Restoration to the Highest Level

Everyone understands the difference between a driver and a show car. In general terms, one looks good from twenty feet away, and the other looks great up close.

But if you want to play in the real world, that of Pebble Beach or a Ferrari Club of America (FCA) concours, the road to a trophy gets long, complicated, and very, very expensive. To paraphrase the old racing adage, “Scoring well at Pebble costs money; how much do you want to spend?”

A Dino in need of paint and assembly that recently passed through my hands makes a perfect starting point for this discussion. Bruce Trenery, of Fantasy Junction, and I purchased a 1974 Dino 246 GTS, S/N 08030, a two-owner, late model, U.S.-delivered car with only 10,693 documented, original miles.

When we offered 246 GTS S/N 8030 for sale, we described it as “in primer after being stripped to bare metal as part of a potential platinum-level restoration, with a show quality interior. Many parts reconditioned or new with new trim items, muffler, headers, and headlight covers and mount brackets. Everything boxed and labeled.” The key word was “potential” platinum restoration.

The car had a great history. It was sold new to John Fergus of Westerville, Ohio. In 1997 S/N 08030 went to its second owner after covering just 8,100 miles. Fly Yellow with air conditioning, power windows, and Campagnolo wheels, it had the complete tool set, roll, jack, jack bag and lug wrench, tire chalk, and emergency triangle. It also had the original owner’s manual, operations book and pouch with warranty card, radio card, Ferrari North America-supplied “How to Operate Your Dino” audio cassette, and the original key fob.

Additionally, 246 GTS S/N 8030 had just undergone an engine and transaxle reseal and detail by Patrick Ottis, which was ready to be reinstalled after paintwork. Great car, no stories.

Before marketing 246 GTS S/N 08030, we consulted various top shops regarding the work needed to finish the car and the expense of various levels of restoration. While the term “Pebble Beach restoration” is loosely tossed around, in fact very few cars even have a chance of being invited to Pebble, let alone to compete for a ribbon.

But while the chances of a serial-production Dino receiving a Pebble invite are non-existent due to the high number built (3,883 coupes and spyders), the FCA uses exactly the same stringent standards to judge Ferraris at Pebble as it does during the “Final Four” of Ferrari concours–Cavallino, the FCA National, Concorso Italiano, and Pebble. So what follows, which is an analysis of what it would cost to make a Dino into an FCA contender or show-winner, would apply whether the end destination was the Breakers in Palm Beach or the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach.

We went to Wayne Obry at Motion Products (Motion Products Inc., Neenah, WI) in Wisconsin for estimates because he has a proven track record on the concours circuit and could commit to realistic completion dates.

We started by asking him what it would cost to finish this Dino to a 90-point level, essentially painting and assembling all the bits and turning these assemblies back into a car.

We got estimates of $12,000 to $15,000 and six to eight weeks to finish the body and paint, $12,000 to $15,000 and another six to eight weeks to re-assemble the car; $3,000 to $5,000 and another week or two to refit the engine, exhaust, a/c recharge, etc., and about $2,000 to re-chrome the bare metal bumpers.

The ultimate selling price for S/N 08030 was $95,000, and the work needed added up to somewhere between $35,000–$40,000. So the new owner could conceivably have a very nice, concours-entry-level, 90-point car for $130,000 to $140,000.

After more than 30 years of selling Ferraris, I thought my advertisement was self-explanatory, but instead it brought a new group of eye-opening questions. One potential buyer asked “So if I buy it and get it painted and assembled, it’s a 100-point car, right”? Another announced “I only buy 100-point cars, but like to drive my cars on the weekends.” I knew I was back to explaining “Auto Restoration 101.”

Let’s look at where we started. 246 GTS S/N 8030 was shown at Concorso Italiano in 1998 and scored 85.5 points at the FCA concours there because of cracking original paint. S/N 8030 is unusually complete and original and has all the rare extras like a full set of books and tools; refinishing the paint and assembling the car with all locks, windows, and controls working almost assures 90 points.

But what if we went for a “platinum”-quality restoration, an FCA term referring to a Ferrari that scores at least 95 points? Then we move to a much higher level of detailing, fit, and finish. Note: All the costs below are in addition to the $35,000–$40,000 estimated above to reassemble the car to a 90-point standard.

