Although the concept of an affordable Ferrari sounds unlikely, there are a number of models that can be had for the price of less prestigious sports cars. New Porsche Boxsters, BMW Z-4s and Honda S2000s sell in the mid-thirties to low fifties, and there are used Ferraris that can be had in that same range, or even less.
However, repairing or restoring any Ferrari re-defines expensive, and can be many times that of a Corvette, Mercedes or Porsche. A simple rebuild on a Ferrari V-8 can quickly exceed $12,000, while a V-12 can run double that or more, so leave plenty of extra cash in the bank for unpleasant surprises. Here are some of the best buys (along with a few models to avoid).
Dino 308 GT4 (1974-1980)
Long one of the least loved Ferraris, the Dino 308 is just now starting to gain a new appreciation. It was a four-seat replacement for the much-admired Dino 246, but the styling was not as aggressive as the previous model and sales were slow. Although built at the Ferrari factory, it was officially called a Dino and did not sport Ferrari emblems. However, lackluster sales prompted many dealers to install prancing horse emblems themselves and in 1976 the Dino received Ferrari badges at the factory. A total of 2,826 308 GT4s were built. Prices start around $17,000 and peak in the upper twenties for really nice examples, which is great because the Dino performs as well as the visually sportier 308 GTB. Also, the restrained Dino styling has aged well, and now looks better than many "trendier" cars from that era.
308 GTB and GTS (1975-1984)
An entire generation grew up watching Tom Selleck tool around Hawaii in a stunning red Ferrari 308 GTS, thereby assuring faithful following for the "Magnum P.I." Ferrari. Performance was exciting (but not spectacular) and the Pininfarina-designed body is a classic. The first two years of production saw the 308 GTB (coupe) clothed in fiberglass, but in 1977 the panels were switched to steel. The 'glass-bodied cars are rarer (712 built), lighter and less rust-prone than their metal cousins. All GTS (roadster) models were steel. In 1980 the 308 switched from four Weber carburetors to fuel injection, but the resulting power loss made the 308 GTBi/GTSi models less desirable than the earlier carbureted or later QV models. In 1982 the QV three-liter engine was upgraded to four valves per cylinder (from two) to boost power. Expect to pay in the upper twenties for a two-valve 308, to around $35,000 for fiberglass and QV models. Over 11,400 steel-bodied 308 models were built.
328 GTB and GTS (1985-1989)
The 328 was an updated 308 with a new nose and a more powerful 3.2-liter engine. It was quick, refined, looked great and sold well with 7,412 built. In 1988 ABS became available; these models are identified by their convex wheels. Ferrari ironed out many of the detail problems from the 308 on the 328, making it one of the best-loved Ferraris. When the 348 model that followed failed to live up to expectations, it boosted the value of clean 328s. Early ones start in the upper forties while clean late-models with ABS are higher.
330 GT (1964-1967)
These elegant four-seat touring cars were the bread-and-butter models that kept Ferrari in the black during the 1960s. Sporting 300-hp V-12 engines, the big 330s would run nearly 150 mph and cruise the Autostradas and Autobahns all day long. They were also the first Ferraris offered with air conditioning. The Series I models (1964-1965) had two headlights per side, which were criticized as awkward. The Series II cars (1965-1967) had single headlights per side and sculptured side vents that gave them a more sophisticated look. Both are bargains, selling from $25,000 for rough examples to $45,000 for nice ones. Older V-12 Ferraris are pricey to restore, so pay extra for a healthy car.
Ferrari Mondial (1980-1993)
Although criticized for its bland styling and modest performance, the Mondial cabriolet is one of the cheapest Ferrari convertibles, plus it has four useful seats. The Mondial was a sporty 2+2 for the country club set, decried by Ferrari traditionalists, but popular with more sedate drivers. Mondials shared engines with whatever two-seat Ferrari was also in production at the time. The first Mondials (1980 to 1981) had the anemic engine also used in the 308 GTBi/GTSi models, but was far heavier so performance can best be described as tepid. In 1982 the QV engine perked things up some and in 1985 the 328 engine made the Mondial almost adequate. The final evolution was the Mondial t (1989-1993), which used the muscular engine from the Ferrari 348 to make the Mondial come alive. More cabriolets were sold than coupes, with a total of 6,104 Mondials of all types sold. The high production numbers and lackluster performance have kept Mondial prices in the thirties, with the Mondial t selling in the mid-forties.
Not all Ferraris are universally loved, and some have poor maintenance records (even by exotic car standards). Here are a few low-priced used Ferraris to be avoided.
365 GTC/4 (1971-1972)
This front-engined V-12 coupe had a family resemblance to the famous Daytona, but under the skin it was a more sedate 2+2 touring model. To get a low hood line, six Weber carburetors were mounted on the sides of the engine, which made even basic maintenance time-consuming and expensive. Also, the rubber-coated crash bumpers look tacked-on and bulky. As a result, 365 GTC/4s can be found in the mid-forties, but watch out for horrendous maintenance and repair bills.
This wedgy four-seater with an automatic transmission was a money-maker for Ferrari, with 873 sold (plus another 421 of the 400 GT version with manual gearbox). It's a heavy tourer that drives like a base-model Camaro. The angular styling has not aged well and repair costs are sky-high. Due to their low resale value, many have not been properly maintained and need major work. Prices start in the twenties.
Early examples of this striking two-seater were beset with performance and quality problems. Handling was twitchy and the fit-and-finish was sub-standard at best. As production increased the 348 got better, but the model was always dogged by a bad reputation generated by the first examples. The 348 never sold as well as hoped and this affected used values as well. This makes late-model 348s a bit of a bargain, but avoid the early ones. Asking prices run from the forties to the fifties, but demand is soft, so don't hesitate to make offers.