A Hot Rod Lusso

Dear Mr. Sheehan: I’ve got a Lusso I’d like to hot-rod. At Ferrari track days, I’m tired of watching ungainly, four-headlight 330 GTs pull away from me. Can you tell me your thoughts on the cost/benefit ratio of a) installing a 6-carb setup, b) hotter cams, and/or c) a more efficient exhaust system? Are there other things I could do that would bring a decent performance return for the money spent?—G.E.R., Long Beach, CA.

You want to go faster, right? Then let’s start by talking about the easiest way to get better lap times. I quote from Carroll Smith, the author of Tune to Win, the racer’s bible, who wisely says, “Tune your suspension, gain 50 horsepower.” Your engine options, which we will address shortly, will cost you over $20,000. Suspension work will give bigger results, and will cost much less.

The Lusso and the 250 GTO were the last evolution of the Ferrari 250 GT series and share many components, like the Watts-link rear suspension. However, the Lusso front suspension is lacking. It probably has positive camber, causing excessive understeer and increasing laptimes. A good race prep shop can make offset suspension bushings to kick the bottoms of the A arms out and bring the top A arms in. Go for about one degree negative front camber. Add a stout front sway bar along with stiff polyurethane bushings and the front suspension will be transformed. Send the Koni shocks out to be rebuilt to street-track specifications, or replace the old-style Konis with newer shocks, then add a set of carbon-metallic brake pads and switch to high-temperature brake fluid.

You’ll be amazed how much quicker your Lusso will go around a race track. Convert to the bigger 330 2+2 calipers and brake pads and have even better brakes. You will carry far more speed through the corners and will therefore be faster down the straights. These improvements will result in a gain of nearly three to five seconds per lap at most tracks, at the very modest cost of $5,000 to $7,500.

As for the engine, while the Lusso V12 may have been rated at 280 hp, the reality is about 240 hp. yes, you can add six carbs, but to optimize the improved airflow you should also have your engine builder send the heads to a good porting service, match the intake manifold ports to the cylinder head ports, and add the usual improved cams, modern pistons and rods. Then you’ll easily have 290 hp, better torque and much better driveability. You will also have found another three to five seconds per lap, but the cost will range from $20,000 to $30,000.

But here’s the real issue. Unless you have an FIA grade A or B competition license, go to a driver’s school like Skip Barber’s. A funky little FIA Historic license or a letter from Steve Earle with three gold stars for not hitting anybody at the Monterey Historics doesn’t mean you can drive your way out of a paper bag, in real competition terms. All Ferraris have a racing heritage, and you will be amazed at what they will deliver when properly piloted.