Project car: Ferrari 348 TS
Mission Accomplished! After five and half years working on this Ferrari 348 Project Car, Noel Ebdon finally declares ‘job done’
By Noel Ebdon
4 March 2014
Ups = I think I can declare ‘Mission Ferrari’ finally done
Downs = My front suspension bushes have just given up!
Almost six years ago I set out to prove that you could buy an old Ferrari and run it without being a millionaire. I’d love to put my hand on my heart and say I made that claim absolutely convinced that it could be done… but I can’t. Considering it was my money at stake I was almost certainly more worried about it than anyone else.
But over half a decade later I can finally stand up and say that I was right (sort of) and that yes you can own a Ferrari and not break the bank. However, this comes with a number of caveats, which I’ll come to, but first I need to explain why I feel the time is right to make this bold claim.
The main reason is that in 2013, I spent a tiny amount of money on this Ferrari 348 Project Car. In fact, I probably spent less than most people spend on their family saloon. Total bills, excluding fuel and oil, came to just 2,000 AED. Bearing in mind you’d spend more than that having your AC repaired or a set of brake discs fitted, that’s bargain motoring for any old car, let alone a Ferrari. Don’t forget this car is now 21 years old, so not a sprightly young thing.
Overall, it’s also still working out as well. I have kept a track of everything I’ve spent on the car and it still owes me less than going out and buying one ready to go. If I sold it, judging by current pricing, I wouldn’t lose any money.
However, as a solid investment, I don’t think any right-minded financial adviser will be recommending anyone to add ‘buy an old Ferrari’ to their portfolio mix any time soon.
But on the flip side of that you can’t drive a bond or drift an equity, so in my book I come out well off regardless. Sometimes fun is more important than numbered wealth.
All this isn’t to say 2013 was trouble free. I had to crawl home from Ghantoot when the car went into ‘limp mode’ half way to watch the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and earlier in the year the car refused to turn itself off, a fault Alex Renner Motors traced to the car’s terrible electrics.
But apart from that I attended most of the Ferrari Owners Club’s events, took part in a number of car parades and had a couple of great drives to the East Coast and Oman.
Owning and driving the 348 has been great. There’s nothing quite like opening the garage door to see your own Ferrari parked there, waiting for you. I have been caught just sitting in it before contemplating life, so I clearly am quite mad, albeit Ferrari-owning mad.
However, there is of course a downside to all this misty eyed ownership. I now need to spend some serious money, as a few things have decided to rear their ugly heads. Firstly, the 21-year old front suspension bushes have finally decided enough is enough. Secondly, my tyres are now out of date, so unless the registration guys have their eyes closed, I am looking at a new set of tyres for the car at the now overdue annual test. Unfortunately, the correct sizes for the car are hard to come by. And as we all know, hard to come by often equals expensive.
Thirdly, although the car has only done just under 6,000 kilometres since it was last done, the cam belt needs doing again, which is an engine out job. However, as much as this is a pain it gives me the extra piece of mind that my engine isn’t (hopefully) going to lunch itself. It will also give me the chance to replace the squeaky fan belt, deal with the gearbox oil leak and replace the rear suspension bushes, which are surely on their way out, if the front ones are anything to go by.
So to sum all this mechanical madness up, yes you can own a Ferrari and not end up living in a cardboard box at the back of Satwa. However, you need to bear a few things in mind. Firstly, a car of this age is exactly that, an old car. It is going to go wrong. Don’t think it won’t. Prepare yourself for it, keep calm and sort it out. It’s part of the ownership experience. If you don’t like that, then buy a new car. This kind of project is not for you.
Secondly, you do need a bit of luck. I checked the engine over as much as I could, but it was at the end of the day a gamble. Had the engine had a serious problem or blown up the minute I started it, I would have been drowning in bills. Eyes open people; this is not for the faint hearted.
Thirdly, be prepared to do lots of research. There is, in many cases, a cheaper option than you first find. I massively lowered some costs by simply asking questions on forums, running between suppliers and in some cases waiting for a week or so for a part to be flown in, rather than paying extra to get it quick locally.
Finally, I did a lot of the work myself, and when my skills ran out, called on friends to help me out. I actually got a little lazy towards the end of the project, getting a few jobs done I could do myself, so could have saved a little more than I did. If you don’t like getting your hands dirty then yes, you are going to pay out a lot more in bills. Fixing Italian (or any other nationality) exotica is not cheap, as it needs specialists, who quite rightly charge more.
More on those front suspension bushes shortly, but for now I am just going to enjoy the fact that both my wallet and I have survived to write these words.
Forza Ferrari 348. It’s been a ride.
A big thank you to all the companies that have helped with the Ferrari 348 rebuild over the last six years. They include:
Al Tayer Motors (various): www.altayermotors.com
Triple A (electrics): www.aaadubai.com
Bosch (fuel injectors): www.cmeuae.ae/Boschcarservice.html
Alex Renner Motors (various): www.armotors.ae
MSW (various): www.msw-me.com
Nitto (tyres): www.zafco.com or www.nittotire.com
Max Motors (paint): www.maxdubai.com
Carcoon (Storage): www.carcoon.co.uk
Prodent (bodywork): www.prodent.ae
Tubi Style (exhaust): www.tubistyle.it
Autostyle (mats): www.autostyle.co.uk
Ferrari Window (window motors): www.ferrariwindow.com
NFS (various): www.nfsdxb.com
DK-Schweizer (interior): www.dk-schweizer.com
5 June 2013 – Back in the driver’s seat
Ups = Finally, the interior is done and dusted
Downs = The Gremlins have been at my electrics
It’s only when you watch someone stitching odd-shaped bits of leather together do you realise how intricate a car interior actually is. The various twists and turns of a front seat are actually very complex and it takes a real craftsman to get it right and make it look factory fresh.
As mentioned in my previous update the guys at DK-Schweizer pulled everything out of the car, so they could take it back to its original condition. But what made it even better was that I was then lucky enough to watch some of the process of how they recover and restore a battered interior.
The guys removed all the old damaged leather from the seats and found that the original foam was actually in fairly good condition and didn’t need replacing.
The templates were then made and the leather cut to fit. The sewing machine experts then got to work, stitching everything back together.
DK-Schweizer also recovered the door panels and without my knowledge recovered the two panels on the underside of the targa roof for me. I actually didn’t notice for about a week, so that was a nice surprise when I finally looked up.
Apart from the carpets the only bits that I didn’t have recovered were the dash top, which was in good condition and the door pillar covers, which I’d had done earlier after the original covers started to peel off.
The only downside with the work was that the guys had accidentally reconnected the 120 km\h warning beeper, which was extremely annoying when driving on the highway. Rather than fit a polite ‘bing’ when exceeding the limit, Ferrari thought a piercing buzzer would be a better idea. It sounded like an angry hornet under the dash, so I popped back to have that sorted the very next day.
The other problem with having the interior redone is that the electrics on old cars (and especially old Italian cars) are very fragile. Pulling out the dash seems to have upset the fuse box and relays, so after a few odd electrical maladies, I might be looking at more problems further down the line. A new fuse box would be great, but they are extremely expensive, so that may not be a cost effective option.
But for now I have a fantastic interior that looks like the day it came out the factory, so I’m going to enjoy it before the last few cooler evenings disappear.
So now the only things left to do on the car are the driver’s door lock, a couple of small bodywork items and some worn suspension bushings. After that I’ll have a lot more time on my hands each evening. Anyone got an interesting project they want to sell?
