308 Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale

May 16, 2013 Comments (3)

This week’s story is not so much about an upgrade, as it is a cautionary tale.

Early in the very late stages of the past century, my wife and I drove the WASRED 308 to Cavallino, an annual Ferrari fest held every January in West Palm Beach, Florida. We used the front tire well and rear trunk for luggage and even took along a set of golf clubs.

We stayed at the Colony Hotel in downtown West Palm Beach. “West Palm” is what we habitués call it. The Colony was, and probably still is, a well kept monument to the glory days of West Palm and nearby, still swishy, Worth Avenue. A number of its occupants are permanent residents whose presence reminds other patrons, and possibly themselves, of grander days.

Other than an ice storm in northern Virginia that forced us off Interstate 95 for a few hours, the trip was uneventful. Getting back on the highway in downtown Richmond we quickly discovered that while the sun had melted the roadway, the underpasses, where the water had been carried, remained glare ice. So the trick was to settle the car upon entry, pray the road didn’t bend and try to keep the front wheels pointed to where you wanted to go if you once again gained traction. Though slightly harrowing at first, it did add a measure of excitement to what is otherwise a thoroughly boring drive. It didn’t last forever but it was quite exciting while it did. At least for me.

Upon arrival at our hotel, I opened the rear boot (trunk) for the bellman to remove the luggage and when I came back it was closed and I parked the car. The next morning I opened the rear hatch to find that the mechanism which allows the lid to remain open had been disconnected and was broken. The doorman, not understanding the proper procedure had simply taken it apart and in the process broken it. The hotel was, as you might expect, mortified, but was immediately forthcoming and offered to pay all repair costs. This was, after all, a Ferrari. I don’t recall the exact costs but it will surprise no one that it was well north of $1,000. I learned a valuable lesson about leaving rear hatch operations to strangers.

Fast Forward fifteen years and some of you may have noticed in earlier pictures that the hatch lid is being supported by a yellow broom handle and may be wondering why. The rear hatch on a 1978 308 is steel. Later models appear to be much lighter and are probably made of aluminum. Later models are also supported by hydraulic struts on either side. My model has a rather ingenious mechanism that supports the hatch in a fixed upright position, the opening height is limited by the length of the supporting rod. The top of the rod is affixed to the hatch by a tough plastic knuckle, or universal joint, which allows the top of the rod to bend and fold down lengthways when the hatch is being closed. Ingenious but unnecessarily complex. The positive side is that it is strong and, being mechanical, not hydraulic, it should never need replacement. Uninformed hotel doormen aside, the only problem with the design is that upon reaching the top of its arc, the momentum of this heavy hatch being lifted is stopped, often suddenly, by it having reached the end of its travel. This sudden stop puts a shock on that little knuckle and it sometimes breaks. This is not uncommon.

Not surprising, Ferrari’s solution is to replace the whole unit.

Enter the MMR Goods and Services Directory and under the heading of Ferrari Parts is listed a small company called Unobtainium Supply Co. Verell Boaen is a retired electronic engineer who has a passion for Ferraris and has dedicated his talents to providing the no longer available (NLA) parts that classic and vintage Ferrari owners might require at reasonable prices.

The plastic cover for one of my seat belt housings is broken; Unobtainium Supply Co. has them. Unscratchable switch plate sets? Unobtainium Supply Co. has them. The part I want is the “latch housing” for the “boot.” Considering the fact that someone had to cast the part and the cost of its original alternative, $97 is a fair price and I have ordered one. It is companies such as Unobtainium Supply Co. that keep the ownership of vintage cars like the 308 fun and affordable and MMR urges you to visit their site and others in the MMR Goods and Services Directory, to purchase their products and to support their efforts. That is what MMR is all about!

Unobtainium Supply Co. created custom molds for, and supplied, these tail light lenses for the 1952 Ferrari 212 Pininfarina Cabriolet—one of the first two Ferraris built by Pininfarina. It is now being restored by Ferrari Classiche. If you watch closely you can see it at the back of the shop in this video.

You can download a catalog with contact information from the Unobtainium Supply web site.

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Comments (3)

  1. Tobias Ostapchuk:
    May 17, 2013 at 06:26 AM

    Excellent story! Thankfully the bellman didn't try to close the front bonnet lid without properly unlocking the mechanism. That's the first thing I notice on a 308... The bent front bonnet lid. Keep up the updates, as many of us who love these things love hearing about ownership experiences!

  2. Verell:
    May 17, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    Hello Peter,
    Excellent Jag vs 'vette article. Brought back memories: In '69 I got my 1st sports car: A Jag XK150 fixed head coupe.

    Also, thank you for the excellent PR for Unobtainium Supply Co.
    Appreciatively,
    Verell

  3. Peter Bourassa:
    May 18, 2013 at 09:22 PM

    Toby, we have already screwed up the front bonnet by overloading it with hard luggage and then driving the North-South cart path commonly known as I95. The first bump made a lasting impression.

    Verell, you are most welcome. Unobtainium provides a much needed service. At the point in my life where I recognized just how much my kidneys meant to me, I gained new respect for the XK-150. A glorious and under appreciated Jaguar.

    peter


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