Pick up any buff book today, and odds are there will be some gushing praise for a “Hypercar” (the new name to denote over-the-top expensive sports cars), and more often than not a Ferrari will be on the receiving end of the accolades. After all, Ferrari makes some of the best sports cars in the world, purebred machines from day one. Likewise, vintage Ferraris get bid into the stratosphere at auction, as uber-wealthy buyers scramble to get their trophy from Enzo. If all the breathless hype on the Prancing Horse is a bit too much for you, then read on. In March 1966, Road Test cast a critical eye on the cars, pointing out some of the harsh realities underneath the dreams.
That tears it, no Ferrari for me.
Wow, that was harsh.
I was watching a Car Fix on Velocity not long ago, where two guys were doing a “routine service” on a Ferrari 355 F1 Spider. It was ridiculously expensive and involved pulling the engine. They then replaced switches and interior bits because the “soft touch” finishes had degraded to goo.
So it would appear things haven’t changed much.
I’ve heard that about just about all the supercars. They’re magnificent when they’re shiny and new, but you don’t want to hang on to one for more than a few years, unless you’re sticking it in a garage as an “investment”.
Enzo era Ferraris are the opposite of that. They were randomly assembled garbage when new, but they were incredibly over-restored upon his death into the flawless fetish items they are today.
After reading this unforgiving article, you just know that the Road Test editors don’t get invited to any fancy Ferrari product introductions (and apparently don’t care).
Right. I can’t see Ferrari, in a huff, pulling all their Road Test magazine advertising.
I rather doubt they had fancy Ferrari product introductions at the time, although that’s what makes European cars desirable today.
Interesting article. It reinforces the point that, then as now, Ferrari’s business model exists to extract as much money as possible from their wealthy clients.
The cars are desirable, but unlike most manufacturers, production is artificially limited. This keeps per-unit price and profit high, and their manufacturing overhead relatively lower.
Of course, the owner, now that they have invested a vast sum in buying the car, is compelled to spend inflated sums in maintaining them. So Ferrari, their suppliers and dealers can soak the buyer for years to come.
But of course, their buyers can afford it. If they were concerned about value, they would buy a Porsche or, heavens, a Corvette for a similar driving experience.
The best part is that a lot of Ferrari apologists call these myriad flaws “character” and accuse the Porsche and Corvette of being “soulless”.
I’ve wanted a Ferrari for as long as I can remember (really, my brother must’ve bought me a Strombecker slot car set with a D-Jag and Testa Rossa in ’59 or ’60 when I was only 5-6 years old!) and I had my heart set on buying a 250 GT SWB out of the Road & Track classifieds for $3500 back in the late ’60s__you know, with my paper-route money__but their value always outpaced my income! I shall have to be contented with my 1:18 CMC model, lol.
As a result of being around sportscars and their owners/mechanics for the better part of my life (at least 48 of my 61 years) I’ve picked up a few things about Ferraris, most notably this little tidbit from Jason at the BAP/GEON Major’s Imported Auto Parts store off Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco: According to Jason (God Bless him & Sally both) “drive a Ferrari a day, and work on it a day; drive it a week and work on it a week; drive it a month…”
True as that may be, I still want one, but you know, nowadays I think I’d prefer one of the “toolroom copies” from GTO Engineering than a genuine article. Even though that’d still cost close to 7-figures, the chances are good that a lot of the workmanship issues would be addressed (They’re British, after all) and at approximately 1/14th the cost of the genuine article, would be marginally cheaper to insure!
I can still dream, where reality can’t get the upper hand…
My Dad has that slot car set, although I can’t remember it actually working when I was a kid. Actually. I have this horrible feeling that it may have been thrown away at some point, along with a more exotic slot car set involving 300SLs and Sting Rays racing in relay form over an alps-esque track.
Rich boy toys. The more they cost, the more money spent to maintain, is basically bragging rights, to show the world one can afford to pay the price.
Some things never change.
Yup. The thing with Ferraris is they’re so rare and exclusive that even the most unappealing and cheapest examples like Mondials can grab the attention of and even be obtainable to us mere peasants, but nonono. It still takes a hefty bankroll to finance their maintenance, even for someone who likes to get their hands dirty they’re cost prohibitive for Ferrari parts and some of the tools you’d need in your garage arsenal. And every last one of them need it too. For these supposedly endurance tested beasts you’d think wear would be non existent, yet you talk to any owner of one and they’ll talk about bringing in the car for a complete engine teardown/overhaul and call it a “tune up”… after 10,000 miles!!!!
