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Old 12-03-2006, 09:49 PM   #1
sameerrao
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Default 1991 Ferrari 348 ts

Introduction
This review is based on 2 weeks ownership of this beauty with a 1600 miles road trip and additionally about 250 miles of mixed highway/city driving thrown in.

My car is a 1991 348 ts - (t)ransverse gearbox (s)pider - targa in short. Not to be confused with the 348 spider which was introduced in 1994.

The 348 was introduced in 1989 replacing a much loved 328. It had a 7 year life from 1989 to 1995 when it was replaced by the beautiful 355 which used the basic dimensions of the 348 and reintroduced some of the design features of the 328.

Thus the design of the 348 and testarossa is unique - they don't resemble other models.

Compared to the 328 whose smooth, liquid like curves were replaced with aggressive strakes and a wedge shape in the 348 strongly inspired by the testarossa. This seemed the fashion in the late 80s with Countach's sprouting lots of aggressive curves and spoilers, a special edition 911 appeared with pop up lights.

Technically, there was a big departure in philosophy from the 328. The radiators were moved from the front of the car to the rear and the trunk was moved from the rear of the car to the front - thus the rear of the car was exclusively dedicated to the engine. The engine was turned 90 degrees to be longitudinal in design with a transverse gearbox. The old school tubular chassis was replaced with a pressed steel chassis with a tubular engine subframe. This was the first Ferrari to have catalytic converters installed.

When it was released it was a big hit for the first 2 years - cars were selling over MSRP. But then the world stock markets crashed and all of sudden the demand for the 348 fell just as it did for all sports cars. In addition, road tests of the 348 identified that the car was extremely throttle sensitive in corners - journos branded it unstable. The build quality was a step down from the 328 with issues with leather shrinking and/or becoming sticky.

Ferrari was forced to make technical improvements to the car from 91 onwards to address some of these issues. As a marketing ploy, in 1993, they introduced the Series Speciale model in the US and a competizione in UK to drum up overall interest in the 348 and get rid of piled up inventories at the dealer. The 348 was also sold in a ready to race config for a newly introduced Challenge series. All 348 Challenges and the 1995 model year 355 Challenge were completely road legal. Later cars were meant for the track only.

The Spider (convertible) was introduced in 1994 - looks real sharp!

From a desirability standpoint the Series Speciale and Challenge cars are the rarest and most sought after

Exterior



The car looks much younger than the 328. I have had lot of comments where they thought it was 3-5 years old and not 15 years old. Time has been kind to the 348. The strakes in the doors channel the air to the twin radiators like an F1 car

The 1991 cars came with a matte black roof and black skirts. The roof has been painted in my car. The black skirt makes the car look pretty slim. Many owners of these cars paint the the skirts in the body color. I will leave mine alone.

The side view shows that the front wheels are IMO positioned too far backwards. I think the stability would have improved if it was located a little more forwards - basically extending the wheelbase. Also it would have made it easier to enter ramps, strip malls with steep ramps.

The rear normally has a bunch of black strakes - It has been removed in my car (I like it this way - Sorry Dani!).


Also my car has a glass panel above the engine - normally it is a matte black panel - makes it resemble a poor man's Modena


Being a targa, the roof comes off and can be stored behind the seats (if you are 5'9" or smaller). I have tried it out once but the sound of the air, traffic, etc takes away from the main soundtrack 0 the engine. It sounds better with the roof on.

In the first picture, you can see that the rear wheel is pretty close to the fender. In the early cars, it is about an inch inside the car. This is due to suspension enhancements and a spacer in the rear.

The trunk is in the front - good enough for 2 carry-on stroller bags and a laptop bag or two.

The engine is mounted well ahead of the wheels and unlike the 328 or testarossa is much lower thanks to the gearbox not being under the motor. This is one of the reasons why this cars handles so well.

Unlike modern engines where all the workings are hidden under a plastic shroud, the 348 engine is completely visible. You can see the throttle linkages, the intake manifolds, battery distributor, etc.

By contrast, looking at a Merc SL engine, one is not sure if there is an engine under the plastic cover or a nuclear reactor. Who really knows!


Zero sound insulation in the engine bay makes all the sounds of the engine, as it goes thru its rev range, come across without any filtration

The oil cap - a work of art


The clutch - its position makes it a cinch to service


Interior

The interior is very simply designed and makes a virtue of it. It is a refreshing contrast to todays's cars with a plethora of buttons, knobs, paddles, etc. This is one of the reasons I like the older Ferraris - they designed the interior from driver's standpoint - they deep sixed anything that would distract him/her. It is perfectly in keeping with the character of the car.

The gated shifter looks really beautiful. The aftermarket chrome gear knob compliments the gate very well.

The shift gate makes a lovely click-clack sound as you go through the gears. However the gearbox is slow to navigate through - particularly for the 1-2 and 3-4 shift. The car has a 5 speed gearbox with well-spaced ratios - a 6 speed box is really not required.