BODY & MECHANICALS: Add another $3,000–$5,000 for the paintwork, an extra week or two to fit every body panel, inner door plate, and detail work inside the door jambs, under the three deck lids, and the inner edge of the engine compartment. Add $2,000 for a full body rubber kit, $3,000–$5,000 to fit the new rubber, and extra time to detail each part.

On the engine, every nut, bolt, and washer must be correct and new. Some get a black wash while others are cadmium plated. Repaint the air cleaner tank and carburetor air box and fit correct decals. Front and rear engine compartment bulkheads and fiberglass fender wells must be cleaned and painted. The exhaust, hangers, and tips must look like new. This and more all adds up to another $5,000–$7,000.

INTERIOR: New mouse hair was supplied, so the dash must be removed, disassembled, and recovered—for about $3,000. Every interior screw and recessed washer must be new and aligned and items usually unseen, such as seat tracks, repainted. The steering column, brake pedal box, and hanging pedals must be painted, new pedal pads fitted, and more, at $5,000 to $7,000.

UNDERHOOD: The front underhood must be painted; the wiring, fuse boxes and relay box—all visible—cleaned and fuse box covers or fuse boxes replaced. The windshield washer bag, battery, and battery cables must be duplicates of the originals, the battery cover painted and hold-downs replaced. The foam pad that fits over the radiator has to be replaced. Total here, $5,000.

TOTAL: To build a car that has a chance at a platinum trophy, we will have to spend another $25,000 to $35,000. That gives us somewhere between $160,000 and $175,000 invested. Or squandered, depending on your point of view. But if you want to chase a mythical 100-point car (rarer than a unicorn) you’re going to have to open your wallet even deeper. Much, much deeper.

Scoring 100 points with your 1988 Testarossa at the Sheboygan all-Italian concours and swap meet isn’t really 100 points. The ultimate success is in the Ferrari classes at Pebble Beach, and only five Ferraris have ever scored 100 points at Pebble. According to Obry, here’s what it will cost you to try to get to that level.

You approach the entire restoration completely differently from what was discussed above. You start by coordinating multiple mini-teams of specialists who disassemble, store, itemize, sublet, fabricate and metal finish, rebuild and repair, paint and polish, retrim and reassemble Ferraris. Our Dino now must come completely apart. The wiring, heater and a/c system, under-dash components, and suspension will need to be completely disassembled, to the tune of $5,000 to $8,000.

BODY & MECHANICALS: Every part of the body must be test-fitted before and during the body and paint. Figure $25,000 to $35,000 for 100-point paint and $25,000 to $30,000 for 100-point assembly of the outer body. Add $5,000 to paint the frame, floors and inner structures; $3,000 to powder-coat suspension arms, springs, and brackets, and $3,000 to cadmium plate mounting forks and other parts. Add $5,000 for rebuilt shocks, new suspension bearings, bushings, and seals, and $7,000 to rebuild the brake calipers, master cylinders, and replace every hard metal line and soft rubber line on the car. Allow $5,000 to reassemble the suspension. Total so far—about $95,000.

UNDERHOOD: Rebuild heater boxes, heater valves, heater cables, clutch cable, wiring harness, and heater tubes. Another $10,000 should take care of parts, labor, and materials, except for the $5,000 wiring harness, relay panel, and fuse boxes from Italy. Allow $3,000 to fit the harness. Total: around $18,000.

INTERIOR: Remember the “show-quality interior” our car was offered with? Toss it. Everything must be redone with perfect stitching, every trim panel laboriously fitted and upholstered, with carpets to standards Scaglietti never dreamed of. Figure $15,000 for seats, door panels, dash, inner top, carpets, and trim pieces, and another $10,000 to pull the under-dash components and reassemble the cockpit. The chrome trim must be redone to higher standards for $15,000 or so. If you recall, we estimated $3,000 to $7,000 to bring the engine compartment to 95-point platinum standards. Expect to spend $15,000–$20,000 if you are in search of 100 points.

At this point, we’ve spent $95,000 for our “builder,” and another $155,000 to reassemble it to a prize-winning standard. It’s not hard to see how this will end up north of $300,000, a price never achieved by a Dino, even in the late ’80s.