Ferraris have an interesting resale curve, unlike most cars who take that initial hit after leaving the dealer lot and decline in a linear fashion from there until they bottom out, Ferraris take that same initial hit, but generally hold a consistant value, until one day the car becomes 3 generations behind and PLUMMETS, sits there for a while and the SKYROCKETS
Speaking of Mondials, I knew a fellow in college whose Dad owned a Mondial 8, as well as a Rolls Silver Spirit, both early 80’s vintage. He wasn’t wealthy (this was in the early 2000’s and his daily driver was a ~10 year old Audi 90), just a gearhead who apparently liked buying pretty but unreliable machinery. I wonder what percentage of time both the Rolls and the Ferrari were operational at the same time?
One wonders if the placement of the garbage can in the first photo was intentional.
I’m guessing that if any Ferrari owners, and those who really wanted to be a Ferrari owner, read this article, it most likely didn’t influence their views one bit. Although, if they read the review of the 1966 Falcon in the same issue, they may have at least bought one of those to have a reliable daily driver.
Wow. Brutal, harsh and honest. Something you never see from MT, CD and the others. Don’t recall Road Test Magazine, but from the excepts I’ve read on here, I love it. When was it published? Did it accept advertising?
It’s close to honest, but the performance numbers they parroted for the Cobra and GTO are as fantastical as anything claimed by Ferrari. There may have been a Royal Bobcat GTO that ran that fast on a down-hill drag strip, but the GTOs sold to the public needed a good tune to break 15 seconds in the quarter mile. The “mildest Cobra ever built” also happens to be the one with the best road test performance numbers ever published. Most of the ‘427’ Cobras were fitted with 428 ci engines that were better suited to station wagon use than road racing. It’s doubtful they were any faster than 289 Cobras, which themselves took 5.8 seconds to hit 60 mph in street trim. That mild 260 Cobra mentioned in this article was actually the same car that made Cobra’s first appearances on the race track. While it wasn’t as far from stock as a Penske Fusion is from an Enterprise Fusion, its engine was full-race and set up to run for hours at engine speeds that would have had a stock K-code Windsor V8 throw a rod.
That was a pretty serious deviation from the truth, using performance numbers from very non-stock cars as a comparison. A little hoax in its own right.
Well, none of those numbers was obtained by Road Test, and some of the sleight of hand involving the other tests didn’t come out until years later, so I don’t think it was a hoax so much as just a bit too credulous. Which is ironic, of course.
This is what happens when a magazine tests a type of car it simply does not like. Hence the using of other people’s acceleration figures to prove Ferrari’s engine is down on power with no mention of top speed where hp shows, even when it is at high rpm.
The control efforts are related to delivery trucks, but does a car meant for high speed work really want power steering and brakes? In their 60s forms?
The build quality talk makes some good points but misses one big one. A hand made car will have many of the flaws listed, but they will also have an attention to detail that is different and directly related to the individual craftsman who spend their life building it. This is a big part of the exclusivity that the rich are willing to pay for. Ferrari, Rolls Royce, et al don’t build this way any more, so now we see more calls to heritage and a lower class of buyer.
I agree with this magazine that a 60s Ferrari was of no use as a daily driver. To them, that means it has no use at all and those involved are somehow con artists. To that I say, ugh.
I was in a restoration shop when many of these cars were being elevated from original condition to their present form around 1989. Ferraris were not built like Rolls Royces, nor even Aston Martins. They were slapped together to look splashy for a season or two with such complete lack of attention to detail that it boggled the mind. A careful examination revealed wildly asymmetric bodies, since they were just shaped by eye. Some Lussos had driver seats that didn’t slide, since the drive shaft/transmission tunnels were made quickly and sloppily by one man while the seats were bolted in with no concern for function by another. The result was interference between the seat and the tunnel so the seat needed to be unbolted, moved, and then bolted down again. Meanwhile, the passenger side tended to be aligned better and function like a normal adjustable car seat. The gripe about leaks is true too, as was the impact on the Elmers glued interiors. It suited Enzo fine, as ideally the customers would want the new style as his car fell apart, which is what funded Ferrari’s racing efforts.
It is interesting that the workmanship was so bad. Perhaps the elaborate shapes were an issue. I have read that the some would say uglifying of Bristol in the seventies was an effort to simplify the construction of the aluminum bodies as they were bringing body construction in house.
