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Why does service cost so much?

Jim Weed

Volume 49 Issue 09

May 11, 2024

Working on Ferraris is not easy. It requires more time and care to do even the most basic of maintenance compared to your BMW or Honda. This continuing series will highlight the trials and tribulations of my own 400 GT service.

    You know how much I love a 400 GT. I purchased a 1979 400 Auto from Beverly Hills Car Club several years ago. This was a car I had seen at the FCA International Meet in Columbus, Ohio. It was bronze (Bruno Mogano to be exact) with tan interior and while not a perfect example was still a clean and honest Ferrari.

    New Ferrari ownership is always exciting. We drove it to dinner and ice cream. We took it to Italian Car Day at Ferrari of Atlanta. We drove it to a couple of local car shows and it always draws lookers.

    Most don’t have a clue it is a Ferrari until they see the badge. Even then most have never seen one like this before. Admittedly the 400 GT is not what you think of when the word Ferrari comes up.

    But there is a V-12 under the hood and with three side-draft Webers filling each side of the engine compartment it makes for an impressive sight when the hood is opened.

    It came to me with about 42,000 smiles and I have added another couple thousand smiles since then. As I’ve gotten to know this car and have had a chance to really inspect all the nooks and crannies, I have come to appreciate just how original and honest this car is.

    With a bit of work, I think it could be a Preservation car as most everything is original and complete. But…

    There are some things every Ferrari needs. Service and maintenance. Mine leaks a bit of oil (shouldn’t all old cars do that?). It doesn’t run quite as well as I remember them when I drove many as service manager. So, I should dig into this car and perform a full service.

    This sporadic column is going to chronicle the trials and tribulations of what it is like to work on and maintain a Ferrari. I know most do not do their own work so this will not be a how-to with details to guide you on your own journey into the innards of your car.

    It will be a look into the problems that can arise when working on any old car, especially Ferraris. I hope you enjoy the journey as I delve into a 45-year-old Ferrari.

    I have a garage with a lift. If you are going to consider doing your own work, you MUST have a lift. Two posts, with arms, not ramps, and extra boards to drive upon to raise the car to a height so the arms will go under.

    Choose something sturdy under the car to place each arm. A small thin piece of plywood can provide some cushion between the arm and frame. I know these are basic, but I want to start with some safety tips. Before the Ferrari gets too far off the ground, wiggle it to make sure it’s stable.

    I have worked on a lot of cars and after forty years or so, I still have ALL my fingers and the tips. Always, keep safety first. One of my better mottos is “If you are getting ready to do something stupid, be smart about it.”

    So, what is the plan? Fluids, filters, find that oil leak, adjust the valves, check the timing, both cam and ignition, and synchronize those wonderful Webers.

    Oil and filter is the easiest thing to do so lets start there. Up goes the lift and find the drain plug. Gee, there is a lot of oil. Spend the next hour cleaning the drips off the bottom.

    Did I get it all? Of course not, but at least I won’t be dripped upon. Get a container for used oil. Get a LARGE container, a couple of milk jugs are not going to do.

    Most Ferraris are like oil tankers. The 400 GT carries sixteen quarts. Let’s see, divided by four, that’s four gallons!

    Did I say get a large container? Make sure it is transportable, you want to take it to recycling. Get new oil. Go to the auto parts store and get the recommended brand, type and weight.

    I run 20W50, but then again it does not get that cold in Atlanta and I’m probably not going to drive it in the winter. Buy a couple of cases, you will need it.

    I initially thought buying that much oil was expensive until I strolled into the Ferrari dealer and purchased two oil filters. Later I came to realize the filters were the cheap part of the process.

    Drain and refill, change filters, write the date on top and done! Easy. With that project accomplished, what is next?

    Oh, did I mention the reason I brought it into the shop was because the alternator decided to quit? Remove and send out to rebuild shop. Wait a week and retrieve.

    Another little project accomplished. So far there are no major difficulties in taking things apart. Working on a Ferrari is almost easy. Go slow, keep track of the hardware, and take photos if necessary.

    Since it is up in the air, I inspect all the hoses and decide the fuel lines from the tank to the carburetors really are forty years old and should be replaced.

    Quick testing also shows one of the fuel pumps is bad. Thank goodness Ferrari put two on or I might have been left on the side of the road.

    On a 400 GT there is one hose that runs from the fuel pumps by the left rear tire all the way to the engine compartment. This hose runs through the lower rocker panel with limited access at either end.

    Now we are getting deep into the project. Remove the left side exhaust. No, not that easy. The bolts are rusty. A couple refuse to cooperate.

    I learned a long time ago there is a Zen to working on cars. The bolt will only turn if it wants to. Your job is to convince the bolt that it wants to be removed.

    A little heat, a little oil, a bit more heat, an attempt to turn. Talk nice to get friendly with the bolt. More heat and oil. One hour later one of the reluctant bolts begins to turn. Victory!

    Another hour and the other has been convinced to join its brother on the workbench. Why does working on Ferraris cost so much? Because not everything should be man-handled or coerced to come apart.

    Working on Ferrari automobiles requires patience, knowledge, and patience. Yes, I said patience twice. Everything you do will require thought and planning. Organization of parts to keep track of where it came from and what will need to have further work.

    As one of my mechanics once said to me, “When working on Ferraris, school is out.”

    I hope you will enjoy this journey and appreciate the time and effort the mechanic puts into your Ferrari at the next service.


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