Thanks to DK-Schweizer for their help. If you need a top quality interior for your pride and joy, contact them at: www.dk-schweizer.com
29 January 2013 – Inside Out
Ups = The interior refurbish is underway
Downs = The weather is great and I don’t have my car
Finally, the 348 has gone in to have the interior sorted out. Since the day I got the car I have been waiting to get it retrimmed and finally restored to its former glory, so to say I am a little excited would be a serious understatement.
After a long search for the right people to do the job I settled on DK-Schweizer in Al Quoz, as they knew what I needed right away and didn’t turn their nose up when I arrived in a car more than two years old.
The guys there are also really friendly, which helps when your pride and joy is about to undergo the car equivalent of an organ transplant. Even though I knew it was in great hands I was still a little nervous handing over the keys, allowing them to start ripping the whole interior out of the car.
The guys didn’t seem phased in the slightest though, as DK-Schweizer seem to cater for all levels of car owner. My nearly two-decades old Ferrari was nestled into their workshop between a Maybach, a Mercedes AMG and a Maserati coupe.
A few days later I revisited the workshop to see how they were getting along, only to find my car being stripped right back to the bulkhead. Even though I know it’ll all go back together, it’s quite a shock to see your car in that state.
I also had a chance to see what the seats look like with no leather on them. The frames were in quite good condition, probably due to the car always being in the Gulf. The padding however was going to need some work, as years of bottoms sitting on it had worn it a bit lifeless to say the least.
The team had already started work on the door panels and centre console, which were progressing well. Next step is to get the parts cleaned up and the leather cut to shape and stitched together.
I’ll pop back soon to see how they’re getting on with putting the shiny new leather back on the seats. Hopefully, I’ll be even closer to getting it back on the road and in suitably fine fettle.
Thanks to DK-Schweizer for their help. If you need a top quality interior for your pride and joy, contact them at: www.dk-schweizer.com or call them on: +971 4 323 2275
August 2012 – Bling Bling
Ups = Looking good
Downs = Still too many jobs to do
FOR FULL GALLERY SCROLL DOWN!
Firstly, an apology. Shahzad has been chasing me for an update on the Ferrari for ages, but I’ve only just managed it for two reasons. One, I’ve been a bit lazy and two, I haven’t used the 348 much during the summer.
But with the end of the hot weather getting closer by the day, I finally pulled my finger out and dropped the car up to the wizards at Alex Renner Motors for a service and to get the brake calipers painted red. The brakes come in black as standard, but the original paint was all chipped and scratched from 19 years on the road.
The guys at ARM did an amazing job. The 348’s wheels aren’t the best for showing off the calipers, but when they show through, the bright red paint and white logos look amazing.
They also changed the gearbox oil and sorted out the rough running I’ve had for a long while. It turned out to be a combination of fuelling and a few dodgy sensors. The car is now running great and I’m really looking forward to this winter, so I can get out and play.
But as usual it’s not all good news. The car has now developed an air conditioning problem, where the AC constantly switches itself off on its own. Press the AC button and it comes back on again, but that last anything between a few seconds to maybe two minutes, before it goes off again.
Apparently it’s the switch, so I’ve pulled the control unit out of the centre console and will have a look on what’s causing that. I’ll update you on what I find in my next update.
So what’s next? Now it’s finally time to get the long overdue interior sorted out as well. On the whole it’s not too bad, but the two seats need recovering, along with the upper parts of the door panels.
Old CAR Middle East Magazine readers may remember I refurbished the seats when I first bought the Ferrari. I used a leather kit I bought in the UK, but although it worked to a point, it’s since started to wear off and a cut has appeared in the back of the driver’s seat.
Once that’s done I only have a few small jobs to do to have the old 348 exactly back as Maranello intended.
Thanks to Alex Renner Motors for their expert help with my naughty mistress.
Ups = New boots
Downs = Damn electrics
Heading back down to NFS to pick up the 348 I am greeted by the site of a gleaming Ferrari staring back at me outside their clean and tidy workshop. But I’ve learnt never to trust my blue Italian muse until I’ve checked it out for myself.
A quick look under the car reveals not one new axle boot, but four. NFS owner Julian quickly explained that all the others looked a bit worse for wear, so he changed them all to prevent me coming back again with the same problem.
Jumping inside I turn the little key with the horse on it and get a face full of cold air. Woo hoo, A/C at last. The new compressor is now neatly ensconced in its hiding spot behind the engine and the whole system has been flushed and re-gassed. Perfect for a mid-summer blast.
So what’s left? I still need to find the clutch leak, so I don’t have to carry a can of clutch fluid around with me. The seats and door panels need retrimming and there are a few bits of bodywork to finish off.
I also need to solve the electrical problem, which is the main issue with the car. If I get that sorted I’m half way home. I have no idea what I’d do if I got all that done.
What would I do with my evenings?
Thanks once again to Julian at NFS for fitting a nice pair of boots and giving me cooling air. If you want to take your exotic, but troublesome beauty to them they are located in Dubai’s Al Quoz area. Call them on 04 330 7310 or visit their web site (www.nfsdxb.com) for more info.
Ups = Nothing else has fallen off.
Downs = It’s hardly moved in a month
If you’ve been following the crazy project that is my 348 you’ll already know I’ve been taking two steps forward and one back for months now. Perhaps its the onset of summer, but I’m starting to get a bit more optimistic about finally getting the 348 running like it should and ready for the winter driving season in September. At least it’ll be amusing for you to read when my hopes are dashed on the rocks.
After having the car up on blocks for the last month or so, I finally got my new clutch seal. But lo and behold it was completely different to the one in the clutch. After a bit of head scratching we realised the cut in the seal is actually supposed to be there, so the problem in the clutch is elsewhere.
I put everything back together and with the help of the ever-present John Herman, bleed the clutch with his lazy man auto bleeder. No pumping the pedal for hours for us. You simply hook it up to an air compressor and press go.
There’s still a small leak from somewhere, but I’ll find it later. The important thing is that I now have pressure in the clutch pedal and everything is working. I just need to make sure I keep the fluid topped up.
So with the clutch problem fixed I now need to fit the new AC compressor and my shiny new drive shaft boot. Then I can get it over to John’s workshop to diagnose the ongoing electrical problem. Auto electrics are a bit of a black art and I am no Harry Potter, so John has offered to have a look for me.
After that I can get the interior retrimmed and the last bits of bodywork sorted, while I wait for whichever electrical part I need. It all sounds so easy when I put it into a list.
For the first part of the world’s longest Ferrari puzzle, I shipped the 348 off to NFS, who are now looking after Ferraris and other exotica. If you’ve heard that name before, NFS run the fire breathing Dodge Viper in the UAE GT Championships, so they know a thing or two about performance cars. Hopefully, they can get me moving again fairly quickly.
Elsewhere, the UAE Ferrari Owners Club has started a ‘classic’ section, which I’m quite heavily involved with. With all the sports cars laying around in Dubai and my experience in trying to pump life into a dead Ferrari I might even start my own exotic scrap yard.
Thanks to Julian at NFS for taking in my alley cat of a Ferrari. If you want to pop down and see their lovely workshops they are located in Dubai’s Al Quoz area. Call them on 04 330 7310 or visit their web site (www.nfsdxb.com) for more info.
Ups = Speedy windows
Downs = Now I’ve got no gears!
After finding more faults than I think I started with last month, the list has now grown even longer. I was lucky enough to get invited to Yas Marina Circuit for a Ferrari Owners Club event. Despite its various maladies, I decided to give the 348 a run out and headed to the capital.
But before I went I solved a rather odd problem with the car. Older Ferraris suffer from the strange complaint of slow electric windows. My driver’s window is the better of the two, but takes an eternity to close. The passenger side takes even longer and often just freezes in place, only to work again ten minutes later.
