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Thread: Contiki - 2004 575M Maranello

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    Default Contiki - 2004 575M Maranello

    Date procured: 24 August 2005.
    Mileage when procured: Circa 2000
    Mileage now: 8914


    So how did I get to drive a Ferrari?

    There is no single answer. Having found myself with a large amount of cash from my redundancy (best thing that ever happened to me) I went on January and bought a BMW M5. I have been toying with the idea of buying a Maserati (first the 3200 then the 4200) for the last couple of years but in the end, preferred the practicality and comfort of the big Beemer. But after a few month of tweaking and upgrading various bit I realised I am still driving a big saloon with an even bigger engine but not much fun…

    And then Roger (RogerB) changes his M5 to a 550 and wrote about his first Ferrari days in the M5 forum…hmmm! That sounded nice!

    Before I knew it I was at HR Owen test driving a TDF Blue and Sabia interior (very similar to Crema, slightly darker me think), with the Fiorano handling pack.

    I nearly bought the car, but ended up buying a similar car from a northern dealer.

    The main difference between the car I ended up buying and the HR Owen one is that mine had the 19” wheels, 7000 less miles on the clock but no FPH. The deal sweetener was the inclusion of a 6 pieces Ferrari luggage set – something that has proved reasonably useful but could have never justified the full price.

    My first week with the car was mainly on the roads – I took the car on the day I bought it and drove through half of Europe to Vienna to a Friends wedding. I must say that after test-driving, wanting and gong through the final stages of buying, having a Ferrari was a very strange experience in those first few weeks.

    So first few impressions:-

    This car is the ultimate GT car. It feels more stable going 180mph on the autobahn then the M5 ever felt at a 150mph. Add to that the phenomenal acceleration and you actually have a fair chance of being able to push into such hyperspeeds, at least when the autobahn is not too busy.

    I have not measured the fuel consumption but it seems to have had a 300 miles range on that trip - not bad considering that most of it was driven between 120mph – 180mph. Given the 105 litters petrol tank I think it comes to something like 12mpg.

    Contrary to John, I find the cabin accommodating enough. OK, there is no cup / bottle holder so this is something I intend to make some day and place on the transmission tunnel. Having the F1 gear frees up some space where the stick would otherwise be – perfect for a mobile phone a sun glasses. Personally, I find the door pockets useful – never had anything moving there. Also, being 5’6” means I have plenty of space behind my seat for lots of odd bit such as ice scraper. As for the parcel shelf, It has two belts that prevent things placed there from becoming airborne.

    As for the ride and driving I have to agree with everything John says about his 550. The car is definitely better playing the GT then a sports car. It does a decent job as the later but it is not Exige; not with 1730kg kerb weight and 12 Cylinders stuck up front albeit behind the front axle.

    The engine is an outworldly beast with gargantuan amount of torque and power. Great on the dry but should be respected and suspected on the wet. I only drive in Sport mode since without it the F1 gear changes is way too slow and I like hard sprung cars and certainly had few moments with it. On slippery road pressing the throttle too early out of a turn or even to hard on a straight line can result in lots of ‘fun’ – and some very fast heartbeats.

    My initial feeling was that this car is not as planted and sharp as the Fiorano equipped one in HR Owen but the differences were subtle at best and as I did not drive them on the same roads they could have well been imagined.

    Driving with F1 was another thing to get used to. In fact, I started my search looking for a manual 575 but these are rare as hen’s teeth. Having spoken with few that drove or own manual 550 (Roger again) they all commented on the heaviness of the clutch… and I realised that selling a manual 575 when the time comes would be as difficult as finding one so F1 it was. Having driven with it, it is absolutely fantastic. Sure, there is the odd jerk or the odd fraction of a second hesitation every now and then. Altogether, I enjoy the ease of downshifting allowing me to concentrate on steering when driving vigorously.

