To many sports car buyers, "affordable Ferrari" may sound like an oxymoron, but in the case of the Ferrari 328, current resale values are in the same range as a Porsche Boxster. The only difference, though, is there are plenty more Boxsters seen coming and going on the roadways than Ferrari 328s.
The 1986-1989 Ferrari 328 series was the last loyal evolution of the original Pininfarina-designed 308 model that debuted at the 1975 Paris Auto Show in GTB form (Grand Tourismo Berlinetta). An honest sports car with classic Italian design and style, the 328 was classified as an exotic sports car not for its performance but because of its Ferrari nameplate, heritage, and low production numbers (when compared to other sports cars). In the four years the 328 was manufactured, 1,095 GTB models were produced, and 4,979 GTS (Grand Tourismo Spyder) models were made (both figures for worldwide distribution). That makes the GTB more rare, but not necessarily more desirable--the targa roof GTS offers open-air motoring which made the car more fun to drive and therefore more popular. GTB owners typically use their cars for track events or competitive racing.
At the heart of this car is a 3.2-liter 3185cc DOHC 48-valve V8 engine which produces 260 horsepower at 7000 rpm, and 213 lb-ft of torque at 5500 rpm. 0-to-60 mph comes at 5.6 seconds (Car And Driver, May 1986), and its top speed is 153 mph. While the horsepower rating is fairly moderate these days with 300-hp sedans, the performance figures are still quite respectable. What these statistics don't tell, however, is the uniquely visceral experience of driving this car (or any Ferrari, for that matter). Once you overcome the obvious psychological factor that you're driving a Ferrari, you will begin to appreciate the sounds, odors, textures and other sensations that differentiates Ferraris from Porsches, Lotuses, Corvettes, and other sports cars.
The non-adjusting Momo-sourced steering wheel is thick-rimmed and small in diameter like race cars of yesterday, however the bus-like canter makes for a long reach for short-armed drivers. The seating position is low and on-the-floor, and is suited to the classical Italian driver, with long arms and short legs. Veglia instrumentation is red/orange-on-black, which contrasts nicely with the black leather trimmed dashboard, steering wheel, and center console. Of primary interest is the chrome-plated gated manual shifter with a classic black ball knob etched with the 5-speed's shift pattern. Post-modern drivers (i.e. Honda VTEC owners) will curse the transmission's operation as clunky and poorly engineered. But once the transmission fluid warms up after a few minutes of operation, traditionalists and loyal Ferrari owners who have learned to master the transmission's motions benefit from the supreme satisfaction of the precise snick-snick gear engagement.
And then there is the sound of the engine and exhaust. What music! No wonder Ferrari didn't offer a factory installed stereo system, but only a space in the dash for customers who insisted on muting-out the mechanical orchestra just behind their heads. Not even the Boxster's or 911's engines, wonderful at high revs as they are, are any match for the 328's sounds in the upper rev limits before its 8,000 rpm cutoff.
There aren't many detractions about this car that I can think of. Whenever I talk to a non-Ferrari enthusiast about the 328, it is immediately recognized first as the "Magnum P.I. car" which Tom Selleck drove in the popular television show in the 1980s. He actually drove a 308 model, but to casual observers, the 328 looks the same. The 328 (and 308 before it) are not especially competitive on the track, so if you are looking for a good Ferrari to have fun at track events, look to another model (Testarossa, 348, 355, F40, etc). And the 328 holds the record for the second-highest produced Ferrari (the 1985-1991 Testarossa was the most produced Ferrari ever). So while a 328 might be a rare sight in public spaces, in the Ferrari Club circles it is the Honda Civic of Ferraris. The high production numbers ensure a large selection to choose from, and keep the resale values down to reasonable prices, but the 328 will never become as desirable as a 288 GTO or 365 GTB/4 Daytona Spyder or 250 GTO. In the purist sense, the 328 is a proper Ferrari that gains its owners access into the Ferrari family circle, but the upper crust of longtime collectors and competition racers usually don't think very highly of the 328, so be prepared for some snobbery within the Ferrari owner circles. I can't really blame them, for all the great models that Ferrari has produced over the years, only money separates 328 owners from 250 GTO owners.
For what its worth--and to many, not much, other than trivial-- the 328 was also one of the last models produced while Enzo Ferrari was alive. He died in 1988 at the age of 90. Soon after his death, 328s skyrocketed in value, up to a $150,000 peak (while showroom models still stickered at $78,000) along with prices for F40s, Testarossas, and Mondials. Fueled by speculators who predicted these would be the last "real" Ferraris under Enzo's presence, the market quickly tempered back down to reality by the time of the 1992 U.S. economic recession, along with the successful debut of new models such as the F355, F50, and 456GT which all proved that the Ferrari heritage was alive and well in the post-mortem period.
Overall, the Ferrari 328 is a great sports car value. For my modest career salary, the 328 represents my ultimate car goal to realistically achieve during my lifetime. I have given this car a four-star rating, only because I am fascinated with the $500,000 F50 for which I will never afford but is ultimately a much better sports car than the 328. The F50 is the "best" Ferrari available IMHO and therefore receives a five-star rating from me. But even at four-stars, the 328 to me is a more special car to own than an Acura/Honda NSX, BMW M Roadster, Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, Lotus Esprit, Mercedes 500/600SL, Porsche Boxster, Porsche 911, or Porsche 928GTS, all of which can be found in the same price range. Perhaps only the Lamborghini Jalpa or De Tomaso Pantera, also in the 328's price range, can be as equally special, but the 328 is more reliable, more capable, and more livable/likable.
Serious buyers should subscribe to the Ferrari Market Letter (www.ferrarimarketletter.com) which is a monthly report of Ferraris for sale across the U.S. Joining the Ferrari Club of America (www.ferrariclubofamerica.org) would also be beneficial; the FCA membership hosts plenty of knowledgable 328 owners and mechanics, and each chapter's monthly newsletter is another resource for finding well-kept 328s for sale. The February 1999 issue of Forza magazine included a 328 buyers guide that proclaimed the 328 to be the "perfect starter Ferrari." Cavallino (www.cavallino.com) is another Ferrari magazine for all-things Ferrari, but rarely includes 328 model features and information.