Ferrari 348 Spider: In love with the prancing horse
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Pete Blomfield isn’t the stereotypical Ferrari owner. There’s no Gucci in evidence and, although he and his late wife used to run a business – “that’s how we could afford it” – he now puts his mechanical skills to work on trucks.
There were few, if any, stereotypes in evidence when we gatecrashed a Christchurch Ferrari Owner’s Run in a borrowed 488, and spotted his red 348 Spider in the pack.
These lads and ladies came from surprisingly diverse backgrounds with one thing in common – they love driving their cars, even in the cloudy weather, intermittent drizzle and plentiful road grit in evidence on our back road route from Christchurch to Akaroa.
Pete grew up in Invercargill, and left home to join the Air Force. He says although he was passionate about cars, he didn’t want his job to be his hobby.
When he left the Air Force, he and wife Lyn went into business with a hairdressing salon. In his free time, he prepped race cars for 30-odd years.
“My best car was an ex Peter Brock Team BMW M3 Group A car, which I eventually sold to Jim Richards.”
When life circumstances mandated a change in career in his 50s, he put those mechanical skills to use on trucks.
By then he already owned this car. His 1994 348 is the spiritual predecessor to the 488. It’s a mid-engined, rear-drive two-seater powered by a V8 engine, and an aura comes from it being the last mid-engine model developed under Enzo Ferrari. It went into production after he died.
This one started life in England, arrived in New Zealand in 1996, and Pete bought it 11 years ago. It’s his second Ferrari.
“We had a Mondiale, which my wife and I loved, but we wanted a convertible. We set a target to have one by the [Ferrari Owners Club] 2007 AGM, which we were organising.”
About a month before the AGM, he was in Auckland for Ferrari’s 60th anniversary. He saw this Ferrari in the window of Continental Cars and sent a photo to Lyn who said: “Don’t come back without it.”
The couple shipped it home just in time for the AGM.
He’s often heard folk say Ferraris are unreliable; but not his. “I put a set of tyres on it and that’s all I’ve done — touch wood — except for routine maintenance. It’s been a reliable car.”
Clearly this Ferrari prompts many happy memories, but there’s not just that.
There’s the fabulous engine, for starters. The 3.4-litre 32-valve unit delivers 239kW at 7200rpm and 324Nm at 5000rpm via a five-speed manual, and is capable of more than 280km/h. It can hit 100km/h in 5.4 seconds, not headline news today, but pretty damn hot when it was new.
And not surprisingly, perhaps, Pete loves the exhaust soundand the car’s performance.
“It’s not the fastest car, but it’s lovely on the road.”
He should know, he’s driven from Christchurch to Taupo, and to Bluff. He’s covered more than 32,000km in 10 years, which may not sound much to the average Corolla owner, but isn’t bad for a rare classic.
He’s right about the exhaust sound. It’s fabulous, even though it’s been toned down.
“It has a sports exhaust, which was on when I got it. It used to sound like a Formula 1 car, but at the last cam belt change the mechanic changed the cam timing, so it’s not as loud.”
Mind you, it’ll never sound innocuous, there’s no creeping home late without detection in a car like this.
He doesn’t use it as a daily driver, but attends plenty of club events. He’s chairman of the South Island branch of the Ferrari Owner’s Club of NZ and has been involved for a while.
He says the 348s were made only for a year. “There were 1070, of which 69 right-hand-drives were sold in England.” Over the whole world there were only about 100 RHD cars. Five are in NZ.
“That’s why I wouldn’t sell it.”