    Next – the big Fezza goes on driver training with Don Palmer and Andrew Welsh, gets a new sound system, tyres and GTC suspensions

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    Default Part two

    Part two

    As already mention, I ended up due to some strange circumstances having a standard handling car.

    To be very honest, the car did not show any of the 'Americanised' softness the early models have been blamed of by the press. But it was still rolling, squatting and diving a little too much to my taste. And, it was way too quiet with annoying induction note from the engine.

    An appointment with Scuderia was promptly booked and the Big Blue F was about to receive its first upgrade. The car was brought back a week later by Manu – I could here it good few minutes before I could actually see it – very good sign. Scuderia (or should I say Verdi have also lowered the car and tweaked some of the suspension setting (toe and camber) using spacer. If nothing else, lowering the car made it look so much better and more aggressive. It also reduced some of the rolling diving and squatting and made it sharper.

    The car was sold to me as having Satnav. It was only the next day, already in France and frustratingly trying to understand how to work out the navigation that I called the dealer Peter Brook. What do you know… the original Satnav was out of order and was sent to Ferrari… and instead, a standard head unit was fitted. Until today I have not seen the original unit… not that I care that much. The standard Becker navigation unit is far from being impressive and my plan was to replace it anyway. As a matter of Fact, having discovered somewhere in the middle of France, on my way to Vienna that I do not have a sat nav I nearly went ballistic – and Peter was at least decent enough to offer £300 (the cost of a basic portable unit) toward the purchase of another sat nav. I even received the cheque… 4 months later.

    Just to add insult to injury, the Becker CD changes packed up after a couple of weeks.

    My next stop was at Prestige Audio in Rickmansworth. Being a HIFI enthusiast for the last 20 years, and having worked as a professional sound engineer before moving to IT, I am not only highly critical on sound quality, I have very little fait in the skills of most in car entertainment installer. Most of them tend to substitute clarity with screaming mid band and tight controlled bass with overpowering boom boxes on wheels.

    Prestige were a pleasant surprise. They immediately understood my musical taste and my objectives. These included a modern Sat nav, improved clean and natural sound, and minimum alterations to the car. We ended up replacing the head unit with the pull-screen Alpine, the indoor 5¼" inches mid-bass drives were upgraded and so did the tweeters - these were also relocated. The shape of the cabin allowed an ideal positioning close to the mid-basses and the same time in direct line to the ear.

    My car came originally equipped with 'improved stereo' – which meant two questionable quality subs in the boot, each in its on semi open circular plastic enclosure. Instead, Prestige build a rigid MDF enclosure taking no more space the oem subs, and equipped with two hi power, long throw 6" subs – ideal for the kind of tight, not overblown and rhythmic bass I was looking for. The two mighty amplifiers were sunk into the boot well, with appropriate ventilators.

    The results are impressive, with one of the best in car sound I have heard (I am not a big advocate of gazillion speakers surround system anyway). Other then the boot enclosure and the relocated tweeter there no apparent visual changes and in general, the work quality is very high. Admittedly, the system prefers AC-DC over Bach (I do listen to both) but given the less ideal environment that a car is (with engine, road and wind noises) this is as good as I could hope for.

    October saw me travelling to Bruntingthorpe airfield for the Don Palmer course. Other have already sung Don's glory and I can voice my full agreement. I personally really like Don's attention to details, Toa (or Zen) like approach his teaching skills and his ability to really challenge me to think about driving in a totally different way. Not wishing to ruin my tyres or trash the car I have rented an Elise for the day. I did however swap for the Fezza for an hour in the end of the day. Comparison was interesting – obviously accelerating and breaking were on a different league. But I was also surprised by how agile the car can be for what is still a 1.7 ton GT. One thing I really liked about the car is that it felt so much more neutral and progressive then the somewhat twitchy Elise. It also had impressive grip.

    On the minus side, it was still understeering quite allot and the brakes were certainly not up to the task and started feeling mushy after about an hour so switched back to the Elise.

    With that, my next stop was QV for some minor brakes mods. On that and more in part three...