Luckily a lovely gent by the name of Frazer Smith in the UK put a bit of time and effort into investigating the problem and discovered it was simply bad wiring by the factory. He then set about manufacturing small booster units and started his own web site to help other Ferrari owners.
I acquired two units on my last trip back to England and set about fitting them. Luckily I already had the door trims off, so it was a simply matter of connecting up three wires and mounting the unit in the bottom of the door. The first one took me about 15 minutes and the second about half that again.
With the units in place, the windows are certainly quicker, although the passenger one still keeps freezing when the door is shut, suggesting something deeper in the system. I’ll get to that in 2012!
These little units are really simple to install and well worth a punt. But watch out, as there are a couple of inferior products to Frazer’s on the market as well, so make sure you get the right ones. Frazer also makes units for the Testerossa, Mondial and the 308/328 range amongst others.
So with turbo charged windows in place I headed off to Abu Dhabi for the Yas event. But what this car is amazing at is lulling me into a false sense of security before slapping me in the face. The car ran perfectly (considering its other problems) and I had a fantastic drive back with the roof stowed and the V8 tune playing in my ears. But on the way home the gearbox became increasingly difficult to operate.
I soldiered home, only for the gearbox to give up completely as I coasted up my driveway. At least I didn’t have to suffer the ignomy of a flat bed truck rescue.
After noticing a growing pool of fluid on the floor, good friend, ace mechanic and Italian car nut John Herman and I came to the conclusion it was probably a leak in the system, rather than something more terminal.
After two hours in the garage removing bodywork and various other parts of the back end, I got the clutch off and discovered a torn seal in the clutch release bearing. So hopefully a new seal, fluid and a bleed of the system should fix it. Then I can start getting all the other problems sorted out.
Until my new seal arrives I guess I’ll just sit in the garage and watch the window shooting up and down.
Thanks to Frazer Smith at Ferrari Window for sending me the units. If you’ve got an old Ferrari and want to be able to shut your windows in less than half an hour drop him an email. His web site is: www.ferrariwindow.com
I am still in awe of Al Tayer’s amazing computer, which seems to be acting as a doctor, psychologist and agony aunt to my hypochondriac Ferrari 348 TS.
Not only did it diagnose the parts needed, but as I mentioned in my last report, it fixed the ABS light and made the car feel a little better about itself.
But it’s not all good news. I think there’s a problem with the handbrake on the 348, as I seem to be rolling backwards downhill… in a metaphorical sense of course.
Having diagnosed the engine problem I have now discovered that the cost of the parts needed requires me to take out a small house loan.
The four electrical parts has rounded up to about 8000 Dirhams ($2174) – that probably includes 1,000 for the part and 7,000 for the little black horsey on the box! I guess I’ll be spending my evenings with a jug of coffee and the internet to solve this puzzle.
Whilst I’m on the web I can also look up some new rear suspension bushes, as mine appear to be completely shot. The car moves around unnervingly on the road, suggesting some non-existent rubber. Great, I’ll add it to the list.
So with the bit between my teeth and a decent garage, I decided to take matters into my own hands and whip off the O2 sensors that Al Tayer identified as being defective. The sensors are screwed into the cats on the exhaust, which is great until you try to get them off. The only way is to remove the rear wheels and come at it from the wheel well.
By doing this process myself I have discovered two things. Firstly, that the sensors are stuck solid, so I will have to figure out how on earth to get them out. Secondly, my whole wheel arch is covered in black, sticky grease. Further investigation soon revealed a completely trashed axle boot. Brilliant… I’ll add it to the list.
At this rate I’ll have replaced the whole car by the time it’s finished. Hang on, that’s a complete load of rubbish… it’ll never be finished.
A big thank you once again to Al Tayer Motors for helping me and letting me park the 348 next to an Enzo. You can contact Al Tayer Ferrari by visiting: www.altayermotors.com
For old cars there really isn’t much sense in taking your car to the main dealer… or so I thought. I always thought they are more geared up to look after the much newer cars and tend to be priced accordingly. For that reason aftermarket garages always seem to spring up in abundance for this very purpose, unless of course you’re in the Middle East.
Sometimes what a car really needs is someone who has been working on the brand for years and knows all the little foibles each model has to offer. In the UAE that’s really only the dealer and as it turned out that’s exactly what my petulant 348 needed.
After spending over a year with a car running on half power, I finally bit the bullet and called Al Tayer Motors, the Ferrari main dealer. I explained that it was running poorly but was otherwise fine. They checked the car in to have a look and would give me a call.
With no word of a lie I had just sat down back in my office after getting a cab from the dealer when I received a phone call from the service manager, ‘It’s all fixed. When can you come and pick it up?’ I fainted.
An hour later after receiving CPR and picking myself back up off the floor, I strode quizzically back into Al Tayer to find out how on earth they fixed it so quickly.
Apparently, the problem was being caused by the thermo-couplings on the exhausts. They were too old and the electrical signal was only coming through every so often. This was causing the car to go into ‘limp mode’ as it didn’t know if the car was overheating or not. Al Tayer had opened the connectors, cleaned them and re-fitted everything.
I took the car for a quick test drive and used my normal amount of accelerator pedal to pull away, which immediately sent the car sideways down the road. It must have looked pretty cool, but I had momentary visions of planting my now repaired car into the shop next to the dealer. I can see the headlines now; ‘prancing horse runs amok in furniture store’.
Despite the repair the errant parts are not good and badly need replacing. I’ll order some up and get them shipped over ASAP.
Another advantage of taking it in to someone with the right computer system was that I have also ticked another task off the list of ‘things to do’ on the car. Since I got the engine running the ABS light has been on and I assumed there was a problem that needed sorting. But it turns out the light was on from when I replaced the brake pads and only needed cancelling by the dealer’s diagnostics computer. Tick.
The car mats I fitted last month are working really well and stay perfectly in place, even though I haven’t fixed them down with the supplied grips. It’s a worry that I find new car mats this exciting.
The only problem is that the mats have made the rest of the interior look terrible. So I’ll need to tackle that over the next few months. Not sure my task list will ever end. When I finish one job, another presents itself.
I just wish my wallet would develop a similar system.
A big thank you to Al Tayer for being the fastest main dealer garage in history.
Contact Al Tayer Ferrari at www.altayermotors.com
Thanks also to Autostyle for the mats. They can make and supply mats for almost any car. Go to www.autostyle.co.uk or call them on +44 1908 222 113.
Max Garage’s magicians have once again astounded me with their ability to get things done regardless of the short deadlines I keep giving them. They also seem to have an endless supply of exotica rolling through their doors for restoration, but they still managed to slide the 348 in at really short notice.
I have this amazing inability to leave their workshops, as the whole place is like a motor museum. My petrol sniffing tractor beam is obviously as strong as ever.
With the car fresh out of the spray booth, it’s finally starting to live up to the famous name on the bonnet.
Max’s body shop experts had repaired and resprayed both Testarossa-style door inserts, which as I explained in my last report had both been damaged by some errant owner banging the doors against other cars, walls, small dogs, sleeping construction workers or whatever else he found.
They also resprayed the badly scratched rear bumper, which I had carefully removed from the car when fixing the engine. I had stored it in my carport only for my maid to unknowingly lean her pushbike against it for three months. Pedals, chains and Ferrari paintwork are never good bedfellows.
They also fixed the marks on the wings that will always remain a mystery to me. I have absolutely no idea how anyone could scratch a car in so many interesting ways. It was actually quite artistic in an abstract sort of way.
They flattened down the vinyl roof, filled the crackle-effect surface and painted it the same colour as the body.
