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The rich may be as different from you and me as the novelist says they are, but Ferrari owners are not merely rich. Ferrari owners are car nuts with money, which they use to buy happiness.
Oh groan, you say, examine what’s billed as a statistics-packed survey of a fascinating car and discover another one of those sociological explorations? Well, sort of. But the survey does contain some fascinating cars. Complete and valid responses came for 61 Ferraris. While no two were exactly alike they did fall into groups that approximate a pocket Ferrari history: 30 250 and 330GTs in coupe, cabriolet and 2+2 form; 12 250GT Berlinetta Lussos; seven 275 GTBGTS and 330 GTS-GTCs; nine 275 GTB/4s and three 365GT 2+2s. Thirty-one additional cars were partially checked but either didn’t have enough mileage on them or hadn’t been owned by the present owner long enough to accurately reflect such things as problem areas. They were tabulated for type of usage, reason for buying, etc. The second group was even more diverse than the first, including as it did the usual (!) 250 GTs and 365 Daytonas plus super-exotica along the lines of a 1958 Testa Rossa, a 250LM and other clear cases of money in the proper hands.
Okay, why the continued mention of money? Because Ferraris are expensive, be they new or used. They depreciate, sure, but even the oldest, dullest (yes, there were a few of them) Ferrari sells for more money than a new economy sedan and the parts come high, as we’ll see.
The Owners
The bankroll aspect shows up early on the questionnaire. Add to the high initial cost another investment: 95% of the owners have at least one other car, meaning that the Ferrari money came after or on top of the cost of a more ordinary vehicle. And 36% of the owners bought their cars new. So it was first owners reporting. The newer cars sold for between $15,000 and $20,000 and thus the owners are men —sorry ladies, but while we had an occasional comment from wives of owners, if any female owners reported they didn’t mention sex—of means.
Now, the differences. Ferrari owners are considerate of their machines; 28% consider themselves moderate in driving style; 65% are hard drivers, which is in keeping with Ferrari’s racing heritage, after all, and only 7% say they drive very hard. And those people may have an excuse. One man said he did have some trouble with a broken differential but added that it occurred while he was teaching a lesson to an upstart Corvette. In the same vein a 62-year-old retired businessman submitted his car to the rigors of the drag strip “after considerable heckling . . . I ran it through the traps in 13.96 sec at 99.24 mph.”
Enzo Ferrari has been quoted as saying he regrets that his car sells for a price that can be paid only by older men, who don’t enjoy what the Ferrari offers. Obviously, old and stodgy are not synonyms.
The cars are driven fewer miles per annum than average. A full 29% do less than 10,000 miles per year, and a whopping 40% average only between 5000 and 10,000. The 10-15,000 category shows 23% and only 8% drive in the 15-25,000 range. There’s space on the questionnaire for those who cover more than 25,000 miles annually but this is one of the rare surveys without one entry in that class.
The findings are no surprise. We noted earlier that the vast majority of Ferrari owners have at least one other car. And we know from experience that most daily driving isn’t fun. What the Ferrari owner does is use the other car for the drudgery, the crawls to work, the slams and bangs of urban parking.
This shows clearly in the usage section, with 60% of the cars being used in daily life, 28% reserved for trips (which translates into The Open Road, yippee!) and a comparatively high 23% of the owners declaring their Ferraris are used only for pleasure. So, the Ferrari goes on vacation and on relaxing jaunts about the countryside, and the hack comes out when salt is on the road.
The competition section must be misleading, with only 7% taking part in rallies, 5% in solos and not one entry in races. Ferrari owners surely have the interest and income to go racing, but their road going Ferraris aren’t especially competitive in SCCA classes. The day of the street-legal Ferrari 512M may come but it isn’t here yet. Surely there’s more than one Formula Ford or Quasar sharing garage space with a 275 GTS.
Now, the clincher to the claim that Ferrari owners are not merely rich. It’s taken out of sequence, but it tells a lot about Ferrari owners:
Twenty-five percent do their own mechanical work.
Double exclamation point.
This is the largest percentage of owner/maintainers in an R&T survey to date. And it’s for the most expensive make of car. The two facts of course do not follow. As we’ll see when we come to mechanical problems, higher prices do not mean more breakage. And with competition involvement being so low, we need not consider Ferrari owners to be like Lotus and MG owners, adding speed equipment and re-bolting all the parts that came loose after every weekend of fun.
There is even a literary aspect to this. The Ferrari questionnaires display a remarkable level of fluency and of mechanical knowledge. No, necessity does not cause the Ferrari owner’s dirty hands. He works on his car because he enjoys the car and the work and knows how to do it.
