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Ferrari Steering and Suspension

Following on from the Ford Mustang case study I thought I'd write another one about another of the popular marques that we deal with, Ferrari.

The Ferraris use a shim system to set their 4 wheel alignment just like the Mustang does, but the difference being that as they more-often-than-not use a double wishbone type suspension layout the places the shims locate vary slightly. The Ferrari 328 Racecars that we look after use shims between the chassis and the lower wishbone yokes to adjust the camber front and rear, while the caster is adjusted via shims either side of the top and bottom ball joints. This system is a lot better, albeit more time consuming to set than the Mustang's, but if you know what you are doing you can fine tune small imbalances in wheelbase too. Very easy to get wrong though if you aren't experienced in what you are doing! A common complaint we find on the older models is poor steering feel, you would be amazed at the difference a little caster change can make from the factory settings. You can make a huge leap in enjoyment if you know how much to change them by than if a 'specialist' sets them to book settings. This change also benefits the race guys a lot. The rear toe on the 328's is also set with these same shims though, so quite often you are juggling shims to get you rear camber and toe just right! We've got a setting that works nicely now and has taken a lot of class wins!

The older Ferraris tended to employ Koni shocks from the Factory. These were extremely reliable and very good for their day. Even now, a specialist can strip and rebuild these and even revalve them to change the handling. Most of the Konis featured adjustable rebound damping too. Usually by compressing the shocks manually (you have to take the spring off first!) and turning them one way or another you could slow down the extension of the shock or even speed it up. This meant you could tune the ride and handling or your car to suit if you wished to spent the time doing so. These same Koni shocks are still used today by 99% of owners wanting to keep their older Ferrari authentic.

From the Ferrari 355 onwards, coilover shocks became a lot more common as standard. These enable the user to change the ride height and rake of the car in very fine adjustments, swap springs out easily, or reset the height of the vehicle using the threaded platforms if the car settled a lot with age. The biggest problem we have found with some of the Ferrari coilovers is the rubber seat between the spring and the adjuster platform on some models... you still need to take the shock off the car and use a spring compressor to turn the platform as the rubber seat grips it and stops it from turning under the spring pressure. Very annoying and time consuming! There maybe some examples where you get lucky but we are yet to find one! We have supplied Nitron shocks to customers to update their 355 handling and the adjustment is so much better with a greatly improved ride over standard shocks. A worthwhile upgrade if you are not precious about keeping your car completely as it left the factory.

The more modern Ferraris use the shim system for 4 wheel alignment too with a slightly more delicate and refined looking shim than the older models. We've done 812 Superfasts, F12's and 458's and all still use the tried and trusted system. To be honest we like it, while some other marques use eccentric bushes the shim system is still probably the most reliable system to work on... as long as the yokes aren't seized in the chassis like on the Dino, 308, 328, 348 etc. The downside is that some different models of Ferrari use different shims to the other models meaning that you either have to carry stacks of different shims with you or order them in specially for each job! At least with eccentric bushes you only need 2 spanners to adjust them. The very modern Ferraris are also using much more complex steering systems, the 812 for example has rear wheel steer! It's not a lot of rear steering but the degree or 2 that you get makes a huge difference to the feel and rotation of the car. A nice addition, but obviously a bit more complexity if you are the person having to maintain the car (or more expensive if you own it!) Definitely something to bear in mind when doing wheel alignment, believe me! The modern race cars are quite sensitive to ride height and rake adjustment, partly down to their more complex aerodynamics and floor layouts. Unless you've got load sensors, damper pots and pitot tubes to measure all of the aero related parameters this is one of those things you've got to set according to good old driver feel and feedback.

In terms of the aftermarket upgrades for Ferraris there's nowhere near as much choice as a lot of other marques. You can find limited items including polybushes, springs and coilovers but that's about it. Most people tend to keep their car fairly standard which is something that Ferrari are pushing more and more for nowadays, and standard cars tend to hold their value a bit better. If value isn't something that concerns you then a set of modern coilovers and a good wheel alignment will go a long way...

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