Gather ‘round Oppo, it’s story time.
It all started many many moons ago, on a chilly winter night in downtown St. Louis. I was just a little lad of about six years old. The details are a little fuzzy as I’ve slept once or twice since then. It was about a month before Christmas and we were at Union Station visiting Santa. I was with my two older brothers and my mom. Us boys were always obsessed with cars. Always talking about the latest and greatest. My obsession that morning (and still, if we are being honest) was the McLaren F1. I remember walking into the mall saying I wanted an F1 when I grew up BC it was the fastest car in the world. My brother was claiming there would be so many faster cars by that point and I really shouldn’t get an F1. Well, 20 or so years later, it is still in the top 5(?). I should Google that. Anyways, back to the story. After Santa, we did some window shopping. My family didn’t have much so we knew whatever we looked at would never make it under the tree that year. Not the end of the world, the holidays should be about family, not possessions sent from the mythical “Santa”. After stopping by the fudge shop for a sample, we bundled up and went outside to head home.
On the way back to the car, my life changed forever. I heard the noise before I saw the car but knew exactly what it was. A black 355 flies by. Launching from a light. Hits the top of first, the top of 2nd, and probably the top of third. I can’t remember, but it doesn’t really matter. In that moment, I was in love. I turned to my mom, who was probably pissed about some rich A-hole driving recklessly, and said “mom, I’m getting a Ferrari when I grow up”. Without missing a beat, she turns to me and told I could have whatever I wanted as long as I work hard and save. These days, she probably would have ranted about social injustices about the 1% or the latest hot button issue. But in that moment, she said exactly the right thing to positively shape my young mind. From that day forward, I had a goal.
(And a large Hotwheels collection that was 90% Ferraris.)
Fast forward 12 years.
I am in my undergrad studying mechanical engineering. College was tough for everyone, so I’m not going call attention to my individual struggles. But, any high school students out there. I would not recommend studying engineering while doing collegiate sports and plan on graduating Cum Laude all in four years. (Humblebrag) Take the extra year if you can afford it. It is worth it. With everything going on, you can imagine I was stressed. To take our minds off the struggles of life, two of my teammates and I would talk cars, go for drives, or just get donuts. I always told them that I was going to buy a Ferrari when I graduated. Most people where always like yeah, ok, whatever. But these two teammates, who are still two of my best friends, believed in me. Having a goal, and having support, honestly got me through school. Failure wasn’t an option. If I failed, how would I ever get my Ferrari? This caused me to work hard and get good grades to satisfy my scholarships and graduate pretty high in my class. Like the Beetles said, I get by with a little help from my friends.
In the middle of college, the Ferrari dream seemed too far away. I decided I needed a fun car. No matter how many modifications I do to the bug, I could still never do a donut. Only get donuts, which we did frequently. At this point, I pledged to buy a manual, RWD car as soon as possible. I wouldn’t even settle for AWD. I figured this would be my first purchase after college. But then, at the end of junior year, I caught a break. I landed a great internship that paid over $20/hour. I’ve never felt so rich. I worked all summer, until cross country season official started. I saved enough to buy NB Miata. My roommate named her Mimi and it stuck. I learned a lot in that car. Heal/toe, control in a slide, how to avoid SUV’s, and threshold braking. I had many close calls but luckily never crashed. I only had Mimi for about two years but made plenty of good memories. I sold her to a friend for pennies when I moved to California but it didn’t matter. I got my money’s worth.
About 3 months after I started my big kid job in CA, I was browsing autotrader, as one does. I noticed there were a few RT/10 vipers for sale for around 20k. Then, I found a beautiful green, low mileage, viper with a nicely aligned hood that hadn’t warped yet. The car was listed for ~18k. Being fresh out of school and moving across the country, I didn’t have the money or the available credit. My friend and old teammate actually offered to loan me the money but warned, it wasn’t as cool as a Ferrari. I did not feel comfortable borrowing a large sum of money from a friend anyways, but he had a point. It wasn’t as cool as a Ferrari. I should just keep my head down and keep saving.
