Today’s Nice Price or No Dice 348 is described as almost all original. That’s either a good or a bad thing depending on your view of what’s considered to be one of the less successful Pininfarina styling outings. We’ll have to see if its price increases its attractiveness.
Hoo boy! What a nail-biter the vote on yesterday’s 1984 Mercedes-Benz 380 SL proved to be. The car was presented as a non-runner with the vague diagnosis of an electrical issue at the fuel pump, but also with a $3,500 asking price, or about half what a fully-running car might command. That had the comments filled with contrasting suggestions to either run away or dive in and just fix the darn thing. In the end, the divers won, as did the Mercedes, earning a narrow 53 percent Nice Price victory.
I’d like to preface the discussion of today’s candidate by postulating that the era of the sub-six-figure Ferrari may be soon coming to a close. At one time, even the least desirable Ferrari models, cars such as the 308 GT4 and Mondial, could be had for Camry money. Today, most of those are double that and continue to climb.
That’s a sad state of affairs for aspirational collectors of modest means and does set off alarm warning that any Prancing Horse product with a halfway reasonable price should get snapped up before it’s too late.
This 1990 Ferrari 348 TS represents what is, today, possibly the least desirable of Maranello’s V8-engined line. The model followed the 328 which itself was a refresh of the achingly beautiful 308 GTB/S. In contrast to those predecessors, however, the 348’s styling was something of a disappointment. The Pininfarina-penned lines eschewed the earlier cars’ sweeping fenders and aggressive curves for a flatter design that emphasized a series of strakes across the lower doors which were in turn mirrored in the louvered rear lights. At the time, these elements were intended to align the car’s styling with that of the larger V12 Testarossa. Unfortunately, neither car has ever been considered to have been an improvement over their respective predecessors.
Thankfully, the 348’s dramatic styling has mellowed with age and today is more accepted as a reminder of how quirky the ’80s were for car styling. Mechanically, the 348 has it going on. This was the last of the small V8 Ferraris to offer a manual as the only transmission choice. On the 348, that transmission is a derivation of Ferrari’s F1 gearbox of the time, and just as the racing unit, it sits transversely behind the longitudinally-placed 3405 cc DOHC V8. That all-alloy engine was factory spec’d at a solid 296 horsepower in U.S. guise.
The odd layout of the engine and gearbox is what gives the 348 its alpha name appendage, with the TS in this car’s case standing for Trasversale Spider owing to its sideways five-speed and removable roof panel. The hardtop version gets TB for Trasversale Berlinetta.
This one comes with a total of 60,500 miles on the clock, which to be honest is a healthy number for an exotic of this ilk. There are a number of visual flaws that have been picked up over the years and those miles, but the seller says mechanically, the car “runs and shifts great” and that the clutch “feels awesome.” Now, I’m sure that a number of you, like me, are feeling all KGB agent about these claims and would like to see the car’s papers. Sadly, there’s no mention of maintenance history at all in the ad, only that of a clean CarFax to go along with the car’s clean title.
Another interesting factor to consider is that, while it’s offered in Los Angeles and is pictured atop the parking structure at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, this 348 carries an Idaho license plate. That implies that there might be something hinky about registering it in California. The car does seem to be offered by a dealer rather than a private party despite the impression given by the photos and the seeming familiarity with the car in the ad, so it might be that.
Aesthetically, the car presents well, but as previously noted, not without flaw. The seller seems pretty forthcoming in pointing these out, as the ad notes cracks in both bumpers and, more alarmingly, in the windscreen. The ad claims these are all inexpensive to fix but I am pretty sure that any windscreen replacement on a Ferrari is going to be anything but inexpensive.
On the plus side, the car comes in appropriate Rosso Corsa matched with a lovely biscuit interior swathed in rich Connolly leather. And then there’s that gated shifter that is seemingly the holy grail of cardom.
Okay, that’s a lot to take in. I’m sure you were all instead ogling those amazingly wide doors and their shelf-like strakes that give the 348 its personality. Hopefully, you can draw your attention away for a moment since it’s now time for us to all consider this Ferrari’s $55,000 price tag. While doing so, I think it’s important to also ponder just how much longer running and driving Ferraris of any ilk will be in this price range.
What do you think, is this 348 TS, with its emphatically ’80s styling and somewhat mysterious maintenance history worth that kind of money? Or, for that much, are there still better — and better looking — options out there?
H/T to Jim Boyd for the hookup!
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