A lot of time and money have gone into this car. Steve Maxwell designed and fabricated more than 200 parts to get the entire package functioning.
Stacey Slead and Steve Maxwell have always agreed that the 348 has the best handling characteristics of all Ferraris, and at a reasonable price. The only drawback is it just wasn’t as fast as newer models. They decided to remedy this flaw with a pair of T3/T4 turbos. But the road to power is never without its obstacles.
On our first test drive the throttle stuck at 150 mph and continued to accelerate, says Maxwell.
But let’s start from the beginning of that road. Slead and Maxwell met around the same time that the Ferrari you see before you, a 1994 Ferrari 348 Challenge, was being built at the factory in Maranello. Slead had stopped by Maxwell’s shop to inquire about a Maserati and the two became friends, as many of us do when we share passion for an automobile. In fact, Editor Bidrawn and I did so years ago when one of us brought up the Lancia Delta Integrale. Now he sends me a case of Jameson every Christmas. (Hint hint)
A few years later, Slead acquired a Maserati. Of course, being an obscure Italian make, it developed a noise in the steering column and when he took it to Maxwell’s shop it was determined to be unsafe to drive. At the time, Maxwell had a 348 for sale and told Slead to take it home for the night.
I drove the car once and had to have it, Slead says.
In case you haven’t deduced it by now, Maxwell is the mechanic/builder and Slead is the owner. But his hands are just as dirty as Maxwell’s and the car is essentially both their baby.
The car needed to be serviced and we decided to do it weekends at my shop, said Maxwell. It was this that led him to come to work for me.
Maxwell had turbocharged a few other high-end cars, like Lamborghinis, that Slead had seen in action, so he decided to go ahead and let Maxwell do his thing. They removed the engine and replaced it with a spare so Slead could still drive it.
We took his engine apart and built it to the same specifications of another 348 turbo engine, Maxwell says. It got new, low-compression pistons from JE and new Inconel valves from Ferrea. I ported and polished the cylinder heads and matched them to the exhaust flanges. I also machined the guideplates to match the intake ports to the runners.
While Maxwell toiled away on the motor, Slead was making trips to Wal Mart, where he was sideswiped by a handicapped person. A disabled had disabled him. They had to look for another car and finally found one in Michigan.
I was excited because it was one of the original factory Challenge race cars, says Maxwell. It had no insulation or sound deadening to add extra weight. It had the Speedline Racing magnesium wheels that were hands-down the best wheels you could get for the car. It came with solid metal suspension joints and a factory mounted six-point roll cage.
It looked like the lining to their gray cloud was all silver (and yellow)until they took delivery of the car. Even though they had it inspected, it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. So, they completely stripped the car and sent it to GA Coachworks to have the paint and body done. In the meantime, