14 December 2019

More than an old car #125: Ferrari 348

Walking around office carparks in our financial district has its perks even though it may seem like an unusual place to spot cars. I have seen quite a few high-end models out and about, but never expected to see this 1992 Ferrari 348 TS just parked so casually!

The Ferrari 348 was introduced in 1989 at the Frankfurt Auto Show, where it succeeded the popular 328. As with its predecessors, its name is derived from the engine capacity (3.4 litres) and the number of cylinders (8). It was available in coupe and targa versions, although convertibles were introduced later. The engine was mounted longitudinally and it was coupled to a transverse manual gearbox, giving rise to the TS (transversale spider) designation. As a nod to the classic Testarossa, it featured the iconic straked side intakes and rectangular headlights.

Other features of the 348 included a computer-controlled engine management system, anti-lock brakes and self-diagnosing air-con and heating systems. Initial reception was positive as people praised its revolutionary looks and its nice steering. However, it quickly drew criticism due to its heavy gearbox (where one needed a 'shot-putter's arm' to shift to 2nd gear), catastrophic engine failures and numerous leaks. It was powered by a 3408 cc Tipo F119 V8 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 275 km/h, with an acceleration of 5.6 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4230 mm long and weighed 1440 kg.

Production of the 348 ended in 1995 with 4,228 TS models made. This unit is one of about 10 left in Singapore, and it was repainted to this striking purple colour from its original yellow. I was aware of its existence previously, and it was a surprise to see that it was still regularly driven in the CBD area. They were sold by the original Ferrari dealer Hong Seh Motors back in 1991, at a rather princely price of S$535,000 [S$795,468 in today's money].

348s are known to be the cheapest Ferraris that one could buy, partly because it was unloved by many critics. It was not particularly quick nor impressive in any sense, and the gearbox made it more suitable for a weekend ride. Yet, it is still nice to see that the owner loves his/her car by driving it to work, perhaps you may see this some day!

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