The Ferrari 348 Buying Guide – An underappreciated classic no more

Ferrari 348 TS (1991) 5

The Ferrari 348 may not have been an instant hit at launch but regular updates and looks that have aged rather well make them rather more desirable as a classic buy.

Successfully replacing a popular model in a manufacturer’s range must surely give the designers and engineers sleepless nights, when it came to finally retiring the 308/328 formula the successor had to be more than simply better, it had to be brilliant.

Unfortunately, the Ferrari 348 was not that car, released in 1989 in TS (targa) and TB (coupe) body styles it soon became clear that the added performance and technology did not amount to an improved experience from behind the wheel. The coming recession and threat from accomplished newcomers like the Honda NSX threatened to relegate the new mid-engined V8 to an also ran before it had even put its running shoes one.

Ferrari 348 TS (1991) 6

But Ferrari didn’t stand still for long, a number of constant improvements were carried out which rectified a lot of the complaints and the allure of that prancing horse badge helped shift over 8,800 348s during the six-year production run. It wasn’t just badge appeal though, the 3.4-litre V8 was a development of the 328s, now producing 296bhp it gave the 348 a 0-60mph time of well under six-seconds, top speed was now over 170mph. The tricky handling at the limited reported by some early road tests was quickly addressed with revised suspension settings and the initial poor build quality also improved over the years. 1993 brought about the biggest changes with more power, an updated gearbox and a revised chassis setup. The naming was changed to GTS and GTB while a drop top Spider was also added to the range.

With the benefit of hindsight, the 348 could hardly be considered a failure and driving one today still delivers an immersive driving experience that is absent in most modern sports cars. The delicacy of the unassisted steering and high-revving engine add an additional level of engagement to this often overlooked classic.

Ferrari 348 Engine and gearbox

The 3.4-litre unit is generally reliable but early cars did have cam chain tensioner issues, a running update addressed this issue but check the paperwork to be sure it was done. All models featured dry sump lubrication. Cambelts require replacing every three years or 24,000-miles but some owners have found them to last a lot longer. Leave it too long though and an engine rebuild could be on the cards if the belt snaps.

Yes, second gear is difficult to engage when cold, this trait is shared with its predecessors. The second gear synchro is also a weak spot but otherwise the five-speed manual transmission is a rugged unit. Clutches can last up to 40,000-miles but frequent changes can indicate a hard life. The T in the 348’s name refers to the transversely mounted gearbox, a layout it shared with the contemporary Mondial T.

 

Ferrari 348 Suspension and Brakes

Numerous tweaks and updates to the suspension geometry over the years means that it is best to have a specialist set your car up to perform at its best. Check for worn bushes and shocks as they can negatively affect the handling balance.

Ferrari 348 Bodywork and interior

The galvanised body is not prone to rust but cars that have spent some time outdoors can still suffer from corrosion. Check the door cavities, sills and around the wheel arches for any issues.

The rubber coating on the switches gets sticky with age, a common issue that afflicts a number of Ferraris built during this period. You can get it either recoated or simply remove the coating altogether. The build quality took a significant step in the right direction as production went on, especially so from 1993-on. Check that all the electronics are working as they should, damaged wiring or corroded connections can render the air conditioner inoperative as well as cause other issues.

Ferrari 348 TS (1991)

Model History Of The Ferrari 348

1989:   Ferrari 348 TS and TB revealed, 296bhp 3.4-litre V8 and five-speed manual transmission standard fitment

1990:   Continuous running updates include an updated engine management system and alternator

1993:   Major model update: Revised engine pushes power up to 316bhp, chassis and gearbox are also modified. Spider body style introduced and naming for Targa and Coupe changes to GTS and GTB respectively.

348 GTC Competizione introduced (50 built in total). Changes included a modified exhaust, suspension and braking system as well as a stripped out interior shaving a huge 419 pounds off the kerb weight

1995:   Production ends with 8,844 cars built in total

Ferrari 348 Challenge (1993) 3

Which Ferrari 348 To Buy

There are a few things to keep in mind when getting behind the wheel of a 348; the gearchange into second is always going to be hesitant when cold, an aftermarket exhaust can make a big difference to the driving experience and the suspension geometry needs to be set up just right. Years of mediocre and sometimes even negative reviews have kept prices well below both 328 and 355 levels, yet much of the criticisms have long been addressed making the 348 a potentially shrewd purchase if you know what to look for.

Thanks to the constant updates the later model cars are more desirable but many of the changes can and were retrofitted to the early cars too. Very low mileages command a big premium but can often harbour numerous issues, like any classic the 348 likes to be regularly exercised. The updated GTS, GTB and Spider models from 1993-on offer slightly enhanced performance along with better handling but prices reflect their increased desirability. The targa’s removable roof section provides and added level of enjoyment on sunny days without having to contend with the complexity of the Spider’s fully folding roof.

These two variants tend to fetch the highest prices, especially when in the traditional red/cream colour combo. The rare GTC ‘Competizione’ is on another level thanks to its rarity and the stripped out interior and race-tuned suspension give it a far harder edge than the standard models. Take your time, drive a few examples and buy the best one you can afford, the 348 is no longer a bargain but it still offers serious value compared to its peers.

Ferrari 348 Specifications

3.4-litre V8 -F119D/G

Power:             296bhp

Top speed:       171mph

0-60mph:         5.6sec

Economy:        20mpg est.

 

3.4-litre V8 -F119H

Power:             316bhp

Top speed:       174mph

0-60mph:         5.4sec

Economy:        20mpg est.

Text John Tallodi  Photos Ferrari, Vanderveken Sa, Mugello Cars

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