Can a Classic Ferrari be both extraordinary and extra ordinary?

Photography by Chris Tropea

This story starts simply enough, and similarly to so many tales born at the Classic Motorsports office: with a phone call from someone looking for a place to keep a car. 

Hey, do you have any room in your shop?” was the request from Tim Suddard–a far-from-unusual query from a guy who has bought and sold more cars and car chunks than he could ever remember, and who frequently needs more room than the already ample amount he has access to so he can waylay something for a brief time.

Yeah, of course,” was my reply on that holiday weekend afternoon, thinking I’d be temporarily hosting a barely recognizable husk of an automobile that would audibly rust in my shop for a few days before he came to slice off a needed hunk and drag the rest off to the scrapyard. It’s one of the weirder aspects of this job, but it’s never boring.

Okay,” he replied. “I’m dropping this Ferrari off in about an hour. You like Ferraris, right?”

Cue record scratch and my perplexed stare directly into the camera.

Dropped off in the driveway, the Ferrari 328 instantly challenged our 1991 Toyota MR2 Turbo for mid-engined sports car dominance. In the garage, it took an honored spot under the Grassroots Motorsports Corvette project.

Upon arriving home from the errand I was running when I took that call, I did indeed find a 1987 Ferrari 328 GTS–a car built the year I graduated high school, images of which certainly adorned the inside of my senior-year locker door–parked neatly in my shop. 

Apparently Tim’s friend needed to clear out his old shop before his new shop was ready, so the Ferrari needed a temporary home. Look, this is a complicated business we operate. It’s not all deadlines and ink prices. 

Ultimately, the beneficiary of this arrangement was yours truly, who would get to ogle one of the more handsome cars of the late 20th century for an indeterminate amount of time. That evening I texted its owner a pic of the car parked safely inside and under its fitted cover, a towel separating the low-amperage battery keeper from the silky white paint. 

The Ferrari badge means this car is kept inside and under cover, but the 328's driver-centric attitude belies its exotic heritage.

Take it out some,” was the Ferrari owner’s reply. “You have to shift it like you mean it! Drive it like it was meant to be driven!” 

At this point my scratching record was fully off the turntable anyway, so I probably just emitted sort of a low, droning gurgle at the realization that I’d get to play with one of the most iconic sports cars of my lifetime and do whatever I wanted with it.

Meaning, it must have been time to fire up the Ferrari and head to Taco Bell.

Drop the Chalupa!

Let’s not order that burrito just yet. While I was certainly excited about the prospect of driving a Ferrari for a while, the real mission here would be to produce some content, as this represented an excellent editorial opportunity.

Faced with the prospect of a 328 at my disposal–arguably one of the most accessible Ferraris based on its high (for Ferrari) production volume and reputation (again, for Ferrari) of being durable and easily serviceable–could I use this exotic car for decidedly non-exotic functions? What was the reality of living with a dream car?

First, let’s put the 328 into perspective among other Ferraris. Produced for four model years–1986 through ’89–the 328 saw more than 7000 examples built, with 6000-plus of those being removable-top GTS versions. Ferrari only built right around 1300 copies of the hardtop GTB version, and those variants hold a market premium today due to their lower production volume. 

The 3.2-liter V8 is flexible enough, but prefers to rev rather than grunt. Inside, the 328 is surprisingly utilitarian, with simple shapes and mechanical accessories, all with a sturdy, high-quality feel.

“How much does a 328 cost?” is a bit of a loaded question, because Ferrari values are highly dependent on some fairly esoteric factors–more about that in a minute–but the easy answer is “around $80,000.” That figure, give or take, should get you into a 328 with very few attached excuses. Low-mileage, collector-grade GTBs can exceed $130,000, while rougher cars or those with rebuilt titles can be had for as little as $50,000. But there are few cars more expensive than a cheap Ferrari, so buyer beware on the low end. Newer cars trend a bit higher than older cars, and low-mileage cars trend a bit higher than heavily driven examples. 

Plus, remember that there was a fairly major change midway through the 1988 model year, when Ferrari introduced anti-lock brakes. The ABS-equipped cars are identifiable by their convex, five-spoke wheels, designed to provide a little more room for the wheel speed sensors. While those particular wheels are not as highly regarded as the earlier, more traditional flat, five-spoke Ferrari wheels, the later ABS cars still tend to carry a bit of a market premium.

But by far the most significant factor affecting Ferrari value is history. A car with a good service history will fetch thousands more than one with a sketchy background, and even with extensive logs, the pedigree of that service can affect value as well.

[Ferrari 328 GTS and 328 GTB Buyer's Guide]

Overall, the 328 is not a maintenance-intensive car by Ferrari standards. Since the model was an evolution of the 308, which had been around since 1975, Ferrari had pretty much gotten the formula right by then. The 328 had a few exterior cosmetic changes, like the smoother front bumpers, and the 2.9-liter V8 from the 308 was swapped out for a 3.2-liter powerplant sporting dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and a 266-horsepower rating. But the basic architecture from the decade-old design remained.