  3. #3
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    Default Part three - settling down with the Big Blue Fezza

    Part three - settling down with the Big Blue Fezza

    A couple of weeks after buying the car I met some of the Pistonhead / Fchat members in the Newport Pagnel services en-route to See Red. What caught my eyes in the service area was Richard Viant's car which has just been Supaguarded by Stratstone Jaguar. It certainly look way better then my freshly Zymoled car – though in all fairness it was not a professional work (I did it myself) and the wax I was using was the moderately priced Titanium. When I read in Evo a few days later about the Permaguard I decided to give it a try. It only cost £140, or £260 if you want the windows as well as the interior so not too much to loose… less then one professional Zymoling.

    I guess that the real questions is would I do it again… and I would. The main advantage of the Permaguard is that it looks pretty good after a straight forward cleaning. Does it look like a car Zymoled by a Pro? Possibly not… I cannot say. But for someone who uses the car on a regular base such as myself paying £250 for a shiny car is a total waste of money – it will not last more then a day.

    So back to QV and the brakes. With the exception of the sound system and exhaust, I am not very keen on aftermarket modifications. So that pretty much rules out any aftermarket big brake kits. The Ferrari upgrade to Carbon Ceramic cost an astronomic sum to retrofit – if you can get them to do it in the first place.

    Anyway, not being a heavy track user meant that there was no way I could justify to myself a big investment in brakes. The only realistic option suggest by QV was to upgrade to pads to Pagid Blue, and change the brake fluid to SRF. The results is a slightly stronger braking force and firmer pedal on the road. And after a full day training on the Northweald airfield I can say that the brakes survived nicely – but Andrew's courses are not as intensive as Don Palmer's where I was driving the car very hard for a full hour so it is difficult to compare.

    Otherwise, the car was not feeling as good as it felt when I was doing the Don Palmer course. It was understeering quite a allot– starting the day with a about 2mm thread might have something to do with it … and finishing the day with no thread whatsoever has obviously allot to do with it.

    My plan was very simple – I new the tyres are have very little life left. I also wanted to replace the PZero Roso with the more hard-core PZero Corsa. Great I though… I will finish the tyres off in the airfield, come home, order the new tyres, fit them two days later… presto! Or so I thought. As some of you were able to read, it took me a month sourcing them, calling every tyre dealer in the UK and a couple of European and American dealers notwithstanding. There were none to be had.

    End well all well, a month later (by then the car had to arrive on a flat bed to the tyre fitter) we were rock and rolling with our new dancing shoes.

    I certainly like these tyres. Dry grip is awesome, steering is more immediate and precise and there is more feel to it. It also feels less nervous on bad road in my hands. Ride is somewhat harsher. Wet grip is comparable to the Roso I had before.

    At last, February came, and with it some very good news – my GTC springs and antiroll bar have finally arrived… after 4 month waiting. Shame that the suspension control unit ordered at the same time is still missing… Ferrari were never known for their customer care. Anyway, I have decided not to wait and fit the springs. The results – car is way stiffer, roll, dive and squat much less. At last, it starts feeling the well composed and handling car it should have been from the start. I cannot help wondering how much improvement the new control unit, and the quite likely of stiffened dampers will bring along.

    So what's next…?

    You could say that I am nearly done. I am waiting for the suspension control unit to arrive of course and decided to swap my Tubi mufflers with Tubi straight pipes for a little bit more of the concerto for 12 cylinders (this is why they are for sale in the For Sale section). I have no intention to decat the car, decating being strictly illegal… and seriously, I think the car will be just perfect for next three years until the first 599's will drop down to the level I can afford them.

    Cost so far:
    Tubi exhaust + suspension geometry tweaks (lowering, spacers etc) ~ £2,500
    Alpine Satnav, 2 amplifiers, new 6" subs, new 5 ¼" speakers, fitting ~ £5000
    GTC suspensions ~ £2,500
    Annual / 6250 miles service at a main dealer (Maranello) ~£1,800
    New set of PZero Corsa ~ £1,250
    Insurance (Chubbs, Via Cheam Insurance Brokers) ~ £2,500
    Pagid Blue pads and SRF brake fluid ~ £650
    Petrol – lots of it!

