Bath time

One of the last jobs needed to be performed on the car for this year was to give it a good wash. Once again, what seems like a simple tasks turns out to be rather complex with a car like this.
The reason why is where the car is garaged there is no wash bay. The next most convenient location for it to be washed has an impassable entrance for the car, given how low it is. Consideration has been made of taking it to a commercial establishment but none of these as yet has garnered confidence in their ability to take ‘special care’ (a phobia no doubt). Therefore, the car needs to go on short trip where it can be cleaned.
The actual cleaning of the car takes a little longer it seems than a normal car given all the ducts and the engine cover. Doing it panel by panel also takes slightly longer as well. Interestingly, there is video on YouTube:

Where you see a 355 being cleaned with a high pressure spray, including INSIDE the engine bay. Don’t know as yet whether I’d be confident to attempt this but it certainly would speed up the cleaning process. Something to think about anyway.

As luck would have it, just as the cleaning was complete it started to rain. Damm. Luckily it continued to rain lightly until the car was returned where it could be wiped down one last time under cover, which wasn’t too bad after all.

Hopefully that is the last major task for the year. It has been serviced, insured, registered, reshod, and finally cleaned inside and out. It has now been tucked in and put to bed for the rest of week like the good little car it is.

The adventure continues.

Grazed knuckles

Let me set the scene for todays petrol station performance.
Headed out for a freeway blast with the tank just about a quarter full. Would be nice to take the opportunity to fill the car up I figured. Pulled into the usual location (where I had my last bowser performance) only to discover that there was no high octane (unleaded 98), available. Damm. Decided to simply continue on and fill up at a different location on the way back.
Car performed flawlessly down the freeway and back along the old freeway.
Here’s a thought. Why not fill up at a location away from the main road, things should be quieter, no? So before returning to the freeway for the last part of the return trip I pulled over into a petrol station on the old freeway which didn’t seem too busy.
I found a bowser on the right hand side so I wouldn’t have to go through the stretching exercise I did last time. I popped the fuel cap and turned the car off to fill up.
Hmmm…that’s not good I thought as I tried to remove the fuel cap. I couldn’t budge it. What the hell?

The fuel cap is actually metallic and has rather a long thread on in when compared to other cars. I heaved and hoed but still the cap wouldn’t come loose. As you can see from the above image the cap has a number of indentations around it that ‘should’ make it easy to twist. Problem is, the cap is stainless steel which is rather slippery.
So I tried using a cloth to improve grip, no go. I tried two hands, no go. It wouldn’t budge. The other problem was the cap is recessed into the body and has the release mechanism on one side of this recess and the hings for the cover on the other. This meant that my big fat hand with short stocky fingers was not REALLY the best tool for the job (let along the rest of what the hand was attached to it would seem!).
After some more heaving and hoeing, I began to think that maybe it would be better if the car cooled down. Perhaps there was some sort of vacuum happening that was holding the cap tight? Maybe I’d have to just continue back and try and remove the cap in the privacy of my own garage rather than putting on another show of Ferrari owner’s incompetence in public.
More heaving and hoeing, which also lead to plenty of grazed knuckles and cut fingers as my hand kept slipping around the cap and of course running into the other sharp objects in the vicinity.
Ok, maybe it’s not me. Maybe my hands are too greasy? I therefore waited until someone nearby was heading back to the shop and asked whether they could assist. They heaved and hoed as well but to no avail. I thanked them and felt relieved that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t seem to have any strength this morning.
The best chance I was going to have to budge the cap was to use two hands. I took hold, braced myself against the car and the ground and twisted with all my might. I must have looked a right ninny, BUT the cap started to move. One more intense twist and the cap came free. Phew.
As I filled up I pondered why this had happened. I’m sure I didn’t screw the cap on THAT tight last time I filled up. I’m also pretty sure that the recent service on the car wouldn’t have caused this. Hmm..interesting. All I can put it down to is me tightening the cap too much and with the car being hotter than previous fill ups (being at the end rather than the beginning of the run).
With the car refuelled I screwed the cap back on lightly and just finger tightened it. Doing it that way kinda makes sense as the whole recess area for the fuel really isn’t designed for putting your whole hand in there. Seems to be a message in that eh?
Off to the register I went, with my performance complete, to make payment and accept my silent ridicule. Luckily, most people have more important things to worry about at this time of the year but I at least hope I could give someone a chuckle.
On the return leg it was time to dwell on the more positive aspect of the incident (what there was of it). At least it happened in a location off the main road and not at one of the normal ‘mega’ service stations that I was planning to refuel at. You gotta look at these things as a glass half full don’t you? Otherwise you’d never go for a drive again!


