Monday, 31 January 2011

F355: HVAC panel refurbishment

Bubbling HVAC
The F355 and I believe other Ferrari's can suffer from the black plastic parts of the interior deteriorating into a sticky mess. Mine actually seems pretty good apart from the AC control panel (HVAC panel) which had bubbled up and really let the interior down. Unfortunately a new panel is not available separately from Ferrari and a new unit will cost around £1000. A company many people swear by called "Stickynomore" quoted me $350 to refurb the panel but couldn't tell me how much it was to ship back from the USA and I would also have to pay to ship the thing over there. Hill Engineering supply a replacement overlay panel for £40, not a great bargain for what's basically a big, albeit, decent quality sticker but still a huge saving over a replacement part from Ferrari. In the end I ordered the overlay.

Removing the HVAC panel was very simple, one single screw inside the ashtray which pops out and then the HVAC panel simply unplugs. My ashtray was a bit chipped and cracked, a new part is £165 so I thought I'd try and give this a tidy up too.

I had to dismantle the HVAC panel to be able to really clean off the old covering, I used "Cillit Bang" which after a lot of scrubbing left me with a clean bare panel and my new overlay was installed.
The Finished Centre Console

I dismantled the ashtray and glued up where the plastic had cracked (out of sight but was causing it to sag) I also removed the little flag badge and gave it a quick clean with brasso. I then gave the ashtray a good clean and spray painted it with plastikote black paint.

The outcome is a much tidier centre console!

Elise: Out of hibernation

After the exceptionally poor weather we've been having, I wasn't sure if the Elise would make it out before spring. Luckily it's got a bit better recently, so I went about getting it out for a run.

The first issue was the battery. It was completely flat (to the point where the immobizer light wasn't flashing), but after a jump start it seemed to be running fine. However after driving it a second issue started to occur, this time concerning the idle. It would occasionally dip too low and the car would cut out.

After a quick browse about the forums, it suggested that the battery was probably goosed and causing the erratic idle. Sure enough, after a £50 trip to Costco, resetting the ECU and a little bit of driving the problem was gone.

F355: Exhausting choices

Lee and I had both agreed on the way up that the standard F355 exhaust, while nice and quiet while cruising didn't really make that famous Ferrari V8 scream as you neared the rev limiter. A sports exhaust was on the cards. The two main options are really Tubi or Capristo and from what I've gathered from hours of youtube video watching is that the Tubi is a bit more bassy and makes a deep growl (popular in the states) and the Capristo makes a higher pitched F1 scream. Capristo is what I had kind of decided in my head but at well over £2000 before it's even fitted, it was going to be painful in the wallet region so decided to see what else was out there.

There's a relative newcomer to the F355 exhaust market: Nouvalari. Despite the Italian sounding name they are a actually British company and after a quick email was quoted £750 directly from them and after a bit of a haggle they said they could do me one for £600. Not bad. I did a bit more forum digging and although there were mixed reviews they definitely leant towards the positives side, it was during my search I found a German forum member selling his Nouvarali which had only clocked up 1000 miles of use. I mailed him and we eventually agreed on a price of 400 Euros so around £340. At this price it was worth a punt and the exhaust arrived a few days later looking virtually brand new!

We fitted the exhaust on Lee's driveway, saving even more cash! Installation was relatively straight forward though the fitting was a little awkward. I can't help but wonder if a Capristo or Tubi would have been more easily aligned.

We started it up, it was LOUD and this was only the "Sport" version (Nouvalari also do an even louder Super Sport). The exhaust is kind of boomy at low revs and would probably give you a headache after a while driving around town and the only thing less subtle than driving a red Ferrari around town is driving a red Ferrari with a ridiculously loud exhaust. I was feeling like perhaps I had made the wrong choice until by chance we ended up going through a tunnel with the windows open. It was safe to say it sounds rather awesome in the right conditions! Still, if I see a nice, used Capristo up for sale I may just be tempted to try that too...

Friday, 28 January 2011

F355: Air conditioning fix.

As previously mentioned when I took delivey of the F355 the AC was not pumping out cold air. The dealer said that it may only need a regas.