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    Default March - April 2006

    March - April 2006

    Mileage now: 9600
    Mileage this period – circa 100, all of them to and from workshops
    Cost this month: £1000 Excess on insurance claim.


    March proved to be one eventful month in the life of Big Blue. The day the month turned saw my driver side door being severely dented by someone in the car park. As is always the case, he left me his address, chequebook, credit card number… or so I’d wish. As expected, he / she left no details. Not realising how bad the damage is I left it with Verdi hoping that the door skin can be shrunk back and pushed out. As it turned out, the dent was too deep and in close inspection there were additional damages to the sill, front bumper etc and with estimated repair cost of around £5k, insurance job it was.

    My insurance is with Chubbs done through Cheams insurance broker. The premium is not cheap, but then again, you do not ask Direct Sausage Factory Insurance to quote you on a 6 figures worth of a car anyway… not unless you are feeling an irresistible urge to tell someone about your life, wife, children and criminal record before they tell you they cannot insure you. In return to the high premium I am paying I got no nonsense claim processing (which means I did not have to fill in two miles long forms with all the details they already have on their database anyway) and a £4,000 to spend on hiring an alternative performance car. The reason for the limit is that there was no one to blame – otherwise it would go on his insurance and there would not have been a limit. The budget was enough for 10 days of a 260 spider, later extended to 14.

    I have posted my driving impression of the 360 comparing the my usual car – I will ask one of the moderators to move these posts to the running reports as well as they seem to create enough interest. On a final note, when driving the 360 I thought to myself ‘well, this is quite powerful and there I no lack of torque as some say…’ It was only when I sat again behind the wheel of the 575 again and realised to difference between ‘no lack of torque’ and ‘having lots of torque’. Without diving into the 12 in the rear or not argument, there is no question of the superiority of the larger engine when it comes to pushing lots of mass very quickly of the line.

    After what seemed like one day shorter of eternity, Big Blue was ready for collection. Driving it back was strange – too soft, too much assistance steering… until I realised that someone had switched the sport mode – something I never do. If it ain’t trying to knock your teeth out of the jaw bones it ain’t worth drivin as they say lol.

    Unfortunately, the car came back with a host of seemingly unrelated issues – the heating fan not working, engine management warning light’s on, Tyre Pressure warning on etc… Karl picked the car back the week after but following further discussion we decided to let Maranello handle the matter under warranty.

    Few days investigation revealed that the issue was a coolant pipe leaking under the dash, literally soaking various controls, actuators and sensor with coolant fluid. Apparently, all these electric gizmos share one thing in common with cats. If you ever tried washing a cat you know exactly the kind of reaction to expect when various electric components get soaked. Anyway, all well, ends well – I have just heard from Maranello that the screen washer tank is leaking – and there are no spares in stock. I am very reluctance to leave the car there, waiting for the parts to arrive from Italy – we all know that asking ho long will it take is like asking how long is a piece of string. The answer is generally something like ‘around eternity give or take infinite number of days’. And then there is the question of whether it is a manufacturing fault or a so far undetected consequence of the accident. Did I mention bad luck in this post yet?

    Looking at the positive side, the dashboard was squeaking and rattling like in an old Fiat so hopefully the guys in the workshop managed to get rid of the annoying noises. The other good news is that the GTC suspension control unit is finally in the UK. Must have been sent on a back of camel… that got distracted by a female and lost its way in the Sahara desert before miraculously arriving at the UK 6 month after the parts were ordered. Anyway, this is the last piece in the puzzle of modifying the car

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    Default April - May 2006

    April - May 2006

    Total Mileage: 11,600
    Mileage this period: 2000.
    Cost this month: £0



    Finally got the car back from Maranello – just in time as I started a new project in Burton upon Trent and would have hated to use the 'courtesy car' I have been using for so many weeks.