The two dials in the center console are the oil temperature and fuel level. They have been angled slightly to make it visible from the driver's seat. This was one of the first Ferraris to get an A/c unit with an electronic display - remember to not spill any liquids on it or it will be a $1000 fix if the unit gets spoiled. :shock: But don't worry, other than that the control panel is guaranteed to work forever.


The gauges are super legible and look cool with the orange markings


The pedals are offset slightly to the right. It isn't possible to do a proper heel-toe as there isn't space for my size 10.5 shoe. Thankfully, the pedals are close enough for one to nudge the throttle pedal with the side of the foot. I am still getting the hang of it though. I want to put a drilled pedal to add some bling to the interior. The throttle pedal looks a bit tired.

The all-round visibility is excellent. You get a panoramic view up front thanks to slim A pillars and B pillars located about 1.5 feet behind the driver's head. Looking across the shoulder to cover your blind spot is really simple - much better than my Audi. In this car this is essential as there is a lot of cars out there that like to ride in your slipstream like remora fish as they try to look at the car/take pictures.

There is a cool wrap around plastic panel that looks like something from Jetsons


Looking into the rear view mirror, you are left in no doubt what car you are driving - the logo is clearly displayed -important for us Starbucks drinking poseurs as RC likes to put it. In my car I can see the glass panel over the engine. Maybe I should put a small angled mirror to see the engine working as I drive



The seat is perfectly bolstered - great for gripping you on corners. Also, it fits me just fine. I think people with 38" waist size and worse will find it confining. . I can attest to its comfort on long trip - did a 700 mile journey on it in one day and it felt great. The seats have a rake and forward/backward adjustment to it. That's about it. It can fit a 6 foot guy with ease - I have about an inch backward travel and 2 inch headroom.

The wheel position is okay for me but I guess it would be better if it moved outwards an inch or so. Luckily you can buy an aftermarket steering spacer just for this. The wheel only adjusts up and down.

The cabin is airy with lots of light and space around you - very inviting interior.

Now to the bad parts - the fit and finish of the plastic parts is pretty poor. The leather on the dash and wheel becomes sticky over time. You need to wipe it down with a damp cloth occassionally to keep it moist. Do not ever use some of the aftermarket dash cleaning products in this car. It will it really sticky. When in doubt - use a damp cloth.

The seat belts are annoying. Now this isn't Ferrari's fault but due to a US legislation that made all the post 1990 cars without airbags have two goofy seat belt mechanisms - there is a shoulder belt that automatically attaches itself and a lap belt that you need to attach yourself. It is a PITA if you need to get in and out frequently. Some guys have junked the seats and belts and put in racing seats, harness and rollbars to get away from this mess.

I was worrying a bit when when I parked the car across an active railway line to take some pictures. What if a train arrived in the horizon and I get entangled in the belt while trying to get in quickly.

How does it drive?
It is a driver's car pure and simple. It requires a lot of investment in concentration and effort from the driver to get the most out of it but the payback is an amazing adrenaline rush. I can get more excitement in the Ferrari going from 50mph in a relaxed manner than driving at 120 mph in the Audi.

Why is this so?

1. The car is relatively high effort - heavy clutch, shifter that requires precise and measured movements to move from gate to gate, non-assisted steering that requires muscle to move the car at parking lot speeds. Thus you are a lot more involved in the basic acts of driving - shifting, steering than in more modern cars.

2. Additionally, there is zero insulation in the engine bay and very little in the car - thus all the sounds come through in stereo. More involvement again. The engine really gets the heartbeat moving.

3. Great handling - the car corners flat with no/little understeer. It is possible to get the tail out if you are aggressive with the throttle as I did briefly in 30F weather. Decent power too - while the 348 can do with about 40 hp more easily, the gearing makes the most of the car. The brakes are very good - it didnt fade when I was driving down the hills of Utah. The pedals are sports car firm and thus confidence inspiring.

The best compliment I can give the 348 is that it makes my S4, an excellent car itself, feel like an overboosted, inert, boring Lexus.

To give a perspective of its performance, a Mitsu Evo or STi should be way quicker in acceleration and braking. In acceleration up to 80mph, I think both my cars are very similar. At higher speeds, the Ferrari is quicker I believe.

So is it just a fancy badge then?

To me, the biggest disadvantage of modern cars is that they make it too easy to drive. The clutch is light, the shifting is easy, the brakes are extremely powerrful, etc. In my Audi, whatever the road conditions I knew I had enough grip to make it round the corner. I have ABS, traction control, AWD and other gizmos to protect me from myself. I drove an Elise 2 weeks back and it was the same - real easy to drive.

An older Ferrari like an older Porsche is not like that. These require the driver to know what he/she is doing. I think the best drivers must be those that mastered a wild 930 Porsche. Personally I feel my shifting skills have improved a bit since I got the Ferrari. I still have a long way to go before I can really think of myself as being smooth. ops:

Therefore, I recommend you all try older cars - you will quickly forget about stupid meaningless 0-60 data and actually enjoy the lost of art of driving for driving's sake. Old cars have soul!