The car had it usual run up the freeway and back. No issues to report. The new tyres greatly improved the ride and service has made a major improvement to the performance of the vehicle. It just seems to go so much better now. Plenty of power and noise when given the boot which indicates that the exhaust by pass valve is working. Yeah. It just so much nicer when everything is working and way it should be. Ahhhh…. bliss.

The next item on the agenda is to give the leather work on the inside a good clean and wax. What has been recommended for this is Oakwood Automotive Leather Protection pack and of course plenty of elbow grease. The whole interior is going to take a few weeks to complete. Luckily the holiday season is fast approaching eh?

Ferrari 355 on Autobahn at 260+

Here are some videos of a lucky 355 owner blasting along the unrestricted (i.e. no speed limit) autobahn.

In the shop

So very early Monday morning the car made the trip across town to the Racing Red workshop. Even at such an early hour it is amazing how much traffic there is. The car travelled without incident but was beginning to complain about having to wait in traffic queues towards the end of the journey.

The diagnosis was there were no major issues and that the exhaust bypass valve can be repaired quite easily. Even better than that, Sal had been able to reattached the hose to the pipe on the frame that had been previously broken off. This meant the arrangement in the engine bay was back to being standard which was a real bonus. The problem with the bypass valve turned out to be secondary air valves (part number 148494) highlighted above. These valves allow vacuum to pass from the manifold to the vacuum tank which is then used to operate the exhaust bypass valve at the right time. They are supposed to be one way valves but as it turns out they were allowing the air to return to the manifold which decreased the vacuum pressure and thus prevented the exhaust bypass valve from opening, as it relies on a vacuum to operate. These secondary air valves were the next components that I had on my list to replace while troubleshooting the issue but it is easier to get an expert to fix it. Apart from the exhaust valve repair the other major request I had was to remount the thermocouple ECU’s back in their correct location under the Motronic controllers on either side of the car rather than remaining cable tied and flopping around. This was also completed as part of the service.

The other thing that the car needed was new tyres. Sal provided a few options but I settled on Bridgestone RE050A’s all round. The Pirelli’s were too expensive at this point in time. I was concerned that perhaps I was scrimping when it came to tyres but when I did some research on the 355 forums I found that plenty of people were happy with this tyre on their car. The only downside seems to be that it makes a bit more road noise than the Pirelli but it also has longer wear, which at this point in time is more important. A set of 4 Bridgestone RE050A’s including a wheel alignment was worth about $1,900, which is quite reasonable.

Two days later I picked the car up in the middle to the day. Immediately upon starting the car I could feel that it idled smoother. I was really keen to see whether the repair to the exhaust bypass valve had made any difference to the noise the car made at high revs on the drive back. Unfortunately, in traffic there was little chance to open it up, even a little. Again, it is utterly amazing at how much traffic there is on the roads, even during the middle of the day. Maybe it is more noticeable in a car like this but progress felt painfully slow. This annual service cost about $900 which was far less than was expected and considerably less than the last major service for my day to day vehicle. A very happy chappy with the ROI for the service I must say!

The trip back was also uneventful but while sitting in traffic or travelling along at very low speeds (on what is supposed to be a motorway) I noticed the oil temperature start to  creep up. It immediately fell back down again once the car was travelling along at normal speeds but it is yet another indication that it doesn’t like stop start traffic and operating a low speed. I’m confident that it would be fine if it had to do this but the car really gives you the feeling that it would rather be somewhere else than sitting in traffic. With that I must also sympathize.

With the car finally tucked away after the service the next item on the agenda was the third party insurance (i.e. green slip). After some research the choice was the NRMA because of other policies with them but also they ended being the cheapest by a significant amount.You obviously get more benefit from an insurer if you are already a policy holder, have other vehicle insurance with them and have been a member for over twenty years! It was interesting to compare the third party insurance of the 355 with that of my normal car (which is used for business rather than private and that does affect premiums). However, the comparison is that the 355 is about $100 cheaper (or 16% less) when it comes to third party insurance when compared to a normal hatch back. Interesting.

If you take that one step further and look at the registration cost you find that the 355 is about $145 cheaper (or 31% less) to register than a normal hatch back (again admittedly done for business). It therefore turns out that a car like the 355 is actually cheaper to register than a normal business vehicle, which is a nice surprise!

Next trip will be to hit the road to try the new rubber and repaired exhaust by pass valve. Can’t wait.

Service time

Tomorrow the car gets dropped for its first major service, rego check and new tyres. This means taking across town through the traffic which is something to be generally avoid if at all possible. Thus, that will happen at the crack of dawn in the hope of avoiding any major traffic snarls. Fingers crossed. The biggest hope is that, apart from all the things that HAVE to be done, there will be time during the service to address the issue with the exhaust bypass valve and to restore it to full working (noisy) order.

