Purchasing and maintaining an exotic car can be a tricky thing. First, there is the false perception that all exotics are unaffordable. Secondly, there is the concern over service and repair issues. We’ve all heard the accounts (some real…some urban legends) of the engine failure in a red Italian sports car that cost so much to repair, you could have bought your mother in law a condo for the same amount. With that said, unless you’re talking about a Bugatti, there are numerous European exotics that are not only realistically affordable to purchase but to maintain as well. So, we had the grand plan at à la Moto Magazine to test and review some realistic exotics.
Are they cheap to purchase? No, but they wouldn’t be an “exotic” if they were. Exclusivity has its price. However, you’ll find there are new Cadillacs, Infinitis, Lexus, Mercedes, BMWs, as well as a ton of SUVs you see every single day that cost significantly more than some of the cars we’ll be writing about. That’s before you factor in depreciation!
Are they cheap to service? No, but again, they aren’t cost prohibitive to maintain as well. Anything worth owning will cost you money to keep going at some point. The question becomes, is the juice worth the squeeze? If you don’t want to spend any money servicing your vehicle, go lease a new Toyota Camry. Everyone else, continue reading…
The key word here is “obtainable”. The cars we’ll be looking at are realistically obtainable for your typical person who is driven, earns themselves a comfortable living and accrued smartly managed assets. In other words, you don’t have to be stinking rich to drive and service these cars.
First in our series featuring pre-owned exotics, we’ll spotlight the Ferrari 355. We had the pleasure of spending a day driving to fine examples from Black Horse Motors, located on the Airport Pulling Road in Naples, Florida. Darren Scuffil, the dealer’s General Manager, specializes in the acquisition of the 355 models; though they stock many different Ferraris as well as other exotics. In addition, they can locate virtually any car you’re interesting in purchasing. Darren is particularly enthusiastic about the 355 and has some of the finest examples you’ll find anywhere. Darren is regarded as the “Ferrari 355 King” and this is apparent in the inventory Black Horse carries. Each car is personally selected and purchased by him. Then, the car is completely gone through and brought up to a condition reminiscent of it’s original showroom stature. Services are completed and any item needing attention is replaced. Jordan Coccia, who is also employed by Black Horse, showed me the great lengths the dealership goes through to make the cars as perfect as possible. Even the slightest details in reconditioning the interior are not overlooked to give each and every Ferrari a “showroom” appearance cosmetically. As good as the cars look, they’d be nothing without proper mechanical attention. Each car is “gone through” by one of the finest services centers in Southwest Florida that specializes in exotic and high end cars. Confidence in your purchase is must when buying a Ferrari. Black Horse Motors provides that peace of mind.
Getting back to the drive…
I had my choice of two models to take road test; a 1995 355 Spider with a 6 speed manual gearbox and a 1999 355 coupe with the F1 transmission. As it was a sunny and absolutely gorgeous morning, I chose to take the convertible out first. The 355 Spider was made between 1995 and 1999 with just over 3,700 produced world wide. The 6 speed manual was the transmission for the majority of the convertibles built.
