Got to work this morning and received a call from John.
"Chris, I think you should pass on this car. I called around and was told that doing the front suspension will probably be $2,500-$3,000 in labor alone. Depending on the wear in the kingpins, it will either require having new bushings made to fit or finding new pins to install.
"Plus, I went over there this morning before they had a chance to move the car. I had seen some sort of leak, thought it might be head gasket, but Andy tried to tell me it was something else. Anyway, I went over there and saw about a 10 inch puddle of coolant under the car, off the left bank.
"Doing a head gasket on these cars can be miserable; I'm sure you've seen it in your British cars. People use tap water for the coolant, the lime builds up, there's electrolization damage - I've had cases where it's taken me four days to get a head up a quarter inch and then had to cut off the studs and use a hole saw to remove them. You don't need that kind of grief.
"Call Andy and tell him you're going to pass. He's going to call and give me hell, but just tell him that for the price he's asking you should be getting a completely restored car, not a driver."
"Listen, there are people who put $100K into restoring cars like this and got caught when the bottom dropped out of the market. You might be able to find such a car, a restored concours winner, for $40K; you just have to look."
Wow. OK, I call my girlfriend and tell her about this, and we both feel like it's too bad, but we really don't need this kind of grief with a car. Too many unknowns.
Call Andy. Refresh his memory of who I am, and tell him we're going to pass. "OK, Chris, that's fine, but can you tell me what John found?"
Sure, go through the list with estimates. Start a long story: the salesman's view of mechanics instead of the other way around. The short version is that mechanics don't really get much in life, once in a while they find a way to control a situation and take advantage of it. That seems to be the case here. He's vastly overestimating - Andy can do the suspension for $250/side, replacing everything but the shocks. Of course they'd do a carb and valve adjustment before the car left the shop. They'll fix the shackle and the donut. "Show me any 20 year old Ferrari that hasn't had the front subframe tweaked."
"You know, we've been in this business a long time. I didn't see the inside of a high school classroom very often, but I've been selling and driving Italian cars since 1968. We race these cars. We know what it takes to keep them on the road. John and I went out and drove this car hard. There's no water in the oil - it would have shown up. Look at the compression numbers; if there was blown head gasket, there would either be water in the oil or no compression in one of the cylinders. There's neither of those.
"John said himself that the engine pulled well, the gearbox worked nicely, the diff was quiet. Those are the important things in the car. The steering box can be rebuilt. Tell me, if we were to make the car right, and guarantee the work, would you reconsider?"
That's the short version. The long version was half an hour long and delved into Andy's history with a SCCA national competition license, the vagaries of pricing labor rates and parts markup, and putting 110,000 miles on his 275 GTB/4 selling vacuum cleaners in New York (I'm not kidding, and I don't think he was, either). We briefly touched on price, leaving me with the impression that he thinks that his $39,500 price is reasonable and fairly firm.
I said we'd talk it over and get back to him.
I don't kn
For a complete look at Sempre Ferrari, you may want to check out the rest of the articles from Volume 2, Issue 11 - December 1995