I did what any sensible Ferrari owner would and took it to Kwik-Fit to put their no fix no fee AC promise to the test. They didn't have the car in their system but I supplied them with the specs, I think all the needed was the weight of the refrigerant which I found in the manual.

Lee showed the guy the where the ports were and we left the car at headed to Illegal Jacks to enter the required amount of burrittos into our own systems.

When we got back the guy explained to Lee in AC talk basically the compressor wasn't kicking in and as such there would be no charge even though they had fully charged the system with refridgerant. Arse.

We had the car down at Lee's and decided to take a quick look in the fuse box, the fuse for the AC compressor was blown. We replaced it, turned on the AC, waited, heard the click of the compressor kick in and.... ice-cold air began flowing into the cabin! The fix I thought could have been in the thousands turned out to be sorted for absolutely nothing!

F355: First problem! Suspension warning light

I'd only had the car for a few days, mostly taking friends and family out, as everyone was keen to see the car. I was feeling rather smug and boasting about how faultlessly the car had performed.

I was taking my friend Stu for a spin and as I pulled away I noticed a warning light had not gone out on the dash. It's a little picture of a car with arrows pointing upwards towards the wheels, the suspension warning light.

The F355 has active suspension and was pretty ahead of it's time. There are two accelerometers that measure acceleration, forwards and laterally. Using these the Ferrari can stiffen up  the rear dampers when accelerating hard or stiffen up one side of the car when cornering hard, reducing body roll.

It does this by turning a little valve on top of each damper with an actuator reducing or increasing the volume the oil compresses in, in the damper. When the ignition key is turned, the 4 actuators perform a calibration, if this is unsuccessful the warning light stays on.

After some research on it seems the most common cause of this, is the little gear that turns the valve can break. Removing the actuator from two of my shocks revealed two broken little gears.

Two were ordered up from Hill Engineering. These things are about 2cm across and seem expensive at £17 each! However when you compare it to the price of a new shock: £745 from Eurospares it doesn't seem so bad. (Ferrari don't sell this gear part seperately).

The gears were promptly fitted and a turn of the ignition key saw the light going out! Back to a fault free Ferrari. Let's hope it stays that way...

Tuesday, 25 January 2011 now on Twitter!

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The Lotus Elise

If I'm honest, I had no real intention of buying the car we were driving over to see. The advert looked good - a nice low mileage 02 Lotus Elise S2 in Ice Blue about 15 miles away in Fife. It was standard apart from a Lotus Sport exhaust and the price was keen, but I already had a Mazda MX5 mk1 to fulfil the open top brief.

Really, it was just a diversion on a pretty boring weekend as I headed over with Ross, chatting about the Elise he used to have a few years ago and all the usual things to watch out for.

What I wasn't expecting was just how, well, NICE the car was. It was immaculate, recently valeted and had been obviously well looked after. The mileage was indeed low, 24k, but it had been serviced once a year at the local official Lotus dealership. I've lost count of the times I've seen "Full Service History" in an advert, only to be greeted by 2 year gaps when I actually look at the book.

The seller was a honest guy, selling the car to fund a house move. He seemed genuinely gutted about selling it, which reassured me that the car was probably decent. He took me out for 5 minutes and then handed me the keys.

Now, when Ross had his Elise I had a couple of drives so I knew they were good. However I had forgotten just HOW good. That feedback you get after a couple of corners instantly put a smile on my face and it stayed there all the way back to the guys house. You feel absolutely connected to the car

I loved it.

We got back to the seller's house and I said I would go away and think about it, but I knew that I'd pretty much it had to have it.

Sure enough, a couple of emails back and forth later I had haggled the price down and I was the proud owner of a Lotus Elise!

Job done. Now I just needed to tell my other half...

F355: Back to Edinburgh

Having bought the dream, the next task was to get it back to Edinburgh. It was nearly 3pm by the time we'd left the dealer, and had a 440 mile drive ahead of us. Including an unavoidable stint on the M25. It was crawling speed on the way down and as expected the traffic was moving at the same pace in the opposite direction. My eyes were rivetted to the water temperature gauge but the big fans housed in the huge intakes kept the needle rock solid in the 12 0'clock position. Unfortunately not everything was staying cool, the lack of AC got to Lee as he was sitting on the sunny side of the car and it was a surprisingly warm September day. Unfortunate, as I felt rather comfortable in the supportive standard seats and the "Comfort" suspension did provide a little relief from the crappy motorway surfaces. Even still the AC was job number one to get sorted.

Anyway, what a blast to drive! A lot of chat on places like Pistonheads about these older Ferraris being "slow". I guess it depends what you are comparing it to but the F355 fairly shifts by anyones book! Only slight dissapointment was the standard exhaust not really providing that wail you'd expect from a V8 of this calibre. Job number two.

The car performed faultlessly all the way back to Edinburgh, although (regular visits to the petrol station were giving a taste of what's to come) and we arrived around 11pm at my friend's house, where I'll be storing the car until I can work out a better solution. The garage was only 2m wide, and the F355 1900mm wide. It was fairly tight but it slipped in easily with a bit of guidance. That's what she said.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Collection Day. F355

It was very early morning September 2nd, it was still dark as we left Nottingham en route to D.J Sargent of Copthorne Specialist Cars.

We arrived around midday, the road name was called Flightpath Way. Not just a clever name, every few minutes a 737 would float by heading for Gatwick airport.

We met Damon who I had dealt with over the phone, he brought the F355 out into the light for us to have a nose around and make sure everything was in order. I also handed over my Porsche keys to one of Damon's guys to check it over.

The car looked great, the condition brilliant for a car of it's age. There were a few minor things, like a couple of curb marks on the wheels, some bubbling interior parts but nothing that couldn't be easily sorted. We fired it up and all sounded good too. Lee got busy and started testing all the sorts of nonsense that I would be forgetting, all was good until we got the AC... it was just spewing warm air. We showed Damon, he did seem genuinely surprised that it wasn't working and gave me the "should just need a regas" line. I was skeptical as I knew this could be an really expensive and difficult fix chasing faulty AC compenents around the system, searching for refridgerant leaks, I was starting to think this could have been a wasted trip to London.

Damon offered a test drive in the F355. Now I had driven one before, but it was a few years ago, LHD and a rather tired example so I was still quite unfamilir with it. I eased it out slowly down the bumpy track of the dealership and onto the country roads leaving Lee to comb over the documents. Immediately I was sold. There wasn't much going to stop this deal happening now, Lee could tell by the massive grin I had on my face when we arrived back.

Damon assured me if a regas didn't sort the aircon it would be covered under their warranty so the deal was done. I signed over the Porsche to him, picked up the key to the Ferrari and we set the sat nav to Edinburgh!

Edinburgh to London. Collecting the 355.

The previous evening my friend Lee and I had been frantically cleaning and getting my 993 into a presentable shape for it's impending trade in. I didn't want to give the dealer any excuse for coming down from the £20k offered for the car. Obviously my passenger side electric window switch decided to stop working and every attempt to fix it failed. Oh dear.

By the night of September, 1st, 2010 the Porsche was looking better than I'd ever seen it.

We decided to stop in Nottingham overnight to split up the journey, with a view with doing the remainder of the journey to London and back up to Edinburgh again the following day, all going well, hopefully in the Ferrari. Lee and I set the sat nav to Nottingham and began the 993's final journey.

Friday, 21 January 2011

The 1997 Ferrari F355 Berlinetta deal.

26th of August 2010, I paid a £1000 deposit to D.J Sargent of Copthorne on rosso corsa '97 Ferrari F355 GTB over the telephone. I was slightly nervous having never seen the car nor this particular dealer had never laid eyes on the 1994 Porsche 993 that I was trading in as the dealer was a good 443 miles away according to Google maps.

The asking price for the F355 was £37,500 for this 29,000 mile example and I was offered £20,000 for the Porsche, £5250 more than I had paid for it 2 years previously! I guess there was a bit of allowance for discount in there off the Ferrari but I couldn't resist the opportunity to own my all time dream car.