Reasons for Buying
No mystique matches the Ferrari mystique. Almost since IN auto racing and production resumed after World War II, the Ferrari name has meant the best in GP and sports-car racing, as well as the fastest, most attractive, most alluringly mechanical car in the world. Ferrari has been and continues to be the car most enthusiasts want to own someday. That’s how the present owners felt. The most popular reason for buying, given by 33% of the owners, was simply the Ferrari mystique.
Styling was the second most powerful lure, with 30%. Beauty is only skin deep? He scoffs at styling who never saw a Lusso.
Performance in all its forms was next, with 25%. That might be misleading; if the separate answers for power and handling are counted as being part of performance, the 25% becomes 33%, for a tie with Ferrari’s magic. But the owners chose to separate, so we will, too.
And there was the usual miscellany, i.e. “to get girls,”“the sound of the engine.”
One strikingly different reason, though, was given by fully 20% of the total owners. This group was comprised entirely of buyers of the earlier 2 + 2s, and their reason—perhaps rationalization?—was the availability of a Ferrari with room for children. One somehow sees a father who has the money to buy a car for his pleasure but can’t bring himself to leave the kids home on Sunday. One owner said just that, with an added fillip: “I have backed off on my yacht racing and plan family Ferrari trips.”
Amazing. What other make could keep a sailor home from the sea?
Best Features
STUNNING GOOD looks and the pride that comes from finally owning the car of cars may in fact become commonplace to the lucky Ferrari owner. More likely, the other Ferrari virtues become more meaningful as the miles roll past.
Either way, there is a change in emphasis as we go from Why did you buy? to What do you like best? Performance, whatever that may mean, is the best Best Feature, with 43%, and the separate side of performance comes close after that; 23% for effortless high-speed cruising, 22% for handling. Styling drops to 11% and mystique to 8%. Ferrari owners have better things to do than just look at their cars.
Worst Features
Listing five bad features comes close to being a hoax. We will begin by subtracting tongues from cheeks: the man who said “not having any place to open up my GTO,” or “it attracts people who like to scratch and hit it,” or the picky chap who said “it doesn’t fit wash racks.” And the man who said “too small” cancels out the man who said “too large.”
The legitimate complaints don’t add up to much. The most frequent was that parts are scarce, and only 16% of the owners said that. The other bad features—body parts improperly fitted or finished, the cost of parts, electrical malfunction and the inadequacy of the heater—diminish in proportion.
There is another distinction that should be mentioned here. For bookkeeping purposes, we tabulated the entries for the early group of Ferraris, that is, the 250 and 330 GTs, separately from the later entries. The number of cars in each group is nearly equal, 30 early vs. 31 late. But “worst features” were more prevalent in the early cars. The first group turned in 80% of the complaints about scarcity of parts and all of the complaints about inadequate heaters, for instance. The owners of the newer cars aren’t merely less perfectionist. They said the things about not fitting wash racks, needs to be warmed up too carefully. Ergo, the owners of the newer Ferraris have less to complain about—indeed, may have brought up minor points just to be polite. The finding here is that genuine bad features are being eliminated.
Service and Maintenance
The vital point, that an astonishing percentage of Ferrari owners do their own work, has already been made. The other findings fall in line with the results of surveys involving other relatively rare cars. There is not a Ferrari dealer in every city, or even every metropolitan area, and 40% of the owners don’t take their cars to dealers.
Loving-hands-at-home is only part of the reason. Twenty- six percent of the owners rated dealer service as good, 13% as fair, and 21 % as poor. All normal, except perhaps for the small number of “fair” ratings. And that’s natural; who expects lukewarmery in Ferrari matters?
Selecting the good and the bad dealers by name isn’t possible. It seems to depend largely on personality, of both the dealer and the customer. One owner said that an East Coast dealer stocks most of the parts and gives freely of valuable advice. Another man said he no longer takes his car to that shop because it is both expensive and unconcerned.
It isn’t the money. One owner said “Although I was willing to pay the asking price for repairs, this did not seem to make any difference. The capability of the people simply was lacking.” Rather than to be the word of one man against another, we’ll skip the names of dealers praised and cursed. There were two shops that had only good things said about them, namely Modern Classic Motors, Reno, Nev., and Modena Sports Car Service, New York, N.Y.