Despite everything else this single item has transformed the car from a scruffy old timer to a sizzling racer. Vinyl has about as much use on a car as furry dice, so to be finally rid of it is a relief.
It might need a fair more bit of work to get it up to standard but at least it now looks the part. It’s also finalized my love of the blue paintwork, which I initially wanted to change. It’s so different from the de rigueur red the brand is famous for. The paint match is spot on, so the car looks like it did the day it rolled out of the Maranello factory. The 348 may not be the most popular of Ferraris, but it’s got the right badge and now it’s got the looks to match.
It also took me a few days to notice that they’d also rehung the driver’s door, which had been hitting the bodywork slightly. They didn’t mention that and it gave me an extra thing to enjoy a few days after the initial new body buzz had worn off.
Elsewhere things have moved forward in some areas, stayed the same in others and in some cases gone a little backwards. The main one to cause me strife is the AC.
I’ve had no luck whatsoever with the redundant AC compressor, which gave up the ghost in my last report. I’m now stuck in that ‘do I fix the AC or the electrical problem’ dilemma all mad car restorers must have found themselves in. As the car isn’t running right anyway, there seems little point in worrying about getting the interior cooled.
My wedding has temporarily stopped the search for a replacement AC unit, but it has given me the chance to pick up my new car mats that have been awaiting my next visit home.
I also fitted a stereo, which I picked up from the local electrical store. Wiring it in was an act of true flexibility on my part as I managed to fit my head under the centre console while pointing one leg out the window and avoiding impaling myself on the gearstick. I’m sure it was easier fitting it to my old Mini back in my college days.
After managing to find a switched live (after dismantling half the bloody car) I got a radio station. It was a Hindi channel, which isn’t much use to me, but I guess beggars can’t be choosers?
After making sure everything worked properly, I then discovered the stupid 6×9 speakers I was forced to fit due to the huge holes cut by a previous vandal are fouling the door shut. So back to square one with that then? I’ll also need to re-cover the black trim around the door where the speakers have cut away at the leather.
Luckily, the stereo came with two small speakers, so I have added that task to the never-ending list of jobs. I’ll now need to find some carpet that matches the current colour or it’ll look a bit odd. I’ll also have to graft in a filling patch to cover the huge holes from the oval speakers. Great, time to break out the fibreglass kit.
At least the weather is improving, so I’ll be able to mix it up without the stuff setting in the pot. There’s always a silver lining to every Italian cloud.
Finally, I am also possibly closing in on some proper diagnostics for the car, which might reveal why it refuses to run properly. But more on that next month.
For now I intend to take off my shoes, sit in my Ferrari and rub my toes into my nice new car mats. It might be a bit sweaty inside and running like a dog, but at least I have carpets. No-one ever said this would be easy.
Enough is enough. I couldn’t take another day looking at the awful peeling vinyl roof panel and the scratched rear bumper on the Ferrari. The roof had got to the point where it looked like a dodgy skin disease.
As I’ve said many times before, a Ferrari is an Italian beauty that needs to look at her best throughout the day. You’d be hard pushed to find an Italian women shopping in Milan in a baggy T-shirt and oversize jogging pants.
So I checked the car into Max Garage’s paint shop for a makeover, hairdo and all-round pampering. But as per usual it never quite stops where you think it will. What started out as the rear bumper and targa roof quickly escalated.
The problem with spraying almost all of a car is that you never quite know where to stop. One of the front wings had some deep scratches that couldn’t be polished out, whilst the other one had a large stone chip right on the top of the wing. Might as well do those at the same time, right?
Both of the door inserts (the Testarossa style vents) were damaged from a careless previous owner opening them onto whatever they had parked next to. Made of glass fibre, they both needed some attention beyond a bit of filler. So I decided to fix them at the same time.
One of the doors was also slightly scratched, albeit only visible to my keen and critical eye. So I chucked that in as well. I think I might have got a bit carried away!
On the way to drop off the car I got that dreaded moment where you feel yourself getting a little too hot for comfort, letting me know the a/c had decided to give up on me. There’s a very cheap aftermarket compressor fitted to the car and the air hadn’t been icy cold for a while, so I was expecting it at some point, but the timing wasn’t very helpful.
The engine was still warm when Max got down to work, removing the easy to get at bits, masking up the rest of the car and rubbing down the errant panels in preparation for the man with the spray gun to get to work.
With the garage hard at work I’ve now got time to fish around for a new compressor while the car is being painted. I don’t fancy driving it around in forty degrees, even if it does look great at last.
Anyone happen to have a spare air-conditioning compressor for a Ferrari 348 lying around? No? Thought not…
Thanks to Max Garage’s spray shop for fitting me in at short notice, despite their packed schedule. If you need your car sprayed, they’re the guys to call. Drop them a line on +971 4 340 8200.
With the patchy bodywork starting to come together and the long hot summer now well and truly here, it’s time to get that slightly sick engine on the 348 sorted out. After a brief moment of the car running perfectly on the way home from a car meet, I know the car is capable good things.
Problem number one is that no one seems to have any diagnostic equipment for the car, apart from the dealer, so I had to think a little laterally.
A tip off from Editor Tom suggested that local race and modifying masters TAM Auto Engineering might be able to help. With a shiny new UAE GT Championship trophy in the cabinet, they certainly seem to know how to get the best from an engine.
Although they didn’t have the correct computer hook up, I dropped the car down to the spotlessly clean warehouse in DIP anyway, hoping they could sort out the misfire and lack of power.
Whilst there I had a good nose around, which is the sort of thing that got me into this mess in the first place. The garage is a treasure trove of serious note, with everything from a Ford GT40 to a Porsche Spyder replica being worked on.
Within just 24 hours TAM had diagnosed a defective HT ignition lead, so only seven cylinders were providing the oomph. A quick call to the dealer produced the usually insane conversation, where the guy quoted me nearly $550 for a short piece of wire.
Luckily a friend had a look and thought it might be due to an incredible amount of corrosion on the joints between the caps and the wire. A quick going over with a sand blaster and the lead was as good as new.
The car now runs a lot better, but there still seems to be a sensor holding it all back. At least I now have all eight cylinders, so good progress all round. The hunt for diagnostics continues.
The good news is that my long awaited car mats are now ready. The current one is driving me mad, as it rides up under the seat every time I drive the car.
I’ll also be dropping the car back into Max Garage to get that terrible targa roof panel sorted out, along with the badly scratched rear bumper. The roof panel will be going body colour, as I am pretty sure vinyl went out with the record player and Ferris Bueller. I’ve seen a lot of 348s with this simple mod and they all look a lot better for it.
A few more months like this and the car will be set for the winter. That is of course if I can ever get that damn engine sorted out!
After figuring out to how to get it from Arizona to the UAE, I then had to order up some 355 rear lights to go with the grill. Not cheap, but hopefully worth it in the long run. It does look great, especially from directly behind the car. I might finally be able to throw away that Don Johnson suit and my Wham CDs!
Fitting the new grill involved removing all the old lights and metalwork, and then taking an angle grinder to the body. Yes, you did read that correctly. Attacking the back of a Ferrari with an angle grinder is an odd feeling, but I’ve done so much else with this car I am getting used to the horrified looks of my neighbours as I attempt yet another repair on the car. Mind you, it’s all reversible and with the 348 not currently threatening to become the next Daytona I thought it was a risk worth taking.
Fixing the lights proved far more difficult than it looked and set the tone for the rest of the fitting. The wiring refused to play ball despite me following the wiring instructions to the letter. Once again Max Garage came to my rescue with their genius electrician, who had everything working spot on. I have since noticed that my fog lights don’t work, so I’ll get that sorted next time it goes in. Two steps forward and one back, as they say.
