A Salvage-Title 456 and Other Oddities

Our esteemed Editor is always quick to pass Ferrari related questions on to me. A sample of this month’s questions, from the sublime to the silly, follows:

Dear Mr. Sheehan: I saw a salvage-title 456 GT on eBay, item #544964159. It is black with a gray interior, and shows 44,422 miles. From what I can see, it’s been in a light accident. It appears to need a front and rear bumper, and possibly a right quarter panel and radiator. Bidding is currently at $58,000. I see 456 GTs advertised in the Ferrari Market Letter for $130,000–$150,000, which makes me think this might be my chance to get a contemporary Ferrari for cheap. Do you agree?—R. K, Birmingham, AL

Yikes! Ask yourself why an insurancec company would total a car if it could be economically repaired? Insurance companies know the body business better than most body shop owners, and they have obviously decided the car doesn’t make sense to repair. If not convinced, call vour local Ferrari dealer and ask for a few parts prices, but sit down before they answer, or be prepared to hit the floor. The front bumper is $3,205.38, the rear bumper is $3,172.36, the rear fender is $1,368.81 and the radiator is $2,084. Add in the myriad inner and trim panels that will have to be replaced (but aren’t listed), a paint job at $10,000, and all the necessary labor to put the whole thing back together and you’re past $30,000 in a heartbeat. That’s assuming there aren’t even any bad surprises, and we all know there are always bad surprises when you buy a collision-damaged used car that has a salvage title.

With bidding up to $58,000 and a minimum of $30,000 in repairs, you’re past $88,000 for a 456 with 44,422 miles, and a 456 with 44,000 plus miles is a very hard sell. If undamaged it would be a $75,000 wholesale car, retailing well back of $100,000. The cars listed have mileage that ranges from 4,800 to 23,000, which is less than half of the car you are looking at. Add in a salvage title, which knocks 30% to 50% off the value of a late model Ferrari, and once repaired you will have nearly $90,000 into a car worth $50,000 to $60,000.

Need more convincing? A very nice 456, with only 16,556 miles, and needing nothing but a new home, sold at the Barrett-Jackson auction in January for $97,200. Bluntly, with 44,000-plus miles and a salvage title, run away from the damaged car!

Dear Mr. Sheehan: Has the vintage Ferrari world gone crazy? At the recent Barrett-Jackson auction, I saw a 246 GTS sell for $46k, a C/4 for $49k, and a 330 GT 2+2 for $55k? More money for a 2+2 than a Dino? Does that mean we should all run out and sell our Dinos and C/4s to buy 2+2s?—G. B., Sacramento, CA

Nope, the 246 GTS and C/4 were, at best, just used cars. The 330 2+2 was nicely restored and in good colors (dark blue over gray). It had made the rounds of the auction circuit (Kruse Auburn and Scottsdale) and the owner had given up trying to get his restoration costs back, finally deciding to sell it for what it would bring (which was, in my mind, all the money and more). The bad news for the 330 2+2 buyer is that he paid too much, the good news is that he probably bought the car for less than the cost of the restoration, with the restored car thrown in “gratis.”

A “jus-a-car” 246 GTS can quickly consume $25,000 and more in paint, an interior, synchros, a suspension overhaul, ad infinitum in deferred maintenance and all you’ll have is a prettier example of deferred maintenance. In this instance, a wise buyer chose quality over flash, opting for a handsome but pedestrian 2+2 that appears to have few needs, over two sexier cars, the Dino and the C/4, that might have sucked his bank account dry.

Dear Mr. Sheehan: I’m offered a 1990 Testarossa with 68,000 miles for $50,000. The car is red/tan (of course), and had the 60,000 mile service, according to the owner (a broker), although he can’t find any paperwork. Is this a deal? What would you pay for the car, and should Ijust believe him that the service has been done?—W.O., San Diego, CA

Another Yikes! To quote myself, “The whole secret is low mileage. It’s very Freudian. Everyone wants a virgin car“ (May, 1991 SCM). A 60,000-mile Testarossa is sale-proof, and if the 60,000 service isn’t done, it will cost you a cool $5,000 plus for the service. This is a $35,000 car, or, sadly, a parts car. Don’t believe me? Pay $50,000 and find out for yourself. Run away. Run far away.

Dear Mr. Sheehan: Do you think 348s will soon be cheaper than 328s? If so, why? Isn’t the 348 a much more technologically advanced, not to mention newer, car.—J. G., from Omaha, NE

Yep, newer technology, but service is a killer on the 348s, and they are now ten-year-old cars that need lots of service. The 348 uses a single long cam belt, so timing the car is a nightmare, and the cam belt tensioner bearings are about $400 each. They eat clutches like a refugee reaching a UN feeding station, at $1,500 a pop. Should you need a water pump, there are no parts available, and a complete pump is $1,700. So, if you really want a 348, it’s your choice, but, as in all used Ferrari purchases, have the car inspected by a very qualified Ferrari mechanic, get an evaluation in writing (and yes, there will be recommended work), and use the list as leverage to negotiate the price.

I don’t think thev will sink below the value of 328s, but will probably be worth the same amount, in equal condition, a year or two from now.