Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Affordable Exotics : Twelve cars you should buy because life is too short to drive a Camry - Ferrari 400

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Ferrari 400 1976 to 1979

We've painted a pretty rosy picture so far, right? You can have it all, the hot car, the house in the country, the kids in college. But the unfortunate flipside to some "affordable" exotics is that the maintenance costs can be absolutely oppressive.

Take, for example, this 1979 Ferrari 400, which was loaned to us by the Markowskis at RPM Restorations in Vergennes, Vermont. The car is currently available for south of our $27,000 threshold, as many of this particular model are. Regardless of its outward appearance, though, if it's a V-12 Ferrari you're interested in, this is the cheapest way to get in the door.

But before you go away thinking, "That's an exotic you can keep," hear us out. The 400 is a special Ferrari. Thinking this Ferrari isn't fun to drive is just plain wrong. There's still a wailing V-12 under the hood, and there's still a Prancing Horse logo just about everywhere you look. Regardless of the body style, the sound emanating from the mufflers is absolutely intoxicating. And unlike traditional two-seat Ferraris, the 400 is usable. It's got a decent sized trunk, and the passenger cabin--even in the back seat--is massive and comfortable for four.

The trouble with this--and all "affordable" Ferraris--is that they're just as expensive to maintain as their much more expensive counterparts. Six Weber carbs are only going to add to the frustration. Steve Markowski notes that a distributor cap for this car runs about $500. There are two brake hoses per wheel, adding up to about $600 in hoses when the time comes to replace them. A manual transmission overhaul is $5,000. God forbid your engine needs serious work. The bill will run well into $40,000.

If you happen to like the '70s-era styling and the 400's raison d'être as much as we do, spend the money, and buy the best low-mileage example you can, preferably from someone who bought it new. But whatever you do, don't discount these cars as unappealing just because they don't fit the Ferrari profile.

Engine:V-12, 320hp
Top speed:149 mph
Price new:(Never sold in U.S.A.)
Typical cost today:$25,000
Number produced:501
Ease of maintenance:*
Annual maintenance cost:$$$$$
Potential maintenance cost:$$$$$
Fun value:***
Investment value:$$
(Ratings are out of 5)

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