So the service schedule sounds daunting by Camry standards, but certainly not by Ferrari standards. Basic maintenance, like oil changes and filter and fluid checks, are recommended every 6250 miles, while more complex fluid services, like brakes and transaxles, are recommended every 12,500 miles or annually–whichever comes first. 

According to the owner’s manual, the major service comes every 25,000 miles or every two years, when the complex timing belts on the DOHC engine need to be replaced. Despite the 328’s transverse engine layout, accessing and replacing the timing belts is actually possible with the engine in the car, although most service facilities will choose an engine-out approach because it allows easier access to the numerous other hoses and seals that should be checked or replaced at those service intervals.

What’s a maintenance schedule like that going to cost you? Well, it’s not exactly a Camry pricing structure there, either, but there’s good news: The services are universal enough that Ferrari shops are comfortable being fairly upfront about pricing, which is kind of a rarity in the world of exotic cars. Prices will vary, of course, but expect to be quoted around $400 for a basic annual service on a low-mile car. This includes services like oil and filter changes, a brake fluid flush, basic accessory fluid fills, and visual and torque inspections of key components. 

Another $1000 on top of that will typically get you in for a service that also includes driveline fluids, spark plugs and some ignition components, drive belts, and a more thorough check of minor systems and consumables. For the major service, which includes the aforementioned work plus the timing belt replacement and usually numerous other seals on the front of the engine, a water pump and several small coolant hoses, you’re looking at a $6000 bill. 

Whether you’re trying to or not, driving a Ferrari is a sure way to attract the curiosity of car enthusiasts. You're not just a driver anymore, you’re also a brand ambassador. 

Obviously these prices vary from city to city and with each individual car, but the fact that reputable Ferrari service centers from New Jersey to Seattle will openly post a menu of basic service prices for the 328 tells you you’re not getting into an unserviceable unicorn.

Note the phrase “reputable Ferrari service center.” Remember what we said about the importance of service pedigree? A stack of work orders from a Ferrari dealer or well-regarded independent Ferrari servicer can enhance the value of a 328 much more than a stack of receipts from Jiffy Lube. 

And yes, these cars are serviceable by a knowledgeable owner. They’re complex, sure, but ultimately they’re just cars. 

Still, you take a risk of losing some of its value every time you turn a wrench on your own Ferrari. The gamble is whether you lose more money in terms of value than you saved by doing a certain service yourself. For this, there are no easy answers. Every Ferrari purchase is, ultimately, an emotional one. 

A car from a mechanically qualified owner who meticulously cataloged all of the self-performed service will likely sell for more than one from an owner who simply whips out a Walmart receipt and says, “Yeah, I changed the oil all the time.” It seems part of owning any Ferrari is constantly keeping the marketing effort behind its eventual sale up to date.

Extra Onions, Please

Okay, back to the Bell. Before that didactic aside, I was heading to get a burrito in someone else’s Ferrari to see if it was a car that someone could actually live with. So, how’d that part work out?

Uh, pretty well? The 328 is very, very good at being both extraordinary and extra ordinary at the same time. First, it’s a small, low car. This probably doesn’t seem weird to anyone in our world accustomed to driving LBCs or Fiats or even Miatas, but on modern roads with modern cars, you get an acute sense of just how large even the smallest of current SUVs are. 

The dash of the 328 sits low, the wheel feels like it’s sitting in your lap, and the windshield seems like it ends about mid-shin, giving you a panoramic view of the road ahead. The low roofline cuts into your view of some traffic lights–you’ll find yourself ducking a bit to see them if you’re the first car in line, or just simply looking over the windshield frame if you have the roof off–but the straight-ahead view can’t be beat. On the highway, it feels like the road is rushing right into the cockpit to join you. 

The unassisted steering is heavy only at crawling speeds, but as soon as the car is moving, it’s a delight. Particularly on the highway, where you may expect a mid-engine car with relatively tall tires to be a bit imprecise at speed, it feels buttoned down and tracks like it’s on rails. It feels like you could easily spend the day eating up miles behind the wheel, even though you’d be looking at everyone else’s doorsills the entire time.

[What it's like getting a drive-thru burrito in a borrowed Ferrari]

But highway cruises are not daily life; Enchiritos are. And I had a mission to do something absolutely mundane in a car that was anything but. And the car’s owner was also absolutely right about putting a firm hand to the shifter. To everything, really. 

The 328, once the fluids are properly warmed, rewards about 10% extra effort in everything. It forces you to be engaged in the act of driving. But it gives back more than you put in. 

