I kept telling myself it was just a simple coolant hose that had burst on my Ferrari, hoping that if I said it enough times, it would come true. My latest purchase of a dead 1995 Ferrari F355 Spider could either be my best buy to date or my biggest blunder — depending on what exactly happened after the previous owner heard a giant pop, followed by a plume of smoke and gushing coolant. With my latest prize pushed into my mechanic’s workshop, we could finally investigate.
Once my trusted mechanic, the Car Wizard, determined there were no dire issues that would prevent us from starting my dead Ferrari, he topped off the bone-dry coolant reservoir, hooked a jumper to the dead battery and instructed me to start the car. It was huge a relief to hear the V8 fire off immediately — and even more encouragingly, the engine idled smooth and with zero smoke. As the fancy Capristo exhaust burbled away, Wizard and I wandered around the engine bay looking for leaks. The relief I felt was sadly short-lived when we found the source of the leak in the worst possible location.
The F355 has two radiators on either side of the engine, which are fed fresh air through inlets just in front of the rear wheels. One of the most common locations for leaks (and cheapest to repair) is the radiator hoses — but unfortunately, the steady drip of coolant wasn’t coming from either side. Rather, it was dead center on the front of the engine. The first suspect was the water pump or its associated hoses — but if it were the water pump, this would require dropping the entire engine to repair. The F355 is the last Ferrari that requires dropping the engine for most big jobs — as well as for its major servicing every 3 to 5 years — and the wizard and I were hoping we wouldn’t have to go to this extreme right away.
With this unservicable design, it was difficult to get a clear look at the water pump area until the Wizard put the Ferrari on the lift. Looking from below, it was obvious the water pump was dry, and the stream of coolant was coming from far above, like it was pooling in the V of the engine and flowing down the block. With the location finally zeroed in, the Wizard lowered the car, removed the decorative metal plate surrounding the coolant reservoir and, finally, the leak was found. IT WAS JUST A HOSE!!!
Technically, the part that failed is a sleeve that surrounds the heat exchanger for oil cooling — but it looks like a hose. Rather than having something that resembles a tiny radiator as an oil cooler like most other cars, Ferrari used this heat exchanger to keep the engine oil from overheating. It appears this simple repair will put my Ferrari back on the road– but typical with Ferrari ownership, the parts are very expensive. It is recommended that you replace both sleeves on either side of the heat exchanger, and these little pieces of rubber cost $220 each.
Even though this failed hose costs more than the complete, running Lexus I purchased last month, I really can’t complain much. If the repair goes well, I could be drag-racing Supras by the weekend — and hopefully I have a reasonably long honeymoon with my new purchase. Although, since this is a F355, something else will probably break shortly after. Find a Ferrari F355 for sale
Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.