    Those of you who have not been reading previous month's report, the car came back from the bodyshop with an eclectic mix of malfunctions, all seemingly unrelated – heating system, tyre pressure monitor, engine management light etc.

    After an investigation it was all diagnosed down to a leaking coolant under the dash soaking all the electronic with liquid… that of course mean removing the entire dash hence the 2.5 weeks it took.

    It is no secret that I was not entirely happy with the last time my car has been to Maranello for a service. However, there was a little to complain this time: I was kept updated on a regular base and they did seem to make a real effort. Disappointingly, the Dash still creaks and squeaks (I have asked them to take care of it of since they had to remove it anyway) but I start thinking that this is something I will have to learn to live with being generally associated with leather… not sure.

    Worse then that is the fact that the Tyre Pressure Monitor warning light turns on occasionally. The suggested explanation is that the Zero Corsa tyres I have fitted tend to warm up and increase the pressure beyond the upper limiter. It actually make sense – the warning light only turns after long drives and it also seems to take less time for it to appear following spirited driving or on a warm day.

    After parting with the car for almost 6 weeks, you can appreciate my joy on having it back. Not only that but the while at the bodyshop I got Manu to swap the Tubi back boxes with straight pipes while Maranello were kind enough to replace the stock suspension control unit with the GTC unit that finally arrived (6 long months since the order went through) – completing the last piece of the puzzle that started with the GTC springs and anti roll bar I have previously fitted.

    Does it all make a difference? Well, some of you heard my car at Auto Italia… I still do not think it comes close to Graham's 355 piercing scream – I stood near close enough to the hill climb to get my ear bleeding when he passed - but there is something about the big V12 in full chat; What it lacks in high pitch F1 like shrill it more then compensate with a barking growl, Nascar style. The icing on the cake is of course the crackles and pops on the over run. They could have used that sound in Apocalypse Now instead of the Die Walkürenritt (The Ride of the Valkyries) …

    Seems though that some off my unmusical neighbours completely miss the point, obviously due to lack of poetic soul; sadly, they are incapable of appreciating the fine symphony emanating from those quad tail pipes. I shall forgive them for they know not what they do.

    The GTC springs certainly made a difference at the time. A friend of mine commented that instead of shaking the fillings out of his teeth (as it did on normal springs) the ride now is simply breaking his jaws altogether… actually it is not too bad and more then worth the additional body control and reduce pitch, squat and dive. I find it more difficult to judge the control unit though, mainly because of the time elapsed since I drove the car previously. I do no think it makes a difference to the ride quality but it does seem to further improves the body control and composure.

    I have recently discovered the A444 on my way to the last Midland meet. What a fantastic road! And exactly the kind of road the 575 was built for. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I now use it on Fridays on the way home instead of taking A38 à A50 à M1. When dry, the car feels good and handles like a nimble sports car, the only problem is that as fast as I dare entering a corner I always discover that I am not even scratching the car's limit. Not necessarily a bad thing on a public road though…

    Indeed, on a particularly stormy and wet day on the A5 toward Shrewsbury I was reminded that behind all the sheep's clothing and cow hide there are some real sharp wolf teeth with the potential for a ferocious bite; exiting a roundabout, third gear, I pressed on the throttle too early before beginning to unwind the steering lock. The tail stepped out like a cobra striking and only a quick opposite lock saved the day. Those airfield days certainly paid themselves in one snappy moment.

    Back to the A444, the car simply feels amazing. Planted, composed, sure-footed and thoroughly enjoyable. On that specific road I think I would prefer the 575 (in it's current configuration) over a 360!. If nothing else, it's ability to dispose of old ladies driving 35mph (on a national speed limit single lane) is to die for but so is the stability through the long seeping curves and even the steering feels which has considerably augmented following the fitment of the Corsa tyres.

