Evolution of a Species - Ferrari 328 GTS, 355 F1, and F430

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Evolution of a Species - Ferrari 328 GTS, 355 F1, and F430

Post by scottm » Sun Feb 19, 2017 9:38 pm


Evolution of a Species - 1989 Ferrari 328 GTS, 1998 Ferrari 355 F1, 2006 Ferrari F430
Ferrari's mid-engined V-8 sports cars have changed over the years, but the spirit remains the same
https://www.hemmings.com/magazine/hsx/2 ... 33631.html
Observing the evolution of living species can only take place when viewing the world a million years at a clip, but evolution of the automotive kind takes place at a more rapid pace.

Since the 1976 debut of the Ferrari 308, the mid-engined, V-8-powered models have been--far and away--Ferrari's best sellers. Despite intense demand for their products, Ferrari has not spent the past 38 years standing still. About every five years or so, a new model emerges, each one faster, more high-tech and, ultimately, more expensive.

So, what does it feel like to experience three decades of Ferrari advancement in one afternoon? Sometimes you have to go find a story and sometimes the story finds you. Bill McElveney, a Rochester, New York-based businessman who serves as president of the McElveney & Palozzi Design Group, contacted us several months ago, wanting to share his small collection of V-8 Ferraris with us. Who are we to say no to an offer like that? Packing up all of our photo gear and some narrow, Ferrari-compliant shoes, we headed out from Hemmings world headquarters in Bennington, Vermont, to Rochester to find out.

Bill's "collection" (not a word he would use to describe his small fleet of Ferraris) consists of a 1989 328 GTS, a 1998 355 F1 Berlinetta and a 2006 F430. Each car represents the peak of evolution of each of three major redesigns over the years. The 1989 Ferrari 328 GTS was the last of the original breed, an evolution of the 308 The 355 can be viewed as a 348 with all of its kinks worked out, and even the F430 represents an upgrade over the 360 that preceded it. In short, we had the opportunity to sample the best of each generation.

All three share the same basic principles: a mid-mounted, DOHC V-8 engine in a relatively small and tight package all wrapped up in luscious Pininfarina-designed bodywork. And, yet, each one feels distinctly different in character, the result of both technological advancement, reaction to the competition and, perhaps, the changing expectations of the high end of the market.

From the introduction of the fiberglass-bodied 308 in 1976, the type had undergone many changes by the time the 328 debuted 10 years later. Steel replaced the plastic body, carburetors were ditched for more emissions-compliant fuel injection and four-valve heads replaced the two-valve units for the 308 Quattrovalvole models. For 1986, bore and stroke were bumped up by 2mm each and compression was boosted from 8.6 to 9.2, giving the car a healthy 260hp, though the power peaked at 7,000 RPM and the 212-lb.ft. of torque likewise arrived at 5,500 RPM.

Still, the car was a hit, delivering significantly better performance, finally allowing the Ferrari to thoroughly best the far less expensive Porsche 911, particularly at higher speeds. Ferrari also had the good sense to refine the exterior, with more integrated front and rear treatments, including body-color bumpers. The interior, too, benefited from new seats, a new dashboard and far more useful climate controls. Revised steering and suspension also upped the ante for Ferrari.

Getting into and out of any low-riding, mid-engine car is not the same as climbing in and out of a standard sedan. Fortunately, the 328 does not require the full-race contortion of actually climbing in or, perhaps, the alternate method of butt first and swing the legs around later. Of course, you still need to be prepared to squeeze your feet into a rather narrow space wedged between the inner wheel well and the tunnel that runs down the center of the car. The relatively stiff but wholly supportive seats and that shiny chrome shift lever and its iconic gate are more reminders of its serious sporting intentions.

Unlike the two other ground-bound missiles shown on these pages, the 328 makes you work for speed. There is no automated manual handling the gear changing for you, matching revs and blipping the throttle as necessary. The 328 begs you to rev it to get the most out of it--and rev it you must if you want to go fast. The gated shifter requires a bit of precision and thinking on the driver's part before you change gears, or inadvertently clang the chrome lever off one of the gates. It's as if you are shifting into a giant salad fork.

Fortunately, the 328 makes great music, the sound of valves ticking ever more rapidly, just inches behind your head, and the whoosh of a hungry intake combined with the high-pitched growl of the moderately muffled exhaust would be enough to make this car special. The unassisted steering requires extra effort for parking lot maneuvers, but offers unhindered feedback when the speed picks up. But the primary experience of the 328 GTS, with its removable roof panel, is the sound of the high-revving V-8 and the complete driving experience that engages both hands and both feet at all times.

