Jumping from one foot to the other in a bid to keep blood flowing, I'm trying to keep the biting wind chill at bay. The sky in eastern Holland is pewter, having morphed from crisp winter sun into moody TV detective show weather in an instant. We're in the middle of somewhere, parked on what may well be a bicycle lane if the looks of disapproval are anything to go by, and the snapper is getting his groove on as he finds yet another detail to shoot. This car is brimming with them, each new camera angle prompting further animation. We may be here some time. It's almost as though its designer didn't know when to stop.
All of which is to be expected of a Zagato product. The outside world has been pressing in for almost a century, yet this Milanese styling house invariably does things its own way, which often results in landmark works of design artistry. However, the flip side is also true, especially when it comes to Ferraris. Among Prancing Horse worshippers, the name Zagato is employed contemptuously in some quarters and with rectorial earnestness in others. For every 250GTZ there's a (shudder) 3Z Spider. The occasional lapse in credibility serves only to make the Terrazzano di Rho concern compelling to the rest of us. Consistency is so overrated.
The brilliantly named 348tb Elaborazione is a case in point. Unconventionally attractive to some, conventionally unattractive to others, it is undeniably striking. A touch fanciful perhaps, but its influence is still being felt. For all its bijou following, this car matters more for what it led to as for what it actually achieved.
But first of all you have to consider the donor car. In marque lore, the 348 languishes in a netherworld between used car status and classic-dom. Purists moan that it lacks the aesthetic purity of the 328 it replaced, while others carp about its lack of dynamic ability compared with the 355 it spawned. Even company supremo Luca di Montezemolo went on record at the 360 launch, saying 'Ferrari won't be making any more mistakes like the 348'. It's been on a losing streak since it broke cover in '89.
Yet the 348 wasn't a bad car per se, and Zagato's offering served as an alternative to the Pininfarina-styled original. Introduced at the 1991 Geneva Motor Show, the Elaborazione was intended from the outset as a series product, all things being relative, although such was the number of divergences in detail between cars that it effectively became a string of one-offs.
Here was the first Zagato Ferrari since the NART-sponsored, 330GTC-based 3000 Convertible of 1974. Built with tacit approval from Maranello, around 40 changes were made to the regular 348tb's body shell. However, there were no alterations to the basic structure, as the hard points had to remain the same due to homologation requirements. The styling is often attributed to Ercole Spada yet was actually the work of Marco Pedracini, whose resume also includes the glorious Lancia Hyena.
Retaining a few Zagato design staples, not least the corporate double-bubble roof, this was a comprehensive remodelling. Up front, the regular 348's grille
Published Dec 7th, 2015
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