Like my brother always said “any fool with money can buy a fast car, it takes someone with brains to build one for themselves “. He built an 8 sec ( 1/4 mile) street car that has not had any breakdowns in 20 year so. I drove. the car I built to 150 mph in4th gear. Look at Copart and see all the wrecked supercars. They are a high percentage of those built compared to the major manufacturers.
My take is Ferrari took customers for granted knowing they could sell their cars to the ultra rich and as to shoddy workmanship and reliabilty–so what?
If anyone doubts other writers thought this way about Ferrari then find some old road tests on the Acura NSX and read the astonishment in the writers words.
I don’t know if I’d go so far as say Ferrari conned or took their customers for granted. If I was moneyed I’d much rather throw my money at a beautiful car with “interesting” mechanicals than some scribbles on canvas or some mangled sculpture (i.e. “art”), and I think most buyers do purchase their Ferraris in that frame of mind. Nobody buys one on stats consumers looking for reliable transportation look for, it won’t be their only car.
You get the feeling that some magazines went after the common/poor man’s emotions and ego by printing trash like this article above- “Your car is better than a Ferrari, Your horrible life is better than rich peoples, blah, blah, blah”
In 1960’s America, that Ferrari was like starship Galatica compared to what the common man had available to him. Just look at that engine “Typical aluminum V12 Engine” cut away!
The hubris at Road & track is almost unbearable. Those cars where state of the art- the whole Italian Cottage Sports car industry was at its postwar height.
What’s funny, is I read an article in Automobile magazine’s 30th aniversay issue- they compared a Ferrari 328 to a toyoda MR2! The MR2, no suprise, came out on top. And they said the “Italians better watch their backs”!!
Ferrari must of been shaking in their boots when toyoda came into F1, wasted a billion dollars, than High tailed back to japan, after ten years, & no results.
No wonder all these magazines are dying, they write nonsense, and always have.
P.S. Porsches are junk- glorified beetles
I have always known both Rolls and Ferrari were a joke. If Rolls is so good, why were they using GM transmissions? And a 2 or even 3 Litre V12 is not gonna have enough torque to pull the skin off a rotten banana. No wonder the clutch problems. That engine belonged in a 450 lb sportbike.
Nothing really new here. Folks back then didn’t buy Ferraris to commute to work or haul the kids to school.
Ferrari started out with racing cars, and they were quite crude in every respect except the engine. But that came with a benefit: they typically outlasted the competition. In their own crude way, they were tough too.
Ferrari road cars were extensions of his approach to race car design. But all of that started to change right about the time of this article. Starting in the late 60s, Ferrari had no choice but to drastically increase the level of technology and sophistication, in order to stay competitive.
But yes, fundamentally they were always rather temperamental race horses. If you want a horse to pull a farm wagon or big coach, you don’t buy a thoroughbred. What else is new?
And yes, fleecing the rich with overpriced luxury goods is a splendid way to get rich, as long as you can be at or near the top of your market segment, by perpetually burnishing your brand. Ferrari was always good at that!
And yet, these cars are some of the most possessed and highly priced items on the market today, with sums changing hands in the tens of millions of dollars. It’s about passion first and foremost. And no other marque has instilled so much passion in its cars, before or since. It’s about the sum being more than the parts…
Well, Enzo Ferrari could have taught Ovid a thing or two when it came to myth-making, there’s no denying that.
The fascinating thing about products that successfully appeal to the very wealthy is how they often turn qualities that would be disastrous in a mass-market product into selling points. Part of that is simply that the ultra-rich don’t have to worry about practicality and often enjoy flaunting the fact that they don’t have to. No one would commute in a Ferrari, even one of the notionally softer touring models, because they had to. It might be annoying if you were late to some appointment because the car wouldn’t start or you lost the battle with the clutch, but in this tax bracket, most people are waiting for you. You don’t care about the price and any brusqueness on the part of the salesman or service manager may become an intriguing novelty in a world that for you is characterized mostly by obsequiousness. (It’s not uncommon, after all, for very rich men to spend lots of money hiring people to be — how shall I put this delicately — recreationally rude to them.)
Of course the most eternal of all auto enthusiast myths, at any income level, is that even the most maddening or diabolical of dynamic flaws is really no problem “if you know what you’re doing.” If something’s hopelessly finicky and temperamental, that just makes you look all the more superior if you manage to coax it into performing correctly.
Treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen.
Enzo knew exactly what he was doing when he kept royalty, celebrity and wealth all cooling their heels in the Modena gatehouse waiting for an audience with il commendatore, sometimes for hours.
Recreationally rude. hehehe.
I suppose one could note that the Pontiac GTO acceleration figures were from the legendary, nigh infamous Car and Driver road test, which involved a car that was not at all stock, to put it mildly. Road Test had reviewed the Pontiac in their December 1964 issue and had very little good to say about it either, although there’s no indication that they conducted any instrumented testing at that time. They did so for June 1967 in a test of the various American Supercars; their GTO couldn’t break the 15-second mark in the quarter, although it was one of the quickest of the bunch.
I don’t think the Road Test editors seriously expected that this was going to dissuade anyone from buying a Ferrari, but I get the feeling that the magazine’s early days were driven by a sense of pent-up outrage at other magazines’ unwillingness to point out the emperor’s state of under-dress — not just in this case, but all around. After the first couple of years, the editorial staff had either changed or gotten some of the bile out of their systems, although they still, as a rule, had little patience for products relying mostly on hype.
Having read a variety of contemporary Ferrari articles in David E. Davis-era Car and Driver, I would say that sense of irritation is really the major difference between those and this. The distinguishing characteristic of the DED era is it was written like a lifestyle magazine rather than a consumer publication. The C/D reviews point out all of these same flaws (in fact, some of the critical quotes are from those articles), but paints them as signs of character rather than damning faults. It’s not that Davis and crew were unwilling to note that the emperor had no clothes, but they generally opted to emphasize his lovely tan and how you could barely notice the appendectomy scars or the cleft palate (and usually said so in about that tone).
Road Test’s using performance figures from very non-stock cars as a compassion amounts to a bit of a hoax in its own right. And they obviously didn’t “get” Ferraris ans such. A bit too much like Consumer Reports, except for not using credible stats.
When Road Test conducted its own instrumented tests (which wasn’t the case here), they were reasonably credible. We admittedly have the advantage of having a variety of road tests and collections of road tests within easy reach; the writer of this article appears to have just had a couple of back issues of Car and Driver, whose numbers in this era tended to the, er, cheerfully approximate.
Yikes…. he really does call a spade a backhoe in that article! Brave words indeed and basically what I have always thought about the marque. For whatever reason, I have never been attracted to them, with the exception of the Dino and 308’s. I drove a second generation Dino once and was horribly disappointed – I knew it was a sports car but there was no refinement or finesse at all. Striking from a distance and even more striking up close when one could see drooping doors, terrible panel pit and disappointing quality all round. cter the drive I got back info my Mercedes 250 CE and what a difference – proper suspension, perfection in assembly, everything solid and built with purpose in mind.
Perhaps now they are better but these days more than ever they really are ways for people with roo much money to spend some of it. There is no longer any need to buy a Ferrari to get performance.
Paging Wayne Carini….
I always smile when people poke a stick at haute couture.
It’s simply a case of ignorance.
Ashley bases his opinion on driving a wreck. Basic equipment levels exceed industry specs……
Makes me happy these opinions as it keeps the prices down.
I get this silly talk at work , my corner exit speed is 30 kph faster on my hyper expensive Italian bike than my co-workers japper.
I wonder why?
Keeps the prices down? On a Ferrari?
I have had the pleasure of riding in a Ferrari a grand total of one time, back in the mid ’80’s. I don’t remember what the model was (308?) It was a trip from San Jose to San Francisco, CA. (apx 50 miles) on a rainy day.
When I arrived, I was nearly deaf from exposure to the cacophony emanating from behind, and my shoulder was soaking wet from a leaking window seal.
I guess that it is a good car for short trips on sunny days 🙂
I would have loved to have heard this writer’s comments a few years later on the phantom frua droptop! 🙂
Road & Track took a similar view in 1964, if a little more light-heartedly. Don’t know who the author is and don’t have any other pages, I just kept this tearsheet for the Lusso illustration.
The rest of the text from “So you’d like to own a Ferrari?” can be found here: http://members.rennlist.org/larrys911/So%20youd%20like%20to%20own%20a%20Ferrari.htm
Thanks for posting the 1st page, or I’d have never seen it!
There seems to be a fair bit of hyperbole and some outlandish claims here, eg what Pontiac GTO did 0-60 in 4.6 sec and 0-100 in 11.8? The Cobra acceleration times also look more like what the 427 did, not a 260.
Similarly, they use the Ferrari 250 GT 2+2 as their example for Ferrari performance, not exactly the hottest model in the line-up!
I doubt that anybody is too surprised that Ferrari-levels of performance require more than standard levels of maintenance, or that the cars are not designed with the mechanic in mind first and foremost. Practicality is sacrificed in the name of style, longevity in the name of performance.
As I alluded above, the Pontiac figures are from an infamous test published by Car and Driver in 1964. The car in question, as it later came out, did not have a Royal Bobcat Tri-Power 389 (itself not stock), but rather a Pontiac 421, which aside from having a half-liter more displacement was in what I think was more or less dragstrip tune. Car Life‘s well-tuned 1964 GTO (with Tri-Power and four-speed) was more in the realm of 6 seconds 0-60, probably a somewhat more realistic figure.
Cheers Aaron, I was writing while you were posting I think.
Weren’t there some magazines back then that would take a car to the drag strip and progressively try more tuning and add-ons such as slicks to get some pretty quick times too? People today aren’t aware and quote the best number they see.
Yes, there were several magazines, such as Hot Rod, that were primarily focused on tuning for best quarter mile E.T.s and that gave little if any mention to any other performance or dynamic characteristics. Some would note performance in stock form at least in passing, but stock form was seen principally as a starting point for further modification.
However, the magazines that had that focus usually described in considerable detail the modifications involved in achieving those numbers, which wasn’t necessarily the case with the more general “buff books.” Sometimes, the editors simply didn’t know for sure — some “ringers” are hard to spot without a teardown. Sometimes, they just went with it because it made for a more exciting or conversation-worthy story.
Launch technique was also a big consideration. Years ago (well after the aforementioned), Car and Driver used to do a 5–60 “street start” test, which was sometimes very revealing of the difference between real-world performance and the sort of numbers you can only get if you’re willing to abuse the drivetrain in potentially expensive ways.
I think that the Ferrari’s cachet comes from it’s racing heritage and exclusivity. These cars won a lot of races so the road cars were highly anticipated and esteemed. I think the shortcomings were always seen as a badge of honor to those who were dedicated and rich enough to own and drive one. These drivers were not expecting those Ferraris to see duty as commuters, grocery getters, and car poolers. They owned different cars that could fulfill those duties. Why dilute the glory just to make a car more practical? The build quality was probably pretty iffy but they were handbuilt, which implies both the good and bad connotations. I’ve watched a lot of videos on Jay Leno’s garage and he says that not only are new Ferraris fantastic, they are genuinely good cars also. Back in the Muscle car heyday enthusiastic owners put up with noisy, rough riding, hard to tune cars because they wanted the performance, and were willing to make the compromises. Now the buyer of a new Hellcat doesn’t have to make any real compromises. Progress for all buyers.
Now the buyer of a new Hellcat doesn’t have to make any real compromises. Progress for all buyers.
But… The Hellcat is tucked away in garages more often than not just as much as those old Ferraris that were a “handful”. I’ve seen a few of them, at car shows/cruise nights, and if not they’re going to one. They’re really just status symbols for the not as wealthy, not daily drivers
And I’m going to dispute the Muscle car heyday claims. Unless equipped with a ridiculously rare 4bbl x 2, or a 2bbl x 3, or a solid lifter engine option, tunability on one isn’t any worse than it would be on the Johnson family’s Country Squire. High test gasoline was mostly a must, but otherwise the engines in the vast majority of Muscle cars were simply engines taken straight from the full size line with maybe a different cam and higher compression. Other compromises you mentioned weren’t even really compromises at all for the technology of the time, there was no bar except for what was available, and comparing to today’s standards is irrelevant. Was a GTO really noisy, rough riding, and harder to tune(in single carb form) compared to other cars in the Pontiac lineup? It’s not like a GTO was a stripper afterall, many of the Muscle cars, minus the more bare bones RoadRunner types that came later, were based upon higher trim lines like the LeMans in the GTO’s case. I’ll grant you extra exhaust noise, but that is not something that has changed for enthusiasts with progress, that’s still considered desirable.
For the most part, most of the shortcomings of ’60s Supercars were shared with their milder siblings. The major criticism cars like the GTO got from magazines like Road Test was that they were really just family sedans with bigger engines and marginally stiffer suspensions.
Well, 50 years later Ferrari is still making a killing racing and selling highly expensive cars, and Road Test Magazine, where are they now?
So I guess we know whose business model had the longest legs, although I wonder how much of Ferrari’s profit is from hats jackets and other swag.
My best auto show experience was the time I went to an FCA national show, and was mistaken as a judge by the organizers because I wasn’t dripping with Ferrari swag and carrying a camera. 🙂