classiche approval—for a fee—Ferrari Classiche discredits the very process it is trying to create.
The poster child for what’s wrong
The usual poster child for those who discredit the Classiche program is 250 SWB s/n 2819, modified and raced as the Breadvan. Under the existing fatwa, the Breadvan may be genuine and may have a well–documented period race history (Le Mans, 1962, DNF) in its much modified form, but the Breadvan cannot be certified by the existing Classiche rules because its authenticity is too far removed from the build specifications on the day it left the factory as a Scaglietti–bodied 250 SWB.
In fairness to Ferrari’s Classiche department, it’s worth noting that the International Advisory Counsel for the Preservation of Ferrari Automobiles (IAC/PFA)—which governs the rules and judging at Pebble Beach, Cavallino, the Ferrari Club of America national meet, and indeed, every FOC and FCA concours in North America—would also not allow the Breadvan on the lawn at Pebble Beach for judging. Instead it was seen in a “display–only” category.
The certification process is clearly a political minefield that is guaranteed to alienate some owners who feel Ferrari’s only goal is to exercise Machiavellian control over the most valuable early Ferraris, all while making money and rewriting history. Many feel that Ferrari Classiche has no institutional memory, although to counter that, the Classiche department now consults outside experts who often have more knowledge than the factory on many early cars. After years of denial, Ferrari Classiche now admits that Ferrari has swapped serial numbers for carnet and/or tax purposes, further showing Ferrari’s willingness to change when supplied with new information.
“Significant” modifications to be considered
The good news is that rumors have the powers–that–be in the Classiche department considering another option for Ferraris modified after they left the Factory. This proposed new program for “Ferraris of Historical Significance” would recognize Ferraris with significant histories once they left the factory gates. I personally own 365 GTB/4 s/n 14049, a Euro–spec Daytona sold new in 1971 by French dealer Pozzi to Philippe Cornet–Epinat and then modified by Pozzi and raced by Cornet–Epinat in the nonchampionship Le Mans 4–Hour race on March 19, 1972. Wearing race number 98, it finished 8th overall and 6th in GT.
Since no one cared about beat–up race cars in the mid–to–late 1970s, s/n 14049 was sold off to Italy and became a Daytona Spyder conversion, until tracked down by the author for a restoration to Le Mans specs by Wayne Obry’s Motion Products. It will be interesting to see how the “Ferraris of Historical Significance” program unfolds. It will certainly be the subject of an upcoming column.
Let’s keep them on the road
The good news is that the Classiche program evolves and will hopefully improve. But it needs to go far beyond the certification process to provide viable support to thousands of pre–Fiat–era Ferraris that established the Prancing Horse as the premier sports, GT, and race car builder of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Whatever parts existed at the factory for the old cars were used up during the restoration boom of the late 1980s and never replaced. Ferrari has shown no interest in supplying vintage parts, and so the most common parts needed to keep old Ferraris on the road—from sheetmetal to brake and electrical parts—simply do not exist within the Ferrari dealer network.
It is only because of parts dealers like Maranello Concessionaires in England or T. Rutlands in the U.S. that older parts of any kind are available. Parts dealers must order large quantities from the original manufactures to achieve any sort of economy of scale. Once small original manufacturers are now part of large corporations and have no interest in making a dozen brake boosters, so T. Rutlands must order 100 units and wait a year for the order to be filled just to keep something as common as a 308 brake master cylinder and booster assembly on the shelf.
Need syncro rings for any Ferrari from the first 250s to the 365 GTB/4? Order 500 from ZF. Need column light switches for a 365 GTB/4? It takes an order of 1,000 units from Vitaloni to get in that line. And when your order for 100 boosters arrives, you might sell half a dozen in the first week, then wait a year or more to sell the last 94. On a positive note, Ferrari has supplied Maranello Concessionaires with many original factory drawings and blueprints, making some parts easier to duplicate.
The Germans get it right
Ferrari should take a hard look at the Mercedes–Benz Classic Center to see how an efficient parts supply benefits both client and manufacturer. What better advertisement than being able to supply virtually any part for any Mercedes, be it a cylinder head or Rudge wheels for a 300SL Gullwing or engine parts for a 540K roadster, in only a few days? Mercedes respects and supports its heritage, as do Porsche and BMW. Ferrari cannot use the excuse of limited production to explain away its lack of support, as Mercedes made 1,390 Gullwings versus 1,279 Ferrari Daytona Coupes and 122 Spyders for a total of 1,391.
In the Ferrari parts business, one makes sales because you have the parts. The high prices of parts are long forgotten if the parts are available—and if they work. As long as Ferrari sponsors or supports vintage racing events, the Ferrari Classiche program will succeed, but to truly establish the Prancing Horse as the pinnacle of sports and GT cars, Ferrari Classiche needs to be actively involved in supplying the parts needed to keep these cars on the road for another 50 years.