In 1985, at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Ferrari revealed its sharply styled 328 GTB. It was a car which had much to prove, given that it succeeded the esteemed 308 series – but, unsurprisingly, it quickly transpired to be a remarkable piece of machinery.
Aside from being more powerful and easier to drive, Ferrari’s new supercar was also more practical and easier to live with. There was, however, one underlying problem: the 328 was based upon the 308, which was a car that had been around since 1975.
The 308 could also trace its lineage back even further, to the Dino 206 of 1967; in short, although Ferrari had continually updated its cars, the 328’s underpinnings were getting long in the tooth. Although it was more user-friendly than its predecessors, the market was shifting towards even more comfortable, refined and safer machines.
Fortunately, Ferrari was working on an answer to the changing customer and market demands: an all-new model, called the 348, which would make its debut at the 1989 Frankfurt Motor Show. This new supercar marked a dramatic departure from the established template used by the 328. For starters, its larger 3.4-litre naturally aspirated V8 was mounted longitudinally instead of transversely.
Underneath, the 348 utilised a semi-unibody pressed steel chassis with a rear tubular subframe, instead of the all-tubular affair of its predecessors. Compared with the past designs, this offered improved protection in a crash. The 348 was also more spacious, its interior more upmarket and its exterior more eye-catching – with crisp Pininfarina-styled bodywork that echoed the looks of the bigger Testarossa.
A FABULOUS BUT FLAWED FLYING MACHINE
Two versions of the 348 were offered initially, the ‘tb’ coupe and the targa-topped ‘ts’, and there was no arguing with the performance on offer. The 348 tb, for example, reportedly clocked in at 1,393kg dry – contemporary road tests placed it at around 1,450kg at the kerb – and its engine punched out 296bhp. Get it off the line sharply and, if the book figures are to be believed, the Ferrari would hit 62mph in just 5.6 seconds. Flat out, it’d nudge more than 171mph.
Although the 348 was a dramatically different and far more modern Ferrari, it was not without its issues. It proved unruly at the limit, often snapping into oversteer that inevitably led to an unpleasant pirouette. Elements such as heavy controls and uncomfortable seats further tainted its appeal to many.
That’s not to say that it was slated by all; despite its foibles, the Ferrari was more visceral and engaging than its rivals and drew much praise as a result. Even so, Ferrari soon set about resolving some of the initial gripes with the 348 and released increasingly capable versions; a higher-performance Series Speciale arrived in 1992, followed by the Challenge in 1993.
A much-revised 348 GTB was also unveiled in 1993, along with a convertible Spider. The final swansong came in the form of the GT Competizione, a 50-strong homologation model which packed a 316bhp V8 and a battery of high-performance parts.
GROWING ENTHUSIASM FOR THE OFT-OVERLOOKED FERRARI
Although the 348 wasn’t lauded by all, it was unquestionably still an evocative, exciting and distinctive supercar – and, today, it can be a tempting used buy. In part, this is because those initial issues often led to the 348 being disliked by press and Ferrari fans alike, subduing the car’s values. Its successor, the 355, was also a more refined car that further put the 348 in the shade.
Consequently, nowadays, the 348 is comparatively affordable as far as Ferraris go. Head to an auction and you could, inclusive of fees, pick up a serviceable early 348 for around £35,000 – which is some £15,000 less than you’d pay for a good 355 at auction.
If you don’t want to take the risk of buying a car from an auction, you can still pick up a smart 348 from a dealer for around £50,000. A comparable dealer-sourced 355? That might set you back closer to £70,000.
Sure, the usual caveats apply: you’re buying an ageing Italian supercar that’ll need investment and care to remain in fine fighting fettle. The 348 isn’t as frail as some would have you believe, though, and if you carry out the required servicing and preventative maintenance – and set aside some money to cover unexpected failures – then the ownership experience should prove enjoyable.
A used Ferrari isn’t for everyone, of course, but it does bear some consideration. After all, £45,000 just about gets you into an impressive but somewhat staid new turbocharged four-cylinder Porsche 718 Cayman. Swallow a few brave pills and, instead, you could be driving a sense-tingling naturally aspirated V8 Ferrari 348. It might trail behind the Porsche across country, but you have to wonder who’d be having the more soul-stirring, engaging and memorable time.
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