With the panel in place, the fitment is interesting to say the least. I’ll get the panel altered once I find someone to spray the car, but for now it’ll have to do.
When I did finally get everything to fit as best I could I noticed one of the indicators is upside down, so it all needs to be refitted at some point. The 348 is proving to be a petulant teenager once again.
I’ve also sent some begging letters to a few car carpet manufacturers in the UK in a vain attempt to solve the missing mat problem. Let’s see if anyone can help sort that seemingly simple problem out as well. A set of rubber mats from the local supermarket won’t really scream ‘Ferrari’.
And finally, I’ve decided to get the two seats recovered. The refurbishment kit I bought and applied some time ago didn’t get me the finish I really wanted and with all the subsequent work done on the car, they are starting to look a little scruffy again. Add to that the mysterious cut that has appeared in the back of the driver’s seat and I now think recovering them is the only proper solution. If I’m going to enjoy driving the car I’m going to need somewhere nice to sit.
As far as other problems are concerned I still have no stereo (not a problem) and the ABS light is still on (more of a problem), so that puzzle continues. Maybe that can be solved before I write again next month. I am starting to wonder if this project will ever end, but each time I drive it those thoughts seem to wash away… and then it breaks again. They do say it’s a fine line between insanity and genius. I think I know where this project is heading!
Thanks once again to the guys at Tubi Style (+971 4 335 6646 or www.italianstyle.ae) for their help with the shiny exhaust. Also, Noel is indebted to all the guys down at Max Garage (+971 4 340 8200 or www.maxdubai.com) for not rolling their eyes each time his blue bomber turns up again. She’ll be back soon, no doubt.
With the Ferrari 348 TS waiting for me back in Dubai, I eagerly rushed back from holiday in the UK to collect it and sample the hopefully raucous tones of my shiny new Tubi exhaust. But as always fate – and a backlog of work – conspired to make me go almost another full week further before finally getting the chance to collect the car from Max Garage.
The first thing I noticed was that someone had swiped the tail off the chrome prancing horse on the rear grill.
Was it a Ferrari fan, someone with a grudge or a weirdo with a fetish for horsetails? I guess I’ll never know, but I’ll add a new badge to the never-ending list of things to buy for the car.
But no time to mourn the horse’s appendage. I needed to hear the new exhaust in action. I jumped in, started it up and… it sounded… err, better, but not quite the howl I was expecting. Oh well, perhaps this is one of those cars that simply doesn’t want to scream its arrival.
Slightly disappointed, I drove home wondering why it hadn’t hit me with a cacophony of aural pleasure and why the car seemed a bit sluggish under power. But by the time I got home and parked up I was sure all was not well with the fickle 348’s engine.
The next morning after a bit of poking around and head scratching I headed back to the garage for a chat with Max’s owner Vijay. I hadn’t even turned off the engine when he walked over and declared the car sounded like it wasn’t firing on all cylinders. That’ll explain the lack of noise and oomph then!
With the ABS light on and a couple of other small jobs that I was planning on finishing on the driveway still to do, I decided to leave it with Vijay the car doctor for some more TLC.
And so I got yet another taxi home, whilst the Ferrari checked back into rehab on its long road back to automotive glory. At this rate, I’ll get the car ready just in time for the lovely 50-degree summer and 100 percent humidity. Oh joy.
Away from these frustrations is some good news though. My new Ferrari 355-style rear grill has arrived from the US, along with a set of round 355 taillights. Once the car is back on the drive I can get on with installing it and hopefully updating its Italian posterior to something a little less Miami Vice.
Hopefully, I’ll finally be able to throw away my white linen suit and fake tan.
Once this is done, next on the agenda is a pair of purpose made car mats, as it’ll neaten up the interior and I’m a bit worried about wearing through the carpet with my heel – plus as we’ve all learnt from the recent Toyota saga, it’s worth investing in decent mats.
Plain black mats with a creme edging is the order of the day I think, as one with big prancing horses on them are a bit in your face… and someone might steal the tails off them!
The car also needs a decent stereo – to replace the hole behind the neat little cover in the dash – and I have to find someone to sort out the scratches on the bodywork. Finally, I need to sort out the driver’s door, which has dropped very slightly.
I’ll get there… eventually.
This month I need to thank Olivier from Tubi Style (+971 4 335 6646 or www.tubistyle.it) for his help with 348’s exhaust. We missed his details out before, so give him a call if you need some serious supercar sounds. Also, Max Garage (+971 4 340 8200 or www.maxdubai.com) for once again putting up with the troublesome Ferrari.
Is it me or am I getting a little closer to sorting out the Ferrari 348 TS and getting it back on the road? Despite a mixture of me being out of town, some errant parts and the boys down at Max Garage being really busy, it all seems to be heading in the right direction once again.
The engine and car are now united for a second time in less than six months, after sitting tantalisingly close to each other in the workshop since the end of last year. I had to leave the engine mounts for another time, as they were totally cost-prohibitive.
How Ferrari can still be charging over $6,800 for what is essentially three bits of rubber is beyond me. They also look fine to my untrained eye and I think my mechanic may be being slightly over zealous on that one. That saga is to be continued.
Taking the dents out of the bodywork last month was great, but it’s also highlighted the other deficiencies in the paint. The rear bumper is scratched quite badly and the peeling black vinyl roof really needs to be changed to body colour to smarten everything up. I’ll get round to tackling that over the next few weeks.
You can’t have a Ferrari that’s covered in scratches. It just isn’t the done thing.
But the big news is with the engine back in, Max could finally fit the new exhaust I recently had flown in from Tubi Style in Italy.
The shiny work of art has been sitting in the corner of the office for ages, silently taunting me and though it was performing a grand job as a piece of modern art, I thought it would have a better life on the back of the Ferrari.
The exhaust has a couple of major advantages over the old one, which was starting to fall to bits anyway. Firstly, it’ll save a huge amount of weight as the old system felt like it weighed more than a grand piano. But most importantly for me the car will hopefully make the old girl finally sound like a proper Ferrari, as the old system was completely muffled.
Fitting the exhaust took no time at all and the new chrome tail pipes look great peeping out the back of the car. The old system was actually slightly bent, making the tailpipes sit completely out of line, so that’s now been solved at the same time.
With everything present and correct all I now have to do is pick up the car and give my new toy a trial run. Will it sound like it should, with that distinctive Ferrari wail and will my ever-patient neighbours finally shoot me? I’ll have to wait and see, as Max finishing the exhaust fitting coincided exactly with me flying off on holiday.
For once I can’t wait to get back home to find out. Watch this space, as they say.
The blue 348 has been hanging around on a lift in Max Garage waiting for parts for a while now so I thought it might be prudent to make hay while the sun shines. If I can’t drive it around in the lovely weather I might as well get some more jobs ticked off the list of tasks.
Firstly, I tried to track down some new engine mounts, but with the cheapest source coming in at an eye watering $3,200, I have gone back to the drawing board on that one. I’ve even started talking to a company in the UK which manufacturers bespoke engine mounts for race cars in an attempt to bring the cost back to sensible levels.
Back in the garage the brilliant guys from Prodent popped in to remove three small dents on the bodywork. These magicians of metal quickly set to work massaging out the marks on the body that really stand out when the car is sitting in the sunlight.
The process is amazing to watch as they push out the dent bit by bit from behind. Interestingly, they hardly need to remove much of the car, finding access to the back of the metal from the smallest of holes.