The dealer representative, Jordan, grabbed the keys to the Ferrari Spider and got behind the wheel for the first leg of our drive. As we exited the lot of Black Horse, he got me aquatinted with the car while I sat in the passenger seat to familiarize myself to my surroundings. My first impression was how glorious the Ferrari’s exhaust sounded from the cockpit. This is what separates the Ferrari from the rest of the pack. Sure, you can put an aftermarket exhaust on this car or that. However, from the moment you turn the key until you shift at over 8,000 RPM, very few cars sound even remotely as good as a Ferrari. The 355 in particular has a distinctively unique “whine” as it revs up through the power band. In addition, I couldn’t wait to drive the gated 6 speed. Sure, technology has advanced to the point a F1 style transmission is the fastest, most efficient way to shift. With that said, it’s tough to beat a manual Ferrari 6 speed for a purist driving experience. This particular car didn’t let me down. We pulled over by the executive airport in Naples to switch places. The area by the runway actually has…gasp….twisty roads; a true driving commodity in Florida! As I got comfortable in the driver’s seat, I quickly got acquainted with the ergonomics of the Spider. A mere seat adjustment and we were on our way. The Ferrari was wonderfully smooth to launch. I shifted precisely through the gears without issue as the 8 cylinder engine came to life. What an amazing sound! I can’t say enough about it and the noises that emanate from the rear of the 355. It’s reminiscent of the sound that came from the Formula 1 cars in their best racing days. That’s a good sound to have…
As I entered the “twisty” part of the road, the Ferrari maintained it’s stability with absolute certainty. The feedback from the steering wheel and brakes were confidence inspiring. This can could do a lot more than I was asking it to. However, this wasn’t my car and the number one goal was to bring it back intact. With that said, the level of fun that could be had in this Ferrari 355 Spider was awe inspiring. The way the power is delivered is stunningly smooth. This 355 simply keeps pushing the power to the ground as you shift through the gears. Keep check of your speed or you’ll be at ticket earning speed a lot faster than you realize! Let’s look at the technical details for a second…
3.5 liter 5 valve per cylinder, 380 horsepower engine @8,250 RPM
0 to 60 in 4.6 seconds
180+ mph top speed
Not too shabby. Sure, there are faster cars with more horsepower but the Ferrari experience isn’t about the numbers alone. The marque has soul and a racing pedigree second to none. Owning a Ferrari is a status symbol that sets you apart from the rest. It fuels intense rivalry with other brands. It bonds friendships with other enthusiasts. It’s far more exclusive and exceptional that just owning and driving a vehicle. It’s a way of life for many of its owners.
What is wonderful about the 355 is it is actually tangible. A trust fund or seven figure income is not a necessary requirement to own and maintain a Ferrari 355. Cost? Think of the payment on an E Class Mercedes. For a Ferrari? Yep.
Service? Black Horse Motors suggests you budget about $7,000 over the course of five years to properly maintain the car. That can be broken down to about $1,400 a year. That’s not too bad at all!
Upon returning to the dealership, we parked the Spider and hopped into the Berlinetta coupe. Ferrari produced just over 4,800 coupes from 1994 to 1999. In 1997, the Formula 1 inspired paddle shifter F1 transmission was introduced in the Berlinetta. This was the first car in the world to have this sort of gearbox. A trend was clearly set in place. The F1 dominates the market today with many manufactures no longer making a traditional stick shift; even as an option.
Like the Spider, the first thing I noticed about the Berlinetta was the exhaust note. However, with an aftermarket exhaust, the coupe was even more spirited. It certainly brought a smile to my face! Again, we took the route over to the airport that allowed me to truly feel what the Ferrari was capable of performing.
The next thing that I noticed was the improved handling characteristics of the Fiorano suspension package this car had. Even at a rapid pace, the Ferrari handled the turns with absolute ease and confidence. All it had me thinking was, “Where is the closest track?” It was that good.
As far as the F1 transmission goes, I was incredibly impressed. It shifted lightning fast and did everything it needed to do without delay or “clunkiness”. The digital gear indicator on the dashboard let me know exactly what gear I was in. The ergonomics of this was perfect and let me see it almost peripherally so that my eyes could stay where they needed to be at a high rate of speed; on the road.
Going through the “twisty” roads by the airport let me enjoy keeping both hands on the wheel while I shifted the F1 paddles; one of the other positives of this style transmission.
While driving normally through traffic, it was easy to drive and the F1 transmission required little effort. At an elongated stop light, the transmission will shift back into neutral for you. Presumably, so you don’t inadvertently smash into the car in front of you at a ridiculously long light by blipping the accelerator a bit too hard. Good thinking.
Though essentially very similar cars, at the end of the day, the Spider and Berlinetta were very different Ferraris. They both had their own set of strengths with driver preference being the final decision as for which to buy.
In terms of living in the Sunshine State, the Spider is brilliant. Top down, coupled with great looks, it’s the ultimate “fun” car. The 6 speed manual added to the driving pleasure.
I’d have to give the Berlinetta a slight advantage in performance. The exhaust of the car, Fiorano handling package and spot on F1 paddle shifter transmission gave the car the edge it needs to really get the most out of the 355 when you want to go fast.
It’s a win-win choice in my opinion that simply comes down to personal preference. Ultimately, you’re going home in a Ferrari. Not much to complain about there…
If you’re interested in a Ferrari or any other exotic or high line vehicle, contact Darren or Jordan at Black Horse Motors.