Keeping my head down lasted about a month. I had an option to buy an acquaintance’s Maserati GranSport. It was a well sorted car with all the “must do” upgrades. I debated that for a bit and decided to pass.
In the early spring of 2013, less than a year after graduation, a friend of mine texted me saying he had a lead on a 328 if I was interested. The car was gorgeous. Silver with red leather which is my all time favorite color combo. He knew the owner and had a friends and family price of 37k with a few years before the next service. I of course didn’t have that type of cash laying around and financing an old Italian car seemed unwise. I passed without even driving the car. I figured I could always save another year or two and buy one cash.
That didn’t happen. Prices for vintage Italian metal doubled. 328's were now selling for 70-120k. No matter how much I sacrificed and saved, my bank account could never outpace the increasing values. It wasn’t just 328's, virtually all Ferraris skyrocketed in price during this period. I felt broken and hopeless. Here I was, working my ass off towards my goal, and seemingly making no progress. I felt like that kid looking through the glass at shops in Union Station on a cold winter evening again. I sort of gave up. I mentally decided a Ferrari was now a retirement goal instead of an ASAP goal. This felt bad. To cheer myself up, I started looking at new cars. Again. I wanted something fun to replace the bug. It just wasn’t cutting it in the canyons. I looked at all the typical cars that were available. The NC Miata, 5.0 mustang, FRS/BRZ, Genesis Coupe, etc. I decided on an FRS or Mustang. The FRS was crossed off my list after a bad dealer experience. I was set on a 2014 Grabber Blue GT with the track pack and Recaros. Then, after a bit of research, I learned the 2015 Mustang was rumored to have IRS. Being that my senior project was suspension design on our FSAE car and hated the idea of a solid axle, I decided to wait.
After passing on the Mustang, I came back to my senses. I hadn’t given up on anything in my life yet, why should I start now? I still wanted that got damned prancing horse. I came up with a new plan. To help me stop looking at cars and blowing my savings, I should buy a cheap, fun, manual, RWD car. Just to hold me over until I bought a Ferrari. I told myself I wasn’t going to get another Miata. Not that I didn’t like them, but I wanted to try something new. Well, I bought another NB Miata... I named her “Mimii” (double “i” like the roman numeral for 2)
I was satisfied for about a year.
In 2015, the new Mustang came out and I really liked the style. Then one weekend, two of my friends and I rented a GT premium and drove up to the central coast. During that trip, I really fell for the charm of the Mustang. I figured Ferrari prices still weren’t going down, so screw it. I might as well. But then, Ford then screwed themselves out of a sale. They released the GT350. The ultimate Mustang with the orgasmic Voodoo cross plane V8. If I was getting a Mustang, it would have to be that one. By the time they came out, the dealers were marking them up and I wanted nothing to do with that nonsense. Throw in a bad dealer experience mixed with my ADD, I started looking elsewhere.
Finally, in 2016, I told myself I was getting a car. I waited too long, and this was the year. My life was going great, everything was stable, and I switched jobs which included a decent raise. Timing was perfect, and there were tons of amazing cars on the market. I test drove a ton of cars. Most notably, a 997 911 C2S and an immaculate E60 M5 at Carmax. I’m not a Porsche guy. The car was fun but didn’t really move my heart. The M5 on the other hand was simply intoxicating. But, it had one major downfall. It was a SMG. It’s true what they say, the SMG transmission absolutely ruins that car. If it were a stick, this story would stop right here. I liked the car that much. After the M5 and 911, I have a few cars still on my list. I decide I want one of the following:
Aston V8 Vantage; Lotus Evora; Morgan 3 Wheeler (Brexit made them “reasonably” priced); GT350; 4C; or a Viper. Without even driving the cars, I made a pro and con list. That narrowed things down to the Aston and a M3W. This might be the only time these two vehicles have ever been on the same list.
Towards the end of July 2016, I visited my local Morgan dealer to ask questions about the ordering process. I looked at options, leather samples, etc. The stupid little toy thing really spoke to my inner child. I remember driving home on the 405, smiling, thinking to myself that I’m going to order one. It felt good to finally make a choice and my mind was at ease for the first time in years.
Then a week or two later... The text that changed it all. Again.
Remember that 328? The one I could have doubled my investment on in two years? I sure as hell remember it.
My friend who found the 328 texted our group chat: “Anyone looking for a 355 spider.”
He then told me the price. I almost spit my coffee. It was about 20k under market value with all the common problems fixed. This was my chance! I was already going home for Labor Day so I decided I would look at the car while I was there. The 355 was only a few hours away. In the meantime, I got my finances in order, scheduled a PPI, and had my friend look over the car. Everything went smoothly. I got on my plane to go home confident I would return a Ferrari owner.
Well, OPPO. Life isn’t always that simple.
I found a few issues that should have been caught in the PPI. Plus, the car didn’t really do it for me. The sound was amazing and the gated shifter was brilliant but the driving experience was lacking. I caught a bad vibe and walked away. That was one of the hardest decisions on my life. I was a signature and a handshake away from my dream, and I walked. To cheer me up, my friend let me drive his 328. (not the silver/red car). I didn’t really like his 328 either! Where the 355 was lacking character, the 328 was lacking precision. So, I met two heroes in one day and was let down by both. Maybe I didn’t actually like Ferraris? Maybe they were just all hype? I drove in silence the two hours back to St. Louis. I needed time to reflect on what just happened. Everything thing I worked for, every decision I made, every risk I took, was to move me closer to Ferrari. And now I don’t even like the two models I was in love with?
When I got back to CA, I stopped looking at cars. I said I would start looking at 911's or something reliable, but my heart wasn’t in the search like it had been up to this point. I consider myself a very happy and positive person. But something changed after that experience. I wasn’t myself. It sounds ridiculous as I type this, but that’s the way I felt. I was borderline depressed for about a month.
I finally came back to my senses. I now think the reason I didn’t like the 328 was just how awful I was feeling after the 355. Plus, they always say never buy the first car you drive. And I’m glad I was selective and didn’t buy the first car I saw. Now I was back in my groove. I expanded my car search again mostly looking at Astons, 911's, and Lotuses. Then, on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016, I saw it. A one owner, fully serviced, 1990 348ts for sale at the local Ferrari dealer. The price was high, but seemed fair for the history and condition of the car. I texted my oldest brother and asked him what he thought. He told me to inquire. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? So I did. The very polite sales manager emailed me back with answers to my questions, the carfax, and electronic copies of all the service records going back to 1990. I told him I would come in on Friday to look at the car.
From Tuesday to Friday afternoon, I did about 60 hours of research on things to lookout for. I didn’t know that much about the 348 before my research. I think they suffer from the middle child syndrome. Stuck between the Iconic 328 and the amazing sounding 355. But, I was very excited to see the car. I drove the 328 and 355 and disliked things about both. Maybe, just maybe, the 348 had what I liked from the 328 and the 355 without the things I disliked. (Spoiler alert: it did). Armed with a 60 something point checklist and a nice set of clothing, I went to the dealer. The sales guy immediately knew this young looking kid was serious about the car and more knowledgeable than him. He opened up the car, gave me a flashlight, and told me to take my time. He went to his office and I went to work.
The car passed pretty much everything on my list so I scheduled a test drive for the next Wednesday.
When I showed up to drive the car, it was an absolutely perfect SoCal day (70 and sunny with a light breeze off the ocean). I tell the sales guy where I want to drive (my local twisty road that is pretty close to the dealership). He agrees without hesitation. I drove the car and knew it was the one almost immediately. The feedback through the steering wheel was what I dreamed about, the gated shifter rewarded every correct movement, and the sound was subtle, but still iconic Ferrari. I try to play it cool but by the time we are back at the dealer, I cannot control my grin. I had to buy this car.
To be continued…
Stay tuned. I am going to write about the purchase process and give you a one year update (on Nov 1st (!!). I can’t believe it has almost been a year. The purchase process will include the juicy details from when I inquired until I drove it home.