The technicians use a selection of metal bars with a variety of oddly shaped ends to work the metal back into shape. If the metal comes too far forward they work it back to level using some very skillful hammer and dolly action.
Interestingly, the dent appeared to have gone within about five minutes, but the guys continued to work on the car for a good while longer. They could see it wasn’t quite perfect, but it looked spot on to me.
Nice to see that even in these rushed times someone likes to take a bit of care and commitment in their work. Each dent takes around half an hour dependant on the severity of the damage, but most marks can be pushed out eventually.
If you’ve got any of those annoying parking dents on your car I suggest you give them a try, as there’s nothing better than perfect bodywork on your pride and joy. Though how I’m going to stop the car from picking up new parking dings is something I’m still to fathom out. Maybe I need to invest in industrial quantities of bubblewrap…
With the dents removed I made a speculative call to the local importer of the famous Tubi exhausts, Italian Style. Tubi is probably the world’s most popular exhaust system for Ferraris and helps to release that all-important V8 wail that has been conspicuously missing from my Ferrari.
The company swiftly came back with a firm yes to help out and a full race system is now on its way to me.
So all in all it’s not been a bad month. I have three less dents and one shiny new exhaust on the way. Not bad considering the car hasn’t turned a wheel in anger for a very long time indeed.
Helping Noel to make his Ferrari look in tip top condition this month has been the boys from Prodent. If you fancy giving your pride and joy a blemish-free finsih give them a call on +971 50 659 3368 or visit their website atprodent.ae. Thanks too to everyone at Max Garage for looking after the 348TS yet again.
Bizarrely, things have started to move pretty swiftly with my 348 TS over the last few weeks, unfortunately culminating in it returning to Max Garage again for a manner of minor and major faults.
The plastic clips for the interior trim turned up from the dealer, so I dropped the car back to Max for them to be fitted. I had tried myself but ended up frustrated and unsuccessful. So I handed it over to the experts, who quickly discovered the clips were too short. Phew, my faith in my own abilities is partially resorted.
With new clips quickly sourced and a quick repair to the brake lights, the car was surprisingly ready for the dreaded registration test. So I decided to give it a go and headed down to the test centre.
I almost fell of my chair when they called my name and handed me a shiny new test paper. In fact, I was so shocked I had forgotten to bring any money down to the centre and had to rely on a friend who happened to be there at the same time and my long suffering better half for a loan to cover the costs. Within a short time the blue Ferrari was sitting pretty with shiny new number plates and a year of registration. Even the AC was blowing strong and cold…
So with a fully legal car I headed up to the UAE Ferrari Owners Club track day at the Dubai Autodrome that afternoon to watch the action and revel in the joy of prancing horse ownership. It was then that the little black horse decided to hit me squarely where it hurts.On the way home from the track I heard an odd noise from the rear, which sounded like a cross between some bodywork rubbing and a duff bearing.
A quick visit back to Max and the guys in the workshop narrowed it down to something behind the timing covers. Seeing that I changed all the tensioner bearings when the engine was out, it can only be a water pump or something very weird indeed.
Either way, the only way to really find out what’s wrong is to pull the engine out once again. Very disheartening but needs must as they say.
So after a bit of internet investigation and a few calls to friends in the know, I gave Max Garage the go ahead to pull the engine and find out what’s wrong.
On the plus side, I have managed to drive the car a fair distance and apart from the dreaded noise it ran really well.
However, the sight of the engine back out again is pretty hard to bear. Once I know the doctors verdict I’ll fill everyone in, but at the moment its two steps forward and one back.
Hopefully it’s not a step back to a nice looking, but very static Ferrari…
It says quite a lot that Ferrari has managed to bring out at least two new models in the time that Noel’s been working on his 348. One day it might be finished!
I am now officially running out of jobs to do on the Ferrari. There is still loads to do cosmetically, but I can’t afford a respray just yet (unless any friendly garages are willing to help me out…) and still haven’t tracked down any suitable insurance to get me down to the police station for the all important test and registration.
This month all I’ve done to the 348, apart from look at it longingly and give it another bath, is fix one of the door panels back on. This became a bit of a priority after I drove it off the driveway last week. When I tried to get out I found that I had neglected to refit the inner door handle and the window switch. This left me stranded in the car until my better half came to my rescue and released me from my Italian prison.
The reason the door panels have been off for so long was due to the warped upper panels that left an unsightly view under the panel from the outside of the car. Thankfully, after a lot of different ideas and failed repair plans, the maestros at Max Garage saved me again by simply heating them up and bending them back to the correct shape.
I then had a fine layer of glass fibre put over the top to stop them ever bending again and then dropped them into my friendly upholsterer. They probably look better now than they did when they left the factory.
With all the bits ready to go back in I swiftly refitted the driver’s side panels, along with a new set of JVC 6×9 speakers for my yet to be sourced and sufficiently retro stereo. Almost all the plastic clips that hold the door panels in place have become brittle over the last 16 years, so I had to steal some from the passenger door panels to make one good set.
I quick visit to the local main Ferrari dealer revealed the worst. They had none in stock and it would take a few weeks to get them in from Maranello. Not good. So I now have one perfect door and one that looks like part of the set of a horror movie.
I’m only glad I haven’t got round to sorting the insurance or the rest of the paperwork otherwise I’d be sitting twiddling my thumbs awaiting the arrival of some $0.25 parts to get my Ferrari back on the road. And that would probably be worse than not owning a Ferrari at all. At least it looks good parked up.
Next month is insurance, a quick check over and hopefully some shiny new number plates. Though I’ve been saying that for months, so don’t hold your breath…
To think this Ferrari looked like a bit of a bargain when Noel bought it last year for just $8000. Back then it had 38,000kms on the clock – now it’s got 38,001kms on the clock as the car’s not ventured further than from the end of the driveway onto a flatbed recovery truck far too many times. Still, it’ll be back on the road soon…
With the Ferrari finally sitting back on my driveway and running nicely, there’s just a few outstanding jobs before I can get it down to the registration centre for the first shot at getting the 348’s paperwork in order.
Oh yes… and it will probably help if I get some insurance. I have been avoiding that one as firstly it will hurt my wallet and secondly, I can only get third party insurance, which seems almost criminal on an Italian sports car.
Other annoying little jobs include refitting the inner wheel arches and the interior door trims, which are almost ready to go back in. Normally these would be simple jobs, but 45-degree heat and 80 percent humidity tend to have a negative effect on my ability to wield a spanner.
Max Garage in Dubai’s oh-so glamorous Al Quoz did a great job with the car (see the report in last month’s mag) and even gave it a wash before bringing it back home on a low-loader and depositing it on the drive. But I just couldn’t resist taking it for a quick spin down my private street and sampling for the very first time the thrill of my own prancing horse.
The verdict? Err, sweaty and heavy. The air-conditioning doesn’t seem to be working very well and I had completely forgotten that the Ferrari doesn’t have power steering. That’ll take some getting used to. It’s also extremely quiet, which I have to admit was a big surprise.
Mind you, I didn’t manage to get over 2000rpm in my short street. If the higher echelons of the rev range don’t reveal a wailing Italian temptress I’ll be junking the stock exhaust pretty sharpish.
In the meantime a quick visit to the UK allowed me to collect my new Carcoon for the 348 to live in on the driveway. It’s basically a sealed tent to hide the car in, which removes all the harmful UV rays, moisture and dust that ruins your car every week in the Middle East.
You simply drive the car into the mat, unfold the cover over the car, zip the two parts together and plug it in. I’ve had some funny looks from the neighbours, who seem to think a small zeppelin has landed in the street, but apart from that its worked really well. The best bit is that you can put your car away one day and then leave it for three weeks, only to return and find it as clean as the day you put it in the silver bubble. Brilliant.