As for maintenance, it helps to be an expert, self-taught or otherwise, and it helps to be pragmatic. From a 250GT owner came “Of course Ferrari parts prices are ridiculous, but some substitutions have been made: an American alternator and regulator and a Ford differential (this after the second Ferrari differential failure). The exhaust system burns out if the car is run at high speed and I am presently making my own.
Another owner said he tries to keep the engine below 7500 rpm, but has hit 8500 on occasion. When this happens, he re-torques the cylinder heads, and he’s had no gasket trouble. He knows of five cases of burned pistons, occurring after the owners changed to hotter spark plugs “because a $15,000 car shouldn’t foul plugs. When mine foul, I change them.”
Exactly half of the owners said they follow the factory service schedule, 21% said they do as much or more as is recommended, and 12% don’t do what they’re supposed to do. That’s understandable because Ferrari doesn’t always bother to supply an owner’s manual in the appropriate language.
Trouble Spots
Only one mechanical weakness need concern us for long. There was a tie for the most often mentioned trouble area, with 17% of the owners reporting difficulties with the electrical system and with the clutch. The electrics, as cited as a bad feature, have improved, with three out of four mentions involving the older models. Steps seem to have been taken and if you buy an older Ferrari, well, you can fit an American alternator and regulator as that enterprising owner did.
But the clutch is another matter. The reluctance of Ferrari clutches to stand prolonged slip or hard shifting is a legend with, alas, basis in fact. Old and new cars alike report clutch weakness, and in equal numbers. That’s one odd problem, coming from a car with a racing background, but there it is.
The cooling system is in a similar spot. Not as many owners— 14%—had cooling problems but the water got too hot in some examples of all the models in the survey. So the cure hasn’t been found, or at least hasn’t been made known to the Ferrari-owning public.
The other problem components did show improvement, with instruments, differential and starter all giving less trouble in the newer cars.
Only one component was mentioned by new model owners and not by old model owners and that, trouble with the universal joints on the Ferraris with independent rear suspension and transaxles, cropped up only in a handful of cars. The IRS and transaxle was something new for Ferrari when the first 275 models appeared, and frankly we expected more teething troubles than the owners reported.
For good news, we are pleased to strike a blow against a legend of long standing. Few people who peer under a Ferrari hood and see an engine-long row of devilishly complicated carburetors can avoid the impression that maintaining the induction system is the chore of a lifetime. It isn’t. Only one owner listed the carbs as a trouble area. The other 60 surely would join the man who said, “The idea that Ferrari carbs need constant fiddling is baloney.”
The percentage of owners reporting no trouble areas at all is respectably high, albeit not in the Mercedes class. One can allow for a more demanding driving style, too, viz the 275GTB4 that surprised the factory by having the undercoating wear away. “I guess,” said the owner, “they didn’t contemplate 120 mph on sanded and graded snow-covered roads.”
Perhaps you should know that (a) the car accompanied its owner when his company sent him overseas and (b) the owner was at one time one of the best-known amateur racers in the U.S. He was going that fast under such conditions because he and his Ferrari are capable of doing it safely. Against that is an earlier Ferrari enjoying a trouble-free life in Hawaii, where the speed limit is 55 mph. Evidently you no longer have to blow out the cobwebs.
Buy Another?
No contest here. The average enthusiast’s expectation that when one buys a Ferrari one stops going to other showrooms is close to the fact. There was an impressive string of repeat Ferrari buyers; one man owned two at the time he wrote, another was enjoying his fifth example of the marque and the champion owner of our survey has a 365 2+2 as his ninth Ferrari.
Records are made to be broken, as they say. And 90+ percent of the Ferrari owners aspire to the ownership record, or at least they intend to buy another Ferrari. Those few who don’t, for the most part, own the older cars, and there were no “no” votes from Lusso or GTB4 owners. Ferraris are better than ever. As the champion owner put it, the 365 2+2 “is the finest road car I have driven.”
We can’t argue with that. Hasten the day we all can start working toward our 10th Ferrari.

New or Used?
Bought Used : 36%
Bought New : 64%

Annual Mileage
Less than 5000/yr : 29%
5000-10,000 : 40%
10,000-15,000 : 23%
More than 15,000 : 8%

How owners feel about Ferrari service
Rated "good” : 26%
Rated "fair" : 13%
Rated "poor" : 21%
Don't use dealer : 40%
Do own work : 25%
Driving Habits
Drivers who said they drove "Moderately" : 28%
Drivers who said they drove "Hard" : 65%
Drivers who said they drove "Very Hard” : 7%

Problem Areas
Reported by more than 10% of owners:
Cooling System

Reported by 5-10% of owners:
Owners reporting no problem areas : 8%
Would they
buy another?

Yes 90%
No 10%

Five Best Features
High-speed cruising
Rewarding to drive

Five Worst Features
Scarcity Of parts
Cost of parts
Body finish