A 288 with a Salvage Title

In my many years in the Ferrari business, I have often been called by wannabe Ferrari owners eager to buy crashed, late-model Ferraris to restore. In almost every case, the car has been “totaled” and is available for sale by an insurance company.

The most recent call was regarding a 288 GTO which had spun out and damaged all four corners of the car. With many 288 GTOs advertised at $325,000 and this car open to bid, it might be as cheap as $150,000, so… it should be a bargain. Fenders had to be cheap, therefore, didn’t it make sense to buy the car and fix it?

The answer is “no” for a multitude of reasons. Insurance companies total cars because they don’t make financial sense to repair. If it were cheaper for the insurance company to repair the car, then they would do so. Insurance companies are models of corporate cost efficiency; they give nothing away.

Looking through the parts book for a Ferrari 288 GTO, a new front spoiler is $2,850, a new front nose panel is $1,120, new front fenders are $2,980 each, rear fenders are $3,280 each, and a back body panel is $1,462. At a glance, parts total $15,102. So far, so good.

Add a new front bumper at $1,482, rear bumpers at $1,868 for the pair, a front inner sub-frame to hold the bumper and spoiler up are $1,790, a nose badge is $158, front fender badges are $576 for the driver’s side and $553 for the passenger’s side, and door mirrors are $1,464 each. Add in two lower front suspension arms at $915 each, two upper front suspension arms at $904 each, two lower rear suspension arms at $848 each, upper rear suspension arms at $848 each, two front wheels at $1,606 each, two rear wheels at $1,814 each, a set of tires at about $800 and the bill is now a staggering $39,095.

And we still haven’t bothered to itemize the multitude of small parts needed such as the grille, headlight assemblies, cooling fans, taillights, a full set of 16 suspension bushings, and the huge number of other highly expensive parts needed to rebuild four suspension uprights, all of which can easily add another $10,000 to the bill. Add in mechanical labor of about $4,000, body labor at about $7,500, frame and inner structure work of about $2,000 and a complete repaint at about $6,000. Without any hidden surprises, the total approaches $70,000. The car is indeed a “total.”

Furthermore, Ferrari of North America stocks almost none of the needed parts in this country, so it would take months to accumulate them. Adding insult to injury, most Ferrari dealers sell at over list, adding another 10% or more to all of the above parts price quotes.

Additionally, while the asking price for an excellent, very low-mileage 288 GTO might indeed be $325,000, the actual selling price is closer to $275,000—less for a car with miles and much less for a car with high miles.

But far more important is that even if the car were able to be repaired at a reasonable cost or the parts should magically appear through some special “deal” both quickly and at a low price, the purchaser still has the problem that the car holds a salvage title. It will always carry a stigma and will always sell for about 25% back of the normal selling price of a comparable car.

But some restorations do make sense. I know of a 1951 Ferrari that had been missing from the Ferrari world since 1958. The owner knew exactly what he had, but simply couldn’t be bothered telling the world. The car needs a total restoration, but it finished 17th in the 1951 Mille Miglia driven by Franco Cornacchia, 6th in the 1952 Carrera Panamerica driven by Phil Hill, and raced in a myriad of other races. Yes, the car has had more than its share of accidents over the years, needs virtually every piece restored, and the restoration might indeed cost close to the selling price of a good 288 GTO. But this is one of those unique situations where the value of the car is enhanced by restoration. Anybody buying a 1951 Ferrari race car with a successful race history accepts that the occasional bump into a wall in a historically significant race adds to the value rather than detracts.

Additionally, if the car is restored properly, taken to the most prestigious concourses and wins the top prizes, the ultimate value of the car increases tremendously. Just as a salvage title subtracts 25% of the value from a late-model Ferrari, a win at the Ferrari Club of America Nationals, The Cavallino Classic or Pebble Beach can add 25% to the value of an important vintage car.

Restoring a Ferrari doesn’t have to be a disaster. You just have to pick the right car to start with.

Thanks to Randy Click and Rod Drew of F.A.I. for cheerfully taking time from their busy schedules to supply parts prices.