    I finally got around to measure fuel consumption; having refilled the tank with 90 litters of Shell's finest, 275 miles since the last refill, confirmed my initial 12mpg estimates. Makes all those 4x4 looks economic doesn't it?

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    Default June 2006

    For some time, in fact since its last visit at Maranello Service, Big Blue has developed what is commonly known as the "Italian Syndrome", also known as "The Irritating Warning Light Syndrome". The first symptom was the tyre pressure monitor light turning after a couple of hours driving.

    My initial suspicion was that the swimming in the leaked coolant left some unforgettable memories on the sensor. Then, a pattern started emerging – it the light only turned on going north. Being rather erratic in appearance, I initial ignored the warning light. After all, with such a pattern I was not sure whether it is a dealer or a Shaman I need to book the car with! Eventually, the issue became annoyingly frequent and I contacted Stratstone Little Aston. This may came as a surprise to some, given my past love affair with MS. That the love affair however, was not entirely satisfying; you could say that neither side was entirely in love with the other. On top of that I already knew what to expect from MS coming there with a problem with the tyre pressure monitor: "You have aftermarket tyres sir…"

    I have heard good things in the past about Stratstone, and I was staying more in Burton then in my home in Herts anyway so it also made lots of sense. It took me a couple of month before I was annoyed enough to actually depart with the car. By then, the suspension warning light has joined its brother and started turning on once every few weeks.

    Getting the car the Startstone was easy – following Kevin's (the service manager) advice, I have contacted Ferrari Assist who sent a covered recovery vehicle to my working place. They have also arranged for a rental car from Avis – a Merc C Class.

    I have never been a Merc fan but quite frankly, I was happy to drive for a few day with a car that is my Chiropractor's best friend, does not send cats and dogs running for their life when I lift off, does not screech like a bat out of hell when I brake and does not upset my neighbours pretty much whenever… so yes, the Merc certainly ticked these boxes other then that, I can report that in the best Merc's tradition the steering is horribly devoid of any feel. Contrary to other's I have driven in the past however, it is also so artificially weighted is has absolutely zero self-centring. In fact, I had more fun steering a 50 tons submarine. As for the engine, the only indication to its existence is the rev needle - you can neither hear nor feel the engine doing anything (it was the weedy 2 litters basic model of course). The gearshift was no better. The full auto mode was slow and sluggish; the 'M' mode seems to stand for 'Maximum annoyance' rather then Manual as it tends to interfere with my manual input whenever the 'box thought it will annoy me the most – like dropping the one gear exactly the same time as I dropped one as well.

    So out went the Merc, back came the Fezza… as you might have guessed, no fault was found with either sensors. Kevin decided just in case to order some new sensors. Of course, and just to annoy, the light still shows off after long drives, this time though it seems to prefer the south.

    I do have to say that Stratstone customer service was absolutely fantastic. They sent the car back to me on a cover vehicle at their expense. When they needed an extra couple of day with the car that exceeded the 7 days allocated by the Ferrari assist, they suggested that I would pay for these two days – in return they will delete one item from my next service. If memory serves, that item alone was nearly the rental price for the entire week! I think that this is the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

    The summer and the heat waves brought another sad realisation. £170k for a car cannot guaranty you the level of air conditioning you would have expected, let's say, in a Nisan Micra.

    Startstone did refill the system to be on the safe side but as suspected, either the air condition is too week or, more likely, suffers from a design flaws where heat soak from the engine is allowed to warm up the cold air coming into the cabin. Either way, I figured out that some solar protection in the form of a subtle window tinting is in place. What a great excuse to spent some money chaving-up Big Blue … It is booked with Pentagon in Watford who will skilfully apply their safety and solar protection film. And since it has been so long since I spent any money on the car, I have added a booking with Prestige Audio in an attempt to turn my (already expensive) HIFI set-up from 'quite good on some recordings' to 'very good on most recording'. So watch this space for reports on both – next month.

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