My only complaint is that there isn’t a little window for me to look inside, but then I guess it’s only sad guys like me that want to make sure the car’s nicely tucked in at night? It brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘bubble car’.
One day soon, I might actually drive my Ferrari further than the end of the street…
This long-term report has been brought to you with the help of Vinay and everyone down at Max Garage (+971 4 340 8200 – www.maxdubai.com) and the guys at Carcoon Storage Systems in the UK (+44 161 737 9690 or www.carcoon.co.uk).
Following last month’s starting problems, I dispatched the Ferrari on yet another flatbed truck to Max Garage, the local masters of all things exotic – and plenty of obscure and not-so-exotic motors. People always raise an eyebrow when I don’t send my beloved car to the main dealer, but the simple fact is that the car is too old and not worth enough to warrant the expense of the big black horse garage.
Secondly, with these now notoriously fickle old cars, you need a garage that is happy to mess around with the older automotive ladies. On arrival my slightly tatty 348 was soon found a slot between a lovely Bentley, a stunning Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and a host of older 911s, Corvettes and an unusual Renault Alpine.
Within a day the technicians diagnosed the fault down to two dodgy crank sensors. With the Ferrari versions costing a king’s ransom, I did the usual and jumped onto the internet to see what other options were available. There’s a lot of talk online about these sensors, as they fall apart fairly quickly and cost a fortune.
Armed with the necessary info I soon worked my way through Volvo ($325 each), Renault ($215) and Peugeot ($175).
But in the end I plumped for the same item from Kia, costing a much more wallet pleasing and slightly unbelievable $12.50 a piece.
The moral of this story is if you want to save a huge amount of cash then avoid any yellow box with a black horse on it. I won’t get into the old argument of manufacturers cashing in on spare parts. I’ll save that for another day.
The boys at Max also relined the clutch and bunged a leak in the air-conditioning whilst they were at it. The old clutch was completely burnt out and the release bearing was stuck in position. Luckily they managed to source a slightly used example in good condition and oiled up the release bearing.
It’s working for now, but I’ll have to think about swapping that out in the near future.
Unfortunately, they also discovered a fairly major oil leak from the main engine/gearbox oil seal. That’s an engine out job, so I’ll be topping it up regularly whilst I get the car registered and back on the road. The thought of pulling out the engine again gives me an immediate headache, so the leak will have to stay for the moment.
The main job now is to get the door trims sorted, straighten the bumpers properly and give the
car a general tidy up before heading down to Tasjeel to try out getting the old girl registered.
With a little help from the guys at Max Garage and some blind faith from me, I am starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
Will I be able to drive it to the first Ferrari owners club event of next season? Well, let’s not get too hasty just yet…
This long-term report has been brought to you with the help of Vinay and everyone down at Max Garage (+971 4 340 8200 – www.maxdubai.com).
As the 348’s away at the garage having the fuel system, brakes and electrics sorted, my empty driveway gave me a chance to sort out the unloved wheels.
All four appeared to have been used on a daily basis to figure out exactly where the curb starts, but luckily had remained in one, slightly battered, piece. Add to that the fact that the car was fitted with a motley collection of tyres, ranging from a badly worn Pirelli, a Michelin and two Nanking Chinese tyres, the whole wheel area needed some serious attention. I’m pretty sure my poor car has caused Enzo to turn in his grave on more than one occasion.
The wheels were quickly dispatched down to Alex Renner Motors to be repaired, resprayed and returned to their former glory. I also ordered a new set of centre caps from the UK to make everything look shiny and new.
With everything else underway I turned my attention to finding some new rubber and quickly discovered why the car had such an odd collection fitted to it before.
Basically, the tyre companies don’t stock 235 or 255mm wide tyres for 17-inch rims anymore. This is probably because any car with wide tyres nowadays has at least 18-inch rims. Apart from a one-off set of Michelins I was offered, I thought I might have to fork out for some new rims, until Nitto tyres came to my rescue.
They have a vast range of tyres that seem to fit almost every size you can think of and quickly sorted me out with a set of their ZR rated performance boots for the car.
With all the problems apparently solved the whole lot was dropped down to Motor Sport Wheels to be fitted and balanced. They’re used to fitting new rubber to posh wheels, so there was no chance of them scratching my shiny new rims like a garage in the back end of Satwa.
Unfortunately they quickly discovered that one of the rear wheels is slightly out of round, probably from the endless curbing and driving too fast over speed bumps. How critical that will be won’t be known until I get the car out on the road, but I’ll simply add it to the list of things to be sorted out in the future.
In the meantime the car returned from Triple A with perfect brakes, working indicators and fuel coursing through its Italian veins. Unfortunately, it is being problematic about starting. Sometimes it starts straight away, whilst other times it simply refuses to run. Without the necessary diagnostic tools, it’s going to be a tough one to fathom out.
So, it may not be running properly yet, but at least it can now roll around on a nice set of wheels and tyres. It also looks great on the driveway. Shame it doesn’t bloody work…
With thanks to Alex Renner Motors (+971 4 347 6466 or www.armotors.ae)
MSW (+971 4 340 8841 or www.msw-me.com)
Nitto tyres (www.zafco.com or www.nittotire.com) and Triple A motors (+971 4 285 8989) for helping Noel get his blue Italian stallion back on the road.
It’s been a hard few months, but the day when the 348 fires up and moves under its own steam again is getting ever closer.
Ok I give in. After much badgering from friends and colleagues I have decided to keep the 348 in its original blue hue. Despite my love of red Ferraris, the blue paintwork has really grown on me and actually suits the 348 pretty well. How long I can live with the tatty bodywork is another story altogether.
Anyway, back to more pressing matters. So far the engine has been out and is now back in again after an extensive 30,000 km service, belts and a host of new fuel and oil pipes. The lovely guys at Enzed did all the pipe work, only for me to forget which way round they all went. I did finally figure it all out and everything was back in place fairly quickly. All I needed now was to sort the fuel injectors, which were covered in dried fuel and some sort of brown glue mix from the old evaporated petrol.
Luckily, Bosch’s Dubai service centre has a complete system for coaxing them back into life. In around an hour they can refurbish almost any kind of injector, which potentially saves owners a huge amount on extra maintenance costs. They soon had all eight firing a perfect spray pattern and ready to put back in the car.
I then sat there for a few hours trying to ensure that everything was reconnected, all the fuel hoses attached and the injectors firmly back in the rails. With fingers crossed (plus a few other bits of anatomy) I turned the key… and got nothing. A roll of my eyes, a groan and two minutes later I had the battery installed and tried again (stop laughing please). This time, with some much needed electricity coursing through the system, the motor turned over like a leopard but unfortunately failed to fire.
Three days later and after much cursing and swearing I finally threw in the towel and dispatched the 348 off to Triple A motors for their electrical doctor to work his magic on the electrics. Although not a Ferrari specialist, they do have some pretty skilled technicians and are often prepared to take on the more unusual automotive metal. In my defence the car needed to go to a garage anyway, as the brake system needed a full bleed and a small repair to one of the lines, both of which are jobs beyond the skills of my driveway garage.
Within a few days they diagnosed two blocked fuel pumps and pulled them out of the tank for me. A quick inspection seems to point to old fuel clogging the system and putting them terminally out of action. So the hunt begins for a pair of pumps that won’t break the bank.
With a big empty driveway and nothing to do on the car at my end, it’s time to tackle the major problem of tyre availability for the old Ferrari. I might even give the wheels a new coat of paint while I’m at it. I’m starting to wonder if this project will turn a wheel before the long hot summer hits. At this rate I’ll be lucky to make it in time for the cooler weather in October.
