Buying an Older Ferrari - Part I

By: Chris Kantarjiev

A year or so ago, I came into a modest inheritance. Looking into what I wanted to do with the money, I realized that while I would be sensible with most of it, some portion should be spent on satisfying "frivolous" goals. One of those goals has been to own a front-engined V12 Ferrari - a car that Enzo had a hand in, a car with the sounds and smells and sensations of "that" era, complete with crackle finish paint on the valve covers and a brace of Webers in the valley.

So we went looking. Prices are down, but still pretty astronomical. It was clear that we weren't going to buy one of the more desirable cars (gee, a 250 SWB California Spyder or 275 GTB/4 sure would be nice, but...) so we looked around at the less desirable "compromise" cars. Pretty quickly, the 330GTC came to the top of the list. Phil Hill has called this car "the best road going Ferrari ever built": full IRS with a transaxle in the rear, lovely Pininfarina lines, a reasonable sized trunk.

Peter Fraser offered a ride in his GTC, which was a lot of fun. We went over to Patrick Ottis's shop and talked about older cars; everyone was trying their best to warn us about what we were getting into. I've been living with older British sports cars for a while, and the stories sound much the same - there are just more parts, and the parts are lots more expensive.

My girlfriend and I have three two-seat cars (a daily driver convertible each, FIAT Turbo Spyder for her, Triumph TR4A for me, plus my autocross car, a Triumph GT6+) between us already, plus an old Morris Minor Traveller for hauling parts, wheels, garden supplies and groceries. They all run, but two of them are project cars, always needing a little this and a little that. We decided that we really didn't want another project car; rather, something in good shape that we could drive regularly, take to the track once in a while, and just live with.

330GTCs in this condition seem to be pushing $80K or more. Doable, but on the edge; that kind of money translates into a car that you worry about taking anywhere. Neither of us believes in locking cars away and treating them as investments - these cars need exercise. So we looked around some more.

And started thinking about a 330 GT2+2. The Series II looks essentially like the GTC, but has a longer wheelbase (by about 40cm), four seats (the back seats are real, not just an applique suitable for children), the same engine but a live axle in the rear. And costs a third to half of what a GTC would.

It's probably the second least "desirable" car (competing with the 250 GTE 2+2), but that doesn't matter to us. A car in this price range is one that we could feel comfortable driving on a multi-day trip, or just driving to the beach for dinner.

Last weekend we visited a very nice car (s/n 8679), for sale at a independent dealer in Monterey. The car is complete (no books or tools, though), has a decent respray, original interior in good shape. We took a drive; no smoke on startup, no smoke on downshift and acceleration (I was amazed). I was also amazed at how heavy all the inputs are, and how big the car is (remember that I normally drive relatively tiny cars, plus I had spent the previous two days in a Formula Ford); not to mention how effortless acceleration was.

So we're counting our pennies, talking to the insurance agents, and trying to figure out how we get a third-party inspection (know any decent Ferrari mechanics in Monterey?).

Yes, it's a sedan. A big sedan. But for less than the price of a Lexus or clone, what a sedan! And besides, we need one to fill in the automotive wardrobe.

Thursday last I told the salesman ("Sammy") that I'd like to get a mechanic to look over the 330GT2+2 we're looking at. He sputtered a bit, and asked who I had in mind. I had talked to Patrick Ottis<