Save on Restored Cars

I am considering purchase of a 365 GTC/4. I am looking at a local car in strong #2 shape cosmetically but with no substantial service records. It has had very little use for several years at least and shows 44,000 miles. I have not begun serious negotiation but it has been offered to me for $45,000 and I presume that it may sell for less.

I have been investigating the maintenance situation and know that a 15,000-mile major service, would be $4–5,000 at Ferrari specialists Algars and there is a modest list of other minor things needed. Is this car and its four-cam DCOE terror a durable long-term engine? I know that, in general, Ferraris are strong cars, but does careful adherence to maintenance ensure long life from one of these engines and drive trains or does one have to be ready at any time to be smitten by the need for serious work?—Mike R., Wyoming, PA

Start with a compression check. If bad, forget it. Period. Nothing to talk about. Then have the car checked for prior damage, rust and/or bad crash repair. If it’s rusty, or has been crashed and repaired badly, forget it. Period.

Then get written evaluations and written estimates for all the following. Make sure that Algar understands this is not an academic exercise. If you buy the car, you will want some or all the work done, and you do not want any surprises.

The check will confirm that it will probably need a major (30,000 mile) service, approximately $4,000/$5,000. The timing chain is the weak link on these cars. If it is at the end of the adjustment, it should be replaced. This can be done, if one knows the tricks, with the engine in the car. This is a multi-cam engine with a very long timing chain and they can become too loose, skip timing and become very expensive. If needed, add another $750. If you wait too long, add $15,000.

Oil leaks: Mandatory engine out and very expensive.

Clutch: Mandatory trans out. Another $2,500 plus.

Synchros: From $3,500 up since it will be time to replace the bearings, some shift forks, etcetera.

Differential: Usually bulletproof, but I’ve seen a few go bad. If oil leaks, at least $2,500. If noise, over $5,000.

Suspension bushings: Probably bad and all will need replacement, as well as tie rod ends and ball joints. Expensive. $2,500 plus.

Shocks? They die from age and lack of use. Yet another $2,000 problem and probably overdue.

Power steering? Power brake booster? Wheel cylinder rebuilds? All are $1,500 or more problems.

Paint? Another $5,000 to $7,500 problem!

Leather? See above.

The car will probably fail enough of the above tests that it will need at least $10,000 in work to bring it to full operating standards, probably more.

Unless the owner is willing to offer one hell of a discount, shop and buy a car that some other poor soul has spent his small fortune repairing. You should be able to buy such a car very cheap, getting the repair work they have done at about 50 cents on the dollar.

Here’s a quick example. Bob Le Flufy at Autoclassic in Vancouver, Canada, had a restored car I inspected last Christmas that was very nice. The last owner had done an “Oh my God, was I out of my mind to do this” restoration and yet the car could be bought for something about $55,000, much less than the cost of the very recent restoration. The car was free, and the work done was about 50 cents on the dollar.

When right, the 365 GTC/4 is a great car to own and drive, offering classic ’70s styling; the best engine sound of any street Ferrari made; effortless 150-mph performance; power steering and AC that actually work; an (almost always) rust-free Pininfarina body, and rear seats you might put a pair of 6 year-olds into, all for less than the price of a new Caddy. They are my second most favorite street Ferrari, after the—you guessed it—Daytona.