The 328's replacement, the 348, arrived late in 1989 for the 1990 model year. Though it made a bona fide 300hp, its Testarossa-inspired side strakes appeared dated the day it debuted and the game-changing Acura NSX trumped the 348's real-world performance, delivering better performance and greater reliability. Ferrari responded with the F355 in 1995, creating a five-valve-per-cylinder V-8-powered supercar with an insane 8,500 RPM redline that made 375hp and, more importantly, leapfrogged the NSX's performance.

Just as those five-valve cylinder heads came courtesy of Ferrari's Formula 1 program, so, too, did the automated manual F1 transmission that debuted in 1997. The automated gearbox, which used computer-controlled hydraulics for clutch engagement and gear changing, allowed drivers to change gears far more rapidly than a conventional transmission using steering-wheel mounted paddles. Software prevented the driver from ever over-revving the engine, and would blip the throttle at appropriate times for the most precise shifts. Ferrari had pioneered the technology in Formula 1 in 1989 and within a few years the entire grid had gone the two-pedal route.

Around town, the 355 barks and squawks, exhibiting all the appropriate behavior of the caged animal that it is, the F1 gearbox clanging gears around in a rough manner and the variable-assist power steering not really all that communicative or seemingly precise either. But a funny thing happens when you find an open road and press harder on the accelerator: The car comes alive. That transmission starts to shine, expertly coordinating throttle, clutch and gear selection as soon as you tug on one of the steering wheel mounted paddles. The steering feels more natural and intuitive. The five-valve V-8 sports an angrier tone than the 328, loudly howling and screaming toward 8,000 RPM.

Where the 328 makes you work for your speed, the 355 has it in abundance, its 375hp always at your beck and call. Though peak power arrives at an absurdly high 8,250 RPM, the 355 seems to have plenty more grunt down low than the 328 did. Beyond the shriek and wail of the engine, Ferrari engineers treated the entire car to a slew of updates. Though nearly identical dimensionally to the 348, the 355 was exactly the sort of car Maranello needed to respond to the NSX.

In 1999, Ferrari introduced the 360 Modena, a car seemingly designed more by wind tunnel and computer than by human hand, but, nonetheless, more powerful, faster and more stable than the 355. With very extensive use of aluminum in the chassis, the 360 even weighed a bit less than the 355. The F430, which debuted in 2005, represented a grand update to the 360, including even more time in the wind tunnel, a significant increase in displacement to 4.3 liters--bringing power up to an F40-like 483hp and torque to 343-lb.ft.--and a few more clicks up the refinement ladder.

While the 328 feels like a production sports car and the 355 a barely disguised race car, the F430 feels as bespoke as the proverbial Swiss watch, albeit a very high-end Swiss watch. Ironically enough, Ferrari built the F430 in a far more automated factory than the 328. From the yellow stitching that joins the acres of leather used throughout the cabin to the perfectly woven and cured carbon fiber components to the incredibly solid feeling shifter paddles, there is a character to the F430 that seems to justify its stratospheric price tag. Beyond the beautifully functional--and massive--carbon-ceramic brakes, the largely glass decklid shows off a stunner of an engine, as much a thing of beauty as it is a killer powerplant. Distinctive, protruding Enzo-like taillamps are the icing on the cake.

Behind the wheel, the F430, also equipped with an automated manual gearbox, brings truly effortless speed to the willing driver. Revs build astonishingly quickly for the flat-plane-crankshaft-equipped engine--a feature that debuted in the 360 that allows the engine to breathe better and make more power at higher revs, though it does result in more vibration. Of course, it also adds its own distinctive aria when approaching the intoxicatingly high 8,500 RPM power peak.

The seats are snug, the controls are all sensibly placed and the closed cabin as quiet as an empty church. Unlike the 355, which acts reluctantly and rebelliously around town, the F430 cares not a whit about taking it easy. But that fierce engine will build revs as quickly as you want it to, the red needle on the bright yellow tachometer swinging wildly, rotating as fiercely as the engine, the computer banging off shifts within milliseconds as you pull the paddles behind the wheel, all the while getting shoved into the seat as the car surges ahead. Get up into sixth gear, at around 100 MPH, slow down a bit, then tap down a couple of gears and listen to the engine howl and shriek as you climb back up to triple digit speeds. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Joy is alive and well at 8,000 RPM.

Evolution: It might be a word normally reserved for the living, but there exist machines that follow the pattern. If you are just evaluating the performance numbers, the 328, today out-powered by most minivans, would suffer the most. But, its character shines in mastering the gated shifter, enjoying the pure steering and working to make it sing. The F430 somehow manages to shine and connect to your soul despite the sense that its precision and refinement emerged from the latest fault-tolerant super computer. And that leaves us with the 355. In terms of reliability and maintenance, it has earned a reputation as a temperamental beast. It requires relatively frequent timing belt swaps that literally require the removal of the entire engine. Its interior plastics were finished in a coating that leaves many surfaces sticky and decaying. And, yet, it seems to be able to most deliver that Ferrari race car feeling to the road, a mark of the species that all three cars carry to one degree or another.