Even though the car will be out tomorrow it had the usual trip up the freeway and back. Happily, there again were no warning lights so it would seem that issue was to do with the ECU flopping around the engine bay. During the upcoming service I’ll ask to get those secured in their correct place under the Motronic controller.

The next major project is to try and build a diagnostic computer for the Motronic. Doing so would not only allow the viewing of engine statistics but it would also allow the resetting of any error codes (like limp mode). It would certainly be impressive if you could get this into an app loaded on a tablet or mobile but that is probably getting a little bit ahead of the game. The first step is locating the interface information about the Motronic and how it communicates to the outside world. Some searching already reveals that this information may be somewhat hard to come by but the Internet knows all. It is just a matter of finding it.

Hopefully all goes well with the service and the new tyres provide some more confidence while driving. The only question is how will that confidence cost? Next week should reveal the answer.

The smell of gasoline

On most trips early in the morning the biggest challenge on the road are the push bikes, that is why I have selected a route that normally requires going counter to their direction. However, you can’t always be so lucky. Unfortunately, today another form of motorist who proved to be a challenge – boat owners.

There must have been some sort of event because the roads this morning were full of trailers and boats. Proceeding along the highway I pulled off into the usual service station to re-fuel. Problem was, the car in front also did the same. Further problem was all the pumps on the left hand side were occupied, with two bowsers being occupied by a boat and trailer. Given that my fuel cap is on the left of the car I didn’t really want to try and refill from a right hand bowser. So I waited behind the boat and I waited and I waited.

As the number of cars behind me started to grow (they could have gone to the right bowsers themselves actually) I tossed up whether to simply drive away and pull in at another service station later. I would not be able to do so until after by freeway run. What the heck I’ll go to the right bowsers. How hard can it be? (as they say on Top Gear)

So I pull up at the first bowser at the rear, acknowledge the boat people next door and grab the nozzle. Problem is the nozzle doesn’t quite reach, so I turn it vertically to try and make it fit and a load of fuel from the previous filler gushes all over the inlet area. Damm. So much for checking for fuel spills I think (which is what I wanted to do after some concerns I had last week). I twist and turn the nozzle but it still comes up short and it only just makes the top of the intake pipe on the car. I try this anyway and only end up splashing more fuel around where I don’t want it to be. Damm.

Needing to move the car closer to the pump I jump back in and drive it forward to the first bowser just in front. I make sure that the car is close enough to allow the nozzle to reach, however I now encounter a new problem. Being closer to the bowser means there is less room for the door to open and the doors in this car are much bigger than usual. Damm. So, re-position car (again) to allow exit but now forget to push the button to open the fuel intake on the car. This means getting back in, starting it up, pressing the button and getting out again. Oh, what a comic show for the crowd this morning.

The nozzle barely reaches but it does allow fuel to go into the car rather than elsewhere. After securing the fuel cap I go in search of some water to clear the fuel intake area. This means climbing over the boat, which is still straddled across the middle of the station. As I give the fuel intake a good flush I hope that there are not any leaks (as I was suspecting after last weeks run) that would allow the water to get into the fuel tank. Let’s hope not.

Refuelling done, the attendant behind the register (who has probably quite enjoyed the ‘show’) informs me that I need to pay for the few pennies I used at the first pump (when the nozzle didn’t reach) and my second more successful attempt. Fine. No discount for being ‘entertaining’? I think as I leave the register.

I hit the road and have to deal with more boats and cyclists until a little way up the freeway where things start to thin out. Phew. Breath. Breath.

I am happy to report however, apart from the refuelling dramas (will remember to not try the right side again!), there was no repeat of the warning lights. Three weeks in a row. Woo-Hoo. That certainly makes up for any other issues experienced today (which were really my own stupidity anyway). At least I shouldn’t have to refuel for a few more weeks now. The other good thing (somewhat surprisingly) is that upon parking the vehicle it didn’t smell of fuel like it did last time.

The tank plug replacement also arrived this week so changed that over as well.

Here’s the broken tank plug (above). The arm on the right fits into the centre of the cap on the left. If you look closely you can see that the ‘teeth’ at the bottom of the arm that sit inside the hole are missing. So it has totally loose the whole time.

With a new plug (like that above) the car is now just that little bit better. Still plenty to do and the car is confirmed for its first major service in a few weeks, so once that is all done (and it gets a new set of tyres) nirvana will be just that much closer. I however expect nirvana not to be cheap!