What are the most positive features of the car?
+ Tons of soul and character
+ Not easy to drive
+ Driver Involvement
+ Sweet handling
+ The noise
+ Cheap to insure

What are the most negative features of the car?
- Relatively poor fit and finish
- Stupid seatbelts
- Slow gearbox makes it a useless stoplight to stoplight racer
- V. Expensive to fix/maintain
- Makes other cars seem boring

How do you think this car compares to its direct competition?
One would think the true competition of this car is Civics with fartcan exhausts or any number of WRXs, Evos that rev their engines at traffic lights wanting to race you.

I think the true competition is a Porsche 964 or 993. Both brands make great driver's car - I think the Ferrari edge is in more involvement and excitement while the Porker is ultimately more reliable and faster (in the case of the 993). Great choices either way - you get a car with lots of character.

Conclusion
Buy one!

Specifications
http://www.carfolio.com/specificatio...te#performance


--> I will update my impressions in a few months.
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Old 12-03-2006, 10:28 PM   #2
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Wow, nice review. Sounds like your having a ton of fun joining the Ferrari club.
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Old 12-03-2006, 11:43 PM   #3
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Excellent write-up! :good:

I really like the pictures to go along with it, its very interesting to read about this car in detail, and to hear from an actual owner instead of what a magazine thinks. 8) Nice job sameerrao.

Man I hate those auto seat-belts...I'm so glad my [early 90s] car doesn't have them, I guess on those early 90s cars it was a either airbags or auto seat-belts? Do you think you'll junk them, and get some manual seat-belts?
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Old 12-04-2006, 12:03 AM   #4
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Very nice all around!

Do you like the colour of the dials? I'd be changing that if she was mine.
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Old 12-04-2006, 01:12 AM   #5
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Nice of you mate Thanks for this review of a car that is always awesome to cross in the streets
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Old 12-04-2006, 03:15 AM   #6
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Thanks for writing down your impressions. Interesting read!
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Old 12-04-2006, 03:29 AM   #7
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Looks awesome mate! I've always loved the 348!
congrats to ya!
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Old 12-04-2006, 05:05 AM   #8
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That was a very enjoyable review. I want to ask you, did you make the changes in the car or you bought it like that?
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Old 12-04-2006, 01:35 PM   #9
sameerrao
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Thanks for the positive feedback guys

Originally Posted by Mr.Vercetti
That was a very enjoyable review. I want to ask you, did you make the changes in the car or you bought it like that?
I have bought the car as-is. The previous owner made the modifications

Originally Posted by blinkmeat
Very nice all around!

Do you like the colour of the dials? I'd be changing that if she was mine.
I love the dials - it looks really cool!

Originally Posted by sentra_dude
Excellent write-up!

I really like the pictures to go along with it, its very interesting to read about this car in detail, and to hear from an actual owner instead of what a magazine thinks. Nice job sameerrao.

Man I hate those auto seat-belts...I'm so glad my [early 90s] car doesn't have them, I guess on those early 90s cars it was a either airbags or auto seat-belts? Do you think you'll junk them, and get some manual seat-belts?
Will keep as is at least for a year or two. Problems with modifications like this is that it will be difficult to sell the car if too many radical changes are made. Lot of prospective owners are like Dani - they want the car stock. My car has a few changes already - so dont want to exarberate the problem
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Old 12-04-2006, 02:02 PM   #10
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Great review Sameerrao, read it with great pleasure!

Yeah I can't blame you for leaving the car now as it is, it looks so good, so fine, why change it?
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Old 12-04-2006, 02:09 PM   #11
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Nice writeup Sameer Finally some really close pics and as I can see the interior its just like she was made a week ago :shock:

Originally Posted by sameerrao
In this car this is essential as there is a lot of cars out there that like to ride in your slipstream like remora fish as they try to look at the car/take pictures.
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Old 12-04-2006, 02:10 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by sameerrao
Will keep as is at least for a year or two. Problems with modifications like this is that it will be difficult to sell the car if too many radical changes are made. Lot of prospective owners are like Dani - they want the car stock. My car has a few changes already - so dont want to exarberate the problem
At least do the seat belt mod.

Surely someone must have tried to retro-fit the Uero-spec 3 point street-belt into a US cpec car?

And since it would most likely use the same mountpoints I would guess it is an easily reversed mod should you want to sell at a later time.

I am wondering if the next prospective buyer might not even appreciate a normal belt setup

BTW this is why I haven't bought an F40 yet... it's the silly auto-belt thats the hold up
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Old 12-04-2006, 02:24 PM   #13
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^^ LOL - most of the F40 owners have put in 5 point racing belts -so it should be OK

In my car, the shoulder belt emerges from the rear bulkhead between the two seats and goes into the door rim. There isnt any mounting mechanism on the door side like a normal car.
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Old 12-04-2006, 02:28 PM   #14
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Even the Viper had a center mount seatbelt - so there is hope.

Not to worry, we will find you a simple to do yet reversible 3 point street-belt mod to make life easier for you yet..
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Old 12-04-2006, 02:35 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by RC45
Even the Viper had a center mount seatbelt - so there is hope.

Not to worry, we will find you a simple to do yet reversible 3 point street-belt mod to make life easier for you yet..
LOL

And if so, how long before the F40 arrives?
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