Rev the engine a little further into the peaky torque band, and you’re rewarded with a sweet, climbing sense of thrust accompanied by the sound that only a small-displacement V8 can make. It’s higher-pitched than a grunting American V8, but also frequency-rich and complex. There’s a zillion different pieces inside that spinning engine, and you can hear each one clearly through the exhaust and intake wail. 

Top, one of our favorite details: The spoiler atop the engine cover has a faux-leather texture that matches the texture of the removable top. Michelin rubber and 16-inch wheels provide excellent feedback through the unassisted steering.

Likewise, that gated shifter–you knew I’d get to the obligatory Ferrari gated shifter discussion sooner or later, didn’t you?–absolutely hates to be babied. Shift too gently, and the gear lever feels resistant and stiff. Shift too hard, and finding your way through the polished gates can be clumsy. But shift with the appropriate amount of force, which is considerable but not overwhelming, and the lever slides into position like you’re cutting through a $200 steak with a razor blade. It just… goes. It’s pretty magical.

Which is a term you can use for a lot of the mechanical systems on this car. They require a little more oomph than you might be used to, but not in a punitive way. The whole car encourages you to develop a sense of mechanical empathy, and when you intrinsically understand the operational window it likes to exist in, the driving experience feels like the smoothest and most natural thing ever.

Sharing With Friends

But there’s nothing smooth and natural about those refried beans wrapped in a tortilla at America’s favorite drive-thru gastrointestinal affront, and I promise we’ll get there soon. It’s just that driving a Ferrari anywhere makes that trip kind of special. And the specialness extends outside the car as well. So far, I’ve mostly focused on the act of driving and the mechanical thrill of piloting a mostly hand-built piece of automotive iconography around the landscape, but there’s a cultural component as well. Drive a Ferrari and you’re instantly a celebrity. 

Yeah, there are a lot of great-looking and exciting cars out there. A C8 Corvette or Lexus LC 500 are pretty extreme designs for modern cars, and you may get the odd stare, but not much modern hardware draws the kind of attention that the entry-level Ferrari from the late ’80s does on the road. Kids wave. People snap photos and give thumbs-up. Drivers tap their passengers on the shoulder and point in your direction. The gasping masses may not know whether the Ferrari they’re pointing at is the one from “Magnum P.I.” or “Miami Vice,” but they know it’s worth their attention.

And that may be the biggest burden–or responsibility–of driving a Ferrari on the reg. As a car, it’s fully functional. The trunk of the 328 is long, wide and deep and can easily hold a week’s worth of groceries. 

Once the engine is properly warmed, it’s responsive, and the fact that it’s maybe a little peaky just means you get to row that delightful gearbox a few extra times. If you like the stereotypical Italian driving position–semi-reclined with close-set pedals and a far-set wheel that you’ll never grip above the 9 and 3 positions because it’s tilted back so much–you’ll love it inside. While those ergonomics may not be ideal for a track day, they’re delightful for spirited cruising, as though everything about the 328 was designed to deliver 100% of the experience when used at 80% capacity. 

A drive-thru burrito is just as delicious behind the wheel of a Ferrari. Some exotics are effective anywhere, whether it’s the country club or the drive-thru.

So yeah, I got my burrito, and I’m here to tell you that getting Taco Bell in a borrowed Ferrari is a pretty singular experience. Doing normal things in special cars makes those things feel that much more special. 

And when you get to see someone’s face brighten as you pull up to the drive-thru window, or the guy next to you at the stoplight gives you a thumbs-up as he’s fumbling with his phone to get a picture, or a kid in a lowered Hyundai Genesis Coupe stops you in a parking lot to ask a few questions, you know you’re not just driving a Ferrari to do regular things. You’re an ambassador of the notion that beyond the utility it offers, the mere act of operating a machine can be an end in itself.

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More like this
peter890 New Reader
8/9/21 5:51 p.m.

fab interior - two comments if I may:

- gearbox: the big question with a Ferrari gate is always (I speak from experience): "does 2nd gear crunch ?" - which usually is a result of someone shifting from 1st with a cold box and forcing it hard in to 2nd


- if thats a fitted car cover, perhaps it should never gone in to the dryer...




enderby New Reader
4/13/22 12:36 p.m.

Beware of taking a Ferrari thru a Taco Bell drive thru.  Some idiot in an SUV may decide to back up and hit you.

enderby New Reader
4/13/22 12:39 p.m.

dyerhaus New Reader
4/13/22 12:58 p.m.

In reply to enderby :

My Ferrari prefers Chipotle. Less dangerous as there's no drive-thru there! wink

4/15/22 3:59 p.m.

Great article! I have had a 328 for years, and I mean years...Agree with your sentiment and observations about taking the car out.  Where I am, there are quite a few exotic cars (Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini and Aston Martins, too), but at some point, the 328 became the car everyone could approach and talk about.  I love the car and would have another, but that's not the idea, I guess? 

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