With progress on the Ferrari grinding to a halt as I try to manage the logistical nightmare of bringing in all the service parts from different corners of the globe, I decided to tackle the scruffy but salvageable interior. The leather seats were dry and cracked and nothing seemed to have been cleaned since the car was built. A year and a half sitting under a cover in Al Quoz also hadn’t helped matters.
Job one was to remove the seats, which cost me about twenty minutes and three knuckles. The advantage of an older car is there are very few electrics to contend with, making removal fairly easy, if a little seized.
I also pulled out all the plastics around the steering column, clocks and centre console, which were suffering from the famous Ferrari gloop. This seems to affect all models up to the recent 360, where the black paint turns to a messy glue that sticks to your hands and then everything else you touch for the next few hours.
After tackling one small piece for about three days I realized the size of the task ahead and dropped the whole lot off at a body shop to be dealt with. Yes, I know it’s a cop out, but I have the patience of a pit ball for fiddly jobs like that.
With the paint shop hard at work I took the chance to repair the stuck passenger window, which seems to have been a combination of a dodgy switch, dirty contacts and loads of grime in the glass channels. The upside is it glides up and down smoothly now. The downside is it makes the drivers side look decidedly slow. I’ll whip that out soon, as I need to get to the driver’s door lock that only works from the inside. Once the car’s on the road I would be a lot happier being able to lock the driver’s door from the outside. Might look slightly cooler than having to climb over from the passenger side?
For the seat revival I jumped onto the Internet and surfed around for a potential solution. After a long chat with the very helpful guys at www.furnitureclinic.co.uk I posted off a small bit of leather cut from the underside of the seat for the guys to match up. Within a few days they had mixed up a matching colour and sent it with a refurbishment kit for me to apply.
Refurbishing the leather isn’t as easy as it initially sounded, with my better half and I spending ages removing the old top surface of the leather and preparing the base for a new coat of colourant. The job does become more appealing when you finally get to apply the new coat, but it is a messy and tedious job up to that point.
With a shiny new coat applied, I then got to work covering the whole lot in sealant, giving that original leather finish to the now refreshed seats. Sitting back after its all done, you do get a certain sense of satisfaction, but its not the nicest task I’ve had to deal with.
I could have gone for a new set of black racing seats, but I really wanted to keep the interior as standard a possible. I’ll see how the newly coated seats go and make that decision later. For now at least I have somewhere to sit.
Next job is to find a stereo and some bespoke car mats. Somehow I don’t think a set of supermarket car mats will quite cut it in the prancing horse?
After basking in the glory of Ferrari ownership for about ten minutes, I was keen to find out why on earth the car was so cheap.
Was I going to open the engine and find a mangled jigsaw puzzle?
Job number one was a compression and leak-down test, which would tell me the bad news. But surprisingly the test came back with some pretty good results. Seven of the eight cylinders had normal readings with one passable.
According to the people with greasy hands that’s probably due to the engine standing for such a long time and a good can of engine flush (which I can’t find in the UAE) is the way to go, rather than stripping out the heads. The nasty surprise eludes me yet.
So that leads us neatly onto the next task, which is pulling out the engine. Although it seems healthy, I have no service history for the car, so with the kilometers reading 38,000 that means a full service including belts; better known as the ‘open your wallet, the engine’s coming out’ service.
After reading up on the process I decided to pull the engine myself, given that the engine, gearbox, rear axles and sub-frame come out in one piece, conveniently rolling on the original wheels.
A word to the wise – the process requires you to jack the car up on axle stands to a pretty high height. This is not for the faint-hearted or the sensible. You need to have nerves of steel or switch your brain off. Either works perfectly.
Two days later I had the lump sat neatly next to the car, having lost a few knuckles and about 10kgs. Doing this sort of work in a garage lacking both a door and AC in the heat of Dubai really isn’t a good idea.
The car is actually surprisingly easy to work on, with everything seemingly bolted together with the same 10mm bolts. It’s like really expensive Lego.
Now I need to gather together all the parts needed for the service, which includes roller bearings, cam belt, air and oil filters and all the normal bits and bobs you need when messing around with a supercar on your driveway.
Things can a little expensive here, when you consider just one of the eight spark plugs costs around $35. I managed a hefty discount through a friend in the UK for the plugs and coerced another friend into bringing them back in her suitcase. I do love a good bargain.
So with DHL and TNT busy running around the world for me, gathering up the rest of the bits, it’s time to start thinking about the interior. Do I recover the seats or try to rescue them?
I also need to rip out the huge speakers and amplifiers put in by the previous owner. Why do people insist on booming base boxes when you have the world’s best eight-cylinder music system right behind your head? But more on that next time.
I just couldn’t help myself.
She was sitting with four flat tyres and an inch of dust, unloved in the back lot of a garage in Al Quoz. A straight, if slightly abused, metallic blue Ferrari 348 TS, with a cream interior and a mouldy tool kit. I had to have her.
After a quick check with Al Tayer to see if the car wasn’t hiding any dark secrets, the haggling began. The owner and I finally came to a deal, which involved me paying off the outstanding bill at the garage and sorting out the flat bed to get it home.
Worryingly, when the deal was finally done, I had paid just $7,625. What was I missing (apart from a brain according to my friends)? Why would someone just leave such a beautiful machine for dead? Maybe I’ll be finding the answer to that one out in the very near future. So far, the moral this story is ‘never wander around the back of nice garages and lift up car covers just for a peak’.
With a grubby blue Ferrari finally on my driveway, job one was a proper bath. Like a dirty street urchin, the 348 hadn’t seen a sponge in a fair few years. Underneath it was surprisingly clean, although pretty much every panel has surface scratches in the oddest of places. This car has been used and abused during its 15-year life, despite only having 38,000 genuine kilometers on the clock.
Inside, the leather hasn’t been too badly affected mainly due to the car being covered for a long while. However, it will need a good clean, a feed and some repairs. The mouldy tool kit probably wants shooting, especially as it’s empty of every tool apart from two genuine Ferrari spanners and a blown bulb.
Under the engine cover is a complete mess, although everything is in the right place. The engine hasn’t been started for about 18 months, so that’ll need looking at and the exhaust appears to be bent as well. Also, the heat shield has fallen down and burnt onto the top of the engine, making it look a real mess. The best thing is to keep the engine cover closed for now and enjoy the Ferrari-owning moment.
The 348 was launched in 1989 and replaced the 328, which was better known as the facelifted version of the famous 308 Magnum car. Ferrari decided to slot the 3.8-litre V8 longitudinally behind the driver, rather than having it mounted transversely as had been the norm with most previous smaller models. It wasn’t the most popular car Ferrari ever launched, mainly due to the design of the rear, but I already have an idea for that under wraps. This problem was fixed when they launched the excellent 355 a few years later, based around the same dimensions and chassis.
The engine should create around 300bhp when running correctly, which I doubt mine is, so that target is most likely a country mile away at the moment. 0-100 kph should take around 5.3 seconds, which leaves it a little lacking compared to newer cars, but it’s perfectly fine for me. I just hope it makes it to the end of the street, to be honest.
What happens next is down to my own bravery with a spanner and a combination of the horrors I will probably find underneath and the amount of help I can squeeze out of soon to be ex-friends. My plan is to get the car running and registered before the end of the year, in case it gets caught up in the old car rules coming into play in January. After that I’ll sort out the cosmetics, paint it red and go for a play.
Will my cavallino rampante ever be the race-bred champion it once was? Or is it just a complete donkey? Watch this space.