The 348 has good performance, is fun to drive, comfortable, and has eye-catching styling. The service issues have proven to be more myth than reality

The Ferrari 348 had the unenviable task of following up Maranello's best-selling 308/328 duo. A truly innovative design, it was the first Ferrari to be based on a robot-welded monocoque. Cradled by a separate subframe, its quad-cam, 32-valve, 3,405-cc V8 was longitudinally mounted with a transverse gearbox. Developing 300 hp, the 348 was a near performance match for its Testarossa big brother (0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds and a 171 mph top speed). The two also shared a number of styling cues. The 348 was the king of the junior supercars until the arrival of its 355 successor.

This red with black left-hand-drive example is described as "absolutely superb." Reportedly treated to a £3,000 ($5,000) gearbox overhaul, new tires, fresh brakes, and replacement cam belt service at 63,000 km, it now shows 80,000 km on its odometer. Ready to be driven away from today's sale, it is worthy of close inspection.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1990 Ferrari 348 tb
Number Produced:around 9,000 examples of all 348s
Original List Price:$103,400
Distributor Caps:n/a, individual coils
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on frame above passenger side rear shock absorber
Engine Number Location:Top rear of engine on passenger side (does not match chassis #)
Club Info:Ferrari Club of America PO Box 720597 Atlanta, GA 30358
Investment Grade:D

This 1990 Ferrari 348 tb sold for $39,446, including buyer’s premium, at H&H’s auction in Buxton, England, on June 10, 2009.

You wouldn’t have to survey many Ferrari guys to find one who thought the 348 was the worst car Ferrari ever made. They would tell you about horrible maintenance issues, terrifying handling issues, uninspiring styling, and lackluster performance. Except for the styling, which is subjective, they would be wrong on all points.

The late 1960s saw the first round of U.S. federally mandated safety and emission standards. They were followed by significantly ratcheted-up standards in the ’70s. The result was an era of cars with strange, ugly bumper appendages and marginalized performance. Exotic manufacturers continued designing cars for European markets and in some cases abandoned the U.S. market, while others made crude modifications that compromised the elegance and performance of the original design.

The 1980s saw Europe adopting more stringent standards, and as manufacturers recognized the need to meet standards through integrated design rather than tack-on devices, a minor revolution in automobile manufacturing began.

Nowhere was this revolution more evident than at Ferrari. With the introduction of the Testarossa in 1984, and with a little help from an eased U.S. bumper standard (reduced from 5 mph to 2.5 mph), Ferrari showed the world that an exotic could meet safety and emission standards without compromising performance or design. If the Testarossa allowed Ferrari to rethink how a car was designed, the 348 was the next step-a rethink of how a car was built. High-tech solutions were used throughout the 348, making it at the time the most advanced and perhaps most controversial street car in Ferrari history.

The 348 came at the end of the high market of the late 1980s; Testarossas and F40s were selling for well over list price and almost all Ferraris were worth more tomorrow than they were today. When the 348 was announced, Ferrari salesmen found themselves flooded with speculators who were convinced getting a 348 was their road to riches. By the time the first cars were delivered, waiting lists were over three years long and the market value of a 348 was as much as double the $100,000-plus MSRP.

The perfect storm to sink the 348

The bubble burst quickly, both technically and financially. It began when European magazines reported high-speed handling issues for the 348. Early deliveries had serious timing gear issues. Then came upgrades for an undersized alternator. Ferrari quickly resolved the service issues and updated things like battery placement to improve handling, but the damage was done. Service issues, combined with a general market malaise, made the perfect storm to sink the 348.

Within months, prices were dropping and speculators were dropping out. At about the six-month point, 348s were list price commodities and salesmen who called customers to pick up their cars were hearing: “I think I’ll pass.” By the twelfth month, the backlog was gone and there was inventory on showroom floors.

Unsold 348s began to stack up in Ferrari’s warehouses, and Ferrari’s charismatic new president, Luca di Montezemolo, had his first major challenge. He met the challenge with the age-old automobile marketing trick of making special editions. The original 348 tb and 348 ts were supplemented with the 348 Spider. The chopped top edition featured more horsepower, a wider track, and a few other tricks. Along with the Spider, Ferrari targeted single markets with special editions made in small runs. The specials mostly featured superficial trim differences, but they stirred the pot.

The U.S. got the 100 Series Speciale cars, while England had a four-car special run. Europe got the 348 Competizione-50 cars that were more show than go. I think Japan even had a special edition, and while they were at it, Ferrari rebadged the original 348 ts and tb as the 348 GTB and GTS in a feeble effort to clear the plate.

The smartest move was starting the 348 Challenge Series

On the professional side, Ferrari produced, or at least endorsed, the 348 GTC and GT/C-LM race cars. And the smartest move Ferrari made was starting the 348 Challenge. The single-model series drew attention to the model and helped stimulate sales. The Challenge (currently powered by the F430) is now the longest-running factory-backed race series of all time.

Each of the micro runs produced interesting cars that brought prospects and even buyers back to the showroom. Each series was initially successful, but sales soon petered out. In the end, the last of the 348s just wouldn’t sell, and it took a $10,000 incentive to clear out excess inventory before the 355 could be released.

The 348 has good performance and is a fun car to drive. It’s comfortable and has eye-catching styling. The service issues have proven to be more of a myth than a reality. The engine is stout, as is the transmission. The clutch can be a weak link and there are some minor bodywork issues, but it’s a much better car than its reputation, and good examples are worth buying. An excellent source of everything 348 is; it is highly recommended reading before taking the plunge.

This wasn’t the first time around the block for H&H’s 348 tb, s/n 85528. Back in July 2007, H&H offered this same car with roughly the same mileage, and it was a no-sale at about $32,000. The seller was right to not have taken the bid, as this time it sold for about $7,000 more. The bid was a bit short of what I’d expect a U.S. sale to bring, but it was representative of the market. As 430s, 360s, and 355s depreciate, 348 values have to go downward. Concerns over service, legitimate or not, will haunt the model, and I suspect the values will end up somewhere under the value of a similar 328. As with the 328, for someone looking for an entry-level Ferrari experience for used-Lexus money, a properly-serviced 348 is a decent choice. Overall, I’d call this one well bought.

(Introductory description courtesy of H&H Auctions.)

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