At the helm

by Dave Helms


 So Many Choices       






After the seemingly endless path of research and inspections to locate that special, one of a kind, made for me Ferrari, you think the worst is over.  Who would have ever guessed that the tough decisions had really just begun.


A few years back Ferrari made the decision to drop their monopoly “on parts for their cars that are over 10 years old.”  One would think this to be a good thing, as with any product competition in manufacturing should lower the pricing to all.  To some degree this has happened but it also introduced a whole new twist to the dilemma.


Whenever one is shopping for parts the question of quality vs. price arises, and in the Ferrari parts market this is becoming a very big question.  A tensioner bearing for the timing belts is just one of those tough questions.  Both the aftermarket version and the factory version are made by SKF.  After so many years of not even having to question these, it is no longer a foregone conclusion.  The factory produced SKF bearing has the edges of the bearing to the roller part machine rolled to form a nice tight fit.  Now with the arrival of the aftermarket produced bearings a close inspection shows this same seam to be stamped rather than rolled.  Not a big deal or difference, BUT…. over the last 10 years or so it seems that the only noisy bearings I have run across are the latter mentioned stamped type.  If nothing else it makes one raise the question, what happens if this thing fails?  Not a happy thought!


Next on the list, gaskets.  Say you call your local dealer to get a quote on a pair of TestaRossa cam cover gaskets and you get a price quote of $215.00 for a pair of these little jewels.  After a series of calls to the normal parts sources you find that aftermarket gaskets can be had for less than a pair.  Talk about no-brainer; a gasket is a gasket, or is it?  The factory gaskets are made from an extremely high density gasket paper with a thin bead of silicone type sealant running around the perimeter in all the critical places that require extra sealing.  The aftermarket gaskets are made up of a multi layered low density gasket paper with no extra beads of sealant on them.  Is this Really a big deal and worth all of the extra cost?  Well, in this case, yes.  On multiple occasions now we have found the TestaRossa aftermarket gaskets to be delaminating and causing major oil leaks on the exhaust headers.  That is the first problem, the next is removal of the gasket when it comes time to change them.  With the “softer” gasket material it seems that there is no problem with the boundary layer adhering to the head as it is proving to literally take hours to scrape them off.  Now we know why Ferrari chose to use ultra high-density material and add that small bead of sealant to do the tough work, and yet require no scraping when changing them at a later date.


Water pumps, now what could be different here?  Take a 308 2-valve pump, not known to be one of the most reliable items on the Ferrari’s.  Now you have choices.  Rebuild the original, purchase factory new, and now aftermarket produced.  When set side by side the first thing that becomes readily apparent is the “look” of the newly reproduced pump body.  Seems the manufacturer decided that the extra cost of doing a pressure cast aluminum body just wasn’t justified and chose to do a sand cast body instead.  In these days and times one would think that casting a water tight, leak proof aluminum housing would not prove to be a difficult task!  Not so, as of now the count is up to two where coolant is finding its way right through the casting itself.  Big deal?  Yes!  To replace this water pump one must evacuate the A/C system, remove the compressor and all of the belt tensioners, remove the timing belt cover (unless modified upon installation of the pump), replace the leaky pump and go through the whole bleed out procedure again.  As stated earlier, there are choices.  Rebuilding the original pump with the new style seal has proven to be extremely reliable.  This is likely the reason that Ferrari chose to raise the price of this seal to over $250!  That’s not for the kit, that’s just for the blasted little seal!


There are now many choices when it comes to parts choose wisely.



-- dave helms --