1989 Ferrari 328 GTS

Base Price: $77,900
Engine: V-8, aluminum block and cylinder heads with dual-overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder
Displacement: 3,186cc
Bore x stroke: 83.0 x 73.6 mm
Compression ratio: 9.2:1
Fuel delivery: Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection
Horsepower: 260 @ 7,000 RPM
Torque: 212-lb.ft @5,500 RPM
Transmission: Five-speed manual (fifth gear overdrive)
Suspension, front/rear: Independent, unequal length control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Brakes: Vented discs (11.1 inches front/11.0 inches rear) with anti-lock function and power assist
Wheelbase: 92.5 inches
Overall length: 169.1 inches
Height: 44.1 inches
Width: 67.7 inches
Weight: 3,090 pounds
0-60 MPH: 5.6 seconds*
Top speed: 153 MPH*
*Car and Driver, May 1986 test of Ferrari 328GTS

1998 Ferrari 355 F1

Base Price: $131,325
Engine: V-8, aluminum block and cylinder heads with dual-overhead camshafts and five valves per cylinder
Displacement: 3,495cc
Bore x stroke: 85 x 77 mm
Compression ratio: 11:1
Fuel delivery: Bosch Motronic fuel injection
Horsepower: 375 @ 8,250 RPM
Torque: 268-lb.ft. @ 6,000 RPM
Transmission: Six-speed automated manual transmission with electro-hydraulically actuated clutch and gear change; steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters
Suspension, front/rear: independent, unequal-length control arms, coil springs, electronically controlled shock absorbers, anti-roll bar
Brakes: Vented discs (11.8 inches front/12.2 inches rear) with anti-lock function and power assist
Wheelbase: 96.5 inches
Overall length: 167.3 inches
Height: 46.1 inches
Width: 74.8 inches
Weight: 3,300 pounds
0-60 MPH: 4.9 seconds*
Top speed: 179 MPH*
*Car and Driver, September 1998 test of a 1998 Ferrari 355 F1

2006 Ferrari F430

Base Price: $186,925
Engine: V-8, aluminum block and cylinder heads with dual-overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder
Displacement: 4,302cc
Bore x stroke: 92.0 x 81.0 mm
Compression ratio: 11.3:1
Fuel delivery: Fuel injection
Horsepower: 483 @ 8,500 RPM
Torque: 343-lb.ft. @ 5,250 RPM
Transmission: Six-speed automated manual transmission with electro-hydraulically actuated clutch and gear change; steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters
Suspension, front/rear: Independent, unequal-length control arms, coil springs, electronically controlled shock absorbers, anti-roll bar
Brakes: Vented discs (14.2 inches front/13.8 inches rear) with anti-lock function and power assist
Wheelbase: 102.4 inches
Overall length: 177.6 inches
Height: 47.8 inches
Width: 75.7 inches
Weight: 3,344 pounds
0-60 MPH: 3.5 seconds*
Top speed: 186 MPH*
*Car and Driver, January 2005 test of 2006 Ferrari F430 with F1 gearbox

Owner's Story

It was not my intention to have three of them. My intention was not really to have one of them. I had owned Hondas for many years and kept them between 10 and 15 years each. I was able to save quite a bit of money for whatever was going to be expected for my two children's college education, marriages and things. After my kids were through with college and grad school, I decided to think about something a little different. I wanted to get a two-seater because I had never really had a sports car. I looked at my dealers, and of course, they wanted me to get a Honda and it just wasn't the right thing for me. I wanted something a little different than most.

I decided to call up a Ferrari dealer and ask some questions. The first thing I heard was "Are you willing to wait three years for it?" And I said, "I guess I am if that's what has to happen." Something's really special about these cars. I looked a little further and did some more research. They were just coming out with the F430 and it was an F1 version, which was Formula 1 technology in a road car. I thought, "This looks like something I'd really like to look at."

I then realized that the price tag was way up there. Then again, I also thought that you don't buy these cars every day. I found an F430 on the West Coast. After about two months, I was very familiar and I loved the car. And I thought, "What else do they have?" I found a 13,000 mile 1998 355 in 2008 and then the 1989 328 because my wife said, "If you ever get another one, it has to be red!"
I thought this story gave a great overview of the mid engine V8 Ferrari. My favorites have to be the 328 and the 355.
Scott Moseman
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