Featured: Why Have We Been Ignoring The Ferrari 348 Challenge?

Why Have We Been Ignoring The Ferrari 348 Challenge?

Ted Gushue By Ted Gushue
November 11, 2016
21 comments

Photography by Ted Gushue

When a buddy of yours picks up a new car, it’s a big deal. The second you get the call, you head over to their house to inspect the goods. Kick the tires. Flex its muscles. The other day, my pal Matt Ivanhoe picked up a really special car from our friends at RM Auctions just around the corner from our offices in Culver City. Naturally, I made him wake up at the crack of dawn the next morning, drive to Malibu to photograph it, and hear a bit about the story behind the often overlooked 348 Challenge.

Ted Gushue: How does this car fit into the Challenge series?

Matthew Ivanhoe: The Challenge was, as many great car stories are, borne out of desperation. Ferrari was trying to bolster sales during a very tumultuous time in their history, so they turned to racing to energize the fan base. Cash flow was waning at Ferrari, and they needed to move 348s quickly, whilst building enthusiasm for the brand. It wasn’t like how Ferrari is today, where there are guys waiting years and years just to get a basic car. They created a limited production vehicle that was designed for the purpose of a gentleman’s race series. That’s how the 348 Challenge came to be. It spawned the Challenge series, which is still around today, and was the first of the limited production mid-engined V8 Ferrari models, along with the 348 Serie Speciale.

TG: What is the take on normal 348s vs this car? I know that when we drove the car together, you explained that the actual driving experience of a non-Challenge 348 is pretty rubbish by comparison.

MI: Oh yeah. The driving experience, it is, indeed, completely different than a regular 348 because the car itself is dramatically different from a regular 348. You have different suspension, different power, lighter weight. Everything was a little bit better about it and a little bit more evolved. It righted a lot of wrongs with the 348.

TG: Was it borrowing heavily from what would be the 355 parts bin?

MI: It was a test bed for what ultimately became the 355. In essence, they changed many things on the regular 348  for the 348 Challenge that ultimately carried over into the 355. It was a proving ground, and it fixed a lot of the regular 348’s weird diabolical handling characteristics and just made it an absolute pleasure to drive.

TG: Where do you think the market on 348s and Challenge Cars is headed now?

MI: I think you would be hard pressed to find a modern Ferrari that was as universally overlooked for as long of a time as the 348 had been, until recently. I think the only other car which is as (or more) overlooked is the Mondial, which is kind of a shame for the 348. The 348 is an interesting car from a great period in car history. People have woken up to the fact that cars from this period represent the end of a hallowed age, being the last cars which can truly be enjoyed to the extent of their limits without needing electronic intervention or power assistance, and the demand for that has driven values up, including the 348. I think that’s been the case for the last year and a half. That said, even amongst these modern driver classics,  I still think the Challenge is an undiscovered gem. The prices and interest in the 348 Challenge cars have risen, but considering what the 348 Challenge represents in the history of modern Ferrari, I think it’s extremely undervalued. The 348 is the beginning of so many special things for Ferrari. It’s the granddaddy, it’s the start. Everything that came after, the 355 Serie Fiorano, the 360 Challenge Stradale, the 430 Scuderia, 458 Speciale, all of those are descendants of the 348 Challenge. This car represents something very significant and as a result, I think we can say it’s a bit of an unpolished gem right now. It’s one that I think people will continue to enjoy and appreciate as the years go on.

TG: How are you enjoying owning it, so far?

MI: It is an absolutely fantastic car. Frankly, I was expecting to enjoy it. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I am.

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21 Comments on "Why Have We Been Ignoring The Ferrari 348 Challenge?"

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MJ348
MJ348
Great that the new owner is so enthusiastic about the long-overlooked 348, with glowing words. However, they might do well to review the history of the 348 series on a closer level as a new owner. The standard variety 348s and Challenge, rather than being quite different in multiple major aspects as the new owner describes, are in fact very close if not identical to the standard. The major point of separation being the inclusion (or deletion) of race safety equip in support of on-track use in the series at the time. No lightweight body components, no additional power, no… Read more »
malex
malex
Let’s set some of the record straight, particularly with some of the article’s hyperbole. The car was originally sold by Ferrari of Houston to a doctor in the area. I owned the car from 2008 through 2014 after having purchased it from Steve Barney at Sport Auto in NC. I sold it 6 yrs later to a friend of mine in CO, who held the car for 2 yrs before selling it to RM. When I bought the car, the only things identifying it as a Challenge car were the Challenge script on the engine lid, drilled brake and clutch… Read more »
Odd Goderstad
Odd Goderstad
Yes,the 348 has been ignored, and ridiculed, mostly because of LdM’s comments. Those comments was borne out of his need to kick the Ferrari organisation in the butt, and it has hurt the 348. For me, it is the perfect ferrari, after e few mods (New Sparco Alcantara Seats, and a Sparco deep dish steeringwheel, with spacer) to get a beter driving position. The steering feel is unbelivable, redefines perfect! Mine is a ’93 model, and the handling is just perfect. I have been driving a a few hundred laps on track, and the only issue I have had is… Read more »
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JB21
JB21
I begged and begged, and finally borrowed one from a girlfriend’s father who bought it purely for investment. He already had Testarossa, and added this one in the garage. We took it out for one weekend drive, during which I realized that it was incredibly unstable on a mountain pass, but that was alright. It rode like hell, too, bouncing around and, but that was alright, too, after all, it was early 90s and we were in red Ferrari. Then it started raining. The passenger side window refused to go up, so my girlfriend was getting rained on, and the… Read more »
Tifosi458
Tifosi458

Sounds like your girlfriends father is great at investing, but poor at maintaining. All of those issues are a result of failure to maintain or neglect on a quarter century old Italian
exotic.

JB21
JB21

You know, I wouldn’t put it like that. The car only had 1500 miles or so on it. It was an absolute pile of shit, and no matter how you put it, in the world where NSX already existed, that was pretty unacceptable.

F40nut
F40nut
The NSX was not in existence when the 348 made its debut, and while being a great car, game-changing even, they are quite different in approach and especially result. A close friend has a beautiful argento ’92 NSX in his collection, the yin to my ’92 348 yang with only a literal scant few miles difference between the two odometers. There is absolutely no doubt that his NSX is the much more friendly and comfortable and well-assembled car. It is much more driveable in traffic, or in any situation where the focus and purpose is not on “I want to… Read more »
Pete Iveson
Pete Iveson
And yet I have owned a 348 for about 7 years. It’s never broken down, windows both work, gear linkage is slick, leaks no more than any other targa from the period, isn’t unstable at high speed or in the corners (decent tyres and a good geo setup, I’ve had her up to 160mph on a runway and she’s totally stable) and she’s now a 23 year old car. I do some maintenance myself as do many owners, one of the joys of owning an older Ferrari vs a newer, but how on earth can you square all that happening… Read more »
F40nut
F40nut
The Ferrari 348 made its debut in September 1989 at the Frankfurt Auto Show to positive review, as Road & Track magazine described, “to many, it was Best in Show.” In a later 1991 comparison against the NSX, Road & Track inquired, “Has Honda bettered Ferrari?” The magazine concluded the Ferrari 348 was “the better exotic” and would later name it “one of the ten best cars in the world.” Auto journalists described the 348 as, “something quite special,” and the engine being the formative element in defining the car’s character, rising in an, “operatic crescendo,” having the, “power to… Read more »
Pete Iveson
Pete Iveson

Sadly can only give this one thumbs up. Have read all those articles, in fact included many in an article I wrote myself about the 348.

Christer Lundem
Christer Lundem
I always think the slaying of the 348 is funny. Mostly done by internet drivers that has never ever been close to the steering wheel of a Ferrari. The 348 is great in it´s own right. Much better drive than the praised 328 that came before it. This is an internet legend that must be put to sleep. I have a 348 TB with Challenge brakes, dampers, gearbox (lower top speed but who cares) and the tank moved to the front. This car is superb to drive, I would even put it in front of the F355. The F355 is… Read more »
Pete Iveson
Pete Iveson
Great that the new owner of this fantastic car is enjoying it so much, it’s a truly great car to drive. But please just check up on a few points before saying it’s substantially different to a stock 348 because it simply isn’t – all later cars ate this good. It doesn’t have more power (all later cars were 320bhp) the suspension changes were to all models. The car itself isn’t lighter, only the seats are. In fact the only differences are the Challenge exhaust, the brakes, a small change to the fuel system to stop fuel starvation when cornering… Read more »
Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Thanks for saving me the time and effort to post the same !

John Montesi
John Montesi

Flying. Buttresses. Also, it always strikes me how many fewer miles Ferraris have than their contemporary German competitors.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Fewer miles is an understatement . Shorter ownership terms as well for the most part [ average Ferrari ownership is less than 16 months from point of purchase .. which when put in to perspective when considering loyal long term owner such as Mr Lange here and his dad .. really puts a point on it ] Why … is simple . 95% of all Ferrari buyers do so for window dressing and automotive jewelry …. whereas Porsche buyers for the most part … buy them … to DRIVE !

Pete Iveson
Pete Iveson
I’ll take it that your 16 months average ownership is accurate although that seems massively low. My guess though is that has to be the average length of ownership of a new Ferrari, not a classic. Why? Simple – if every Ferrari was sold on average every 16 months and was on the market for even a few months, given how many Ferraris there are, there would be 10s of thousands on the market at any one time. And there aren’t so this number can’t be anywhere close when talking of every Ferrari including classics. In fact owners of classic… Read more »
Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay
A little off topic, but I’ll chime in nonetheless. A friend of mine had one of the first NSXs, worked it as a daily driver, and was recorded as having put more miles on his NSX than any other (recorded) in the world. I guess it ran flawlessly, despite chewing through tires like nobody’s business. As the story goes, years later a Porsche pulled alongside on a long stretch of highway and was gesturing at my friend. Assuming he wanted to race, the hammer came down and off they went. It turns out, the Porsche driver was trying to signal… Read more »
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