I continue to tiptoe through the automatically equipped tulips of the collector car world.
Due to our ingrained disdain for slushboxes (well-deserved, given the Jurassic technology of the most-often used three-speed Borg Warner 35 tranny), these cars can be bought at a substantial discount from their manual-shift brethren.
While my decision to pursue automatics was created by conditions outside my control, I have decided to make lemonade out of my lemons. I have come to realize that most of my time in old cars is spent cruising, not hammering it to redline and slamming through the gears. An automatic is a reasonable option, if I set my ego aside.
Because I am incapable of being satisfied with the cars I own, I am now looking for another. Yes, that means that something has to go, either our original-paint Volvo 122S or the Apocalypse Special, our RHD Land Rover D90 Turbo Diesel. But I always buy first and figure out how to pay for it by selling something second.
Both an Iso Lele and a Ferrari 400i automatic have popped up on my radar screen. The Lele has striking styling by Bertone and reliable Ford V8 power. Tom Papadopoulos of Autosport Designs has one for sale with remarkably low mileage, under 5,000. While I am told it has some cosmetic needs, it appeals to me.
Darren Frank, SCM Super Sales Executive (and Grifo owner) and I both think it is more than fully priced at $89,500, but like anything in the car world, I am sure it is negotiable. Before I throw my hat in the ring, however, I want to be sure it is the right car for me.
My second choice is the Ferrari 400i. This was the first automatic offered by Ferrari. It’s an outdated three-speed, but I have learned when you have large displacement and big torque numbers, fewer speeds in the auto are fine.
400s are less expensive that Leles, primarily because they are more numerous. However, the V12 engine and Ferrari heritage offer nearly unlimited paths to fiscal self-immolation.
There is one offered on BaT right now that is visually quite appealing. But as I write this, the seller has been unresponsive to my requests for detailed mechanical information.
Here was my last post: “It is very easy to run up $20k in repairs. To bid sight unseen I would like you to provide a record of repairs and maintenance, along with an assessment of current condition by a marque-specialist shop. This is a lovely car and I hope you can create the atmosphere of assurance that allows me to bid with confidence. I have had too many catastrophic experiences with Ferraris to not want to be fully informed here. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would benefit from more information. TY.”
One of the hallmarks of successful BaT sellers is a full-disclosure listing. Aside from “recent fluid changes,” this seller has listed nothing about engine services, no compression readings, nothing.
I’m in no hurry. Part of the fun of car collecting, in the absence of old-fashioned auctions with time constraints, is that you have time to gather information and muse before bidding.
My budget is $30,000-$40,000. Generally paying a premium for an ultra-low mileage car doesn’t appeal to me as I plan to put miles on it anyway. I prefer a driver-quality car with no immediately needs such as checking paint, torn upholstery or worn-valve guides or piston rings.
Also, I want the reassurance from the seller that this is a properly maintained car that doesn’t need to go directly from the car hauler to the shop.
The expectations of buyers on BaT have made it more possible to achieve this – a good driver with nothing catastrophic lurking in the near future.
Of course, I understand that old cars are old cars and there are no guarantees. But I can say that the buyers of my three vintage Alfas have been satisfied that they bought cars in good mechanical fettle, with decent cosmetics. I’m looking for that as well.
What’s your opinion here? Lele or 400i? Or can you suggest something else? Like Lewis and Clark, I am on an unexplored trail and hoping for something new and wondrous around every bend.
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