The bargain-hunters in the Ferrari world seem to be obsessed with the price similarities of the 1986–89 328 GTS and the 1986–89 Testarossa. Endless comparisons ensue: V8 versus V12; classic versus trendy styling; Targa versus coupe. Which is the better car and which is better investment?
The 328 GTS is popular today. A 1986 328 GTS with 30,000 miles, a recent service and all records can be found for $40,000 to $45,000 while a 1989 328 GTS with recent service and 10,000 miles or less will bring $60,000 to $65,000 because this was the last production year with ABS brakes. Instantly recognizable as Ferrari (of supreme importance to most first-time buyers), 328s are relatively light and nimble, and have classic Pininfarina lines (as opposed to the Toyota MR2 with horsie badges called the 348). As the last of the V8s that don’t require the engine to come out for service, a 30,000-mile service is usually under $3,000, whereas the same service in the later 348/355/360 cars can top $6.000.
A 328 will give years of low–cost entertaining driving potential and, possibly best of all, it can be done with the Targa roof stowed. On the negative side, the 328 is the last evoIution of the 308 series. which was Ferrari’s “entry-level” car for the first-time buyer. What you end up with in terms of performance and comfort is a 25-year-old design with, by modern standards, only adequate acceleration, braking and A/C and heater capabilities.
The 1986–89 Testarossa, in this humble scribe’s opinion, offers the best ride for the buck in the Ferrari world today. Yes, it’s a big car with heavy controls under 15 mph, but who drives a Ferrari under 15 mph besides the valet at Spago (at least when he knows you are watching)? They have acres of torque, effortless performance and a triple-digit cruising-speed capability that will put you in jail in all fifty states.
Like the 328, they are instantly recognizable as Ferraris and are very user-friendly, with excellent creature comforts. A 1986 TR with 30,000 miles and all services done can be bought in the low $50,000 range (avoid those that have not had the oil and water pump drive updates). A late 1988 or 1989 with about 10,000 miles will bring $75,000 to $85,000. If you’re over 6′ 3″ the Testarossa will fit you like a glove. Conversely, 5′ 10″ is really the effective comfort limit for a 328 owner. On the negative side, maintenance on the TR is higher than on the 328, with a major service running from $5,000 to $6,000.
What can the prospective buyer expect five years out, from equivalent cars (a 10,000-mile 1989 328 GTS and a 1989 Testarossa, both in resale red with tan, no bad stories, purchased today and driven 3,000 miles a year)? The 328 GTS will be about $10,000 to $15,000 cheaper today, but will be worth the same or more as a TR in five years. Maintenance on the Testarossa will alwavs be more expensive, and as the value of the cars declines, the cost of service (which will only go up) proportionately becomes a larger part of the car’s worth.
Emotionally, the body shape of the Testarossa already seems dated, unlike the more classic, svelte, even sexy shape of the 328 GTS. Finally, the lack of a Targa on the TR is a real value-downer. The 328 GTS and the Testarossa had production runs in the thousands and most aren’t candidates to be long-term investments like the esoteric SWBs or TdFs. On the other hand, in five years you will be able to find decent 328s and TRs in the low $30s, while SWBs may be cracking the $2m mark.
Both 328s and TRs provide ultra-exotic performance at a Camry price, but for overall driving and esthetic pleasure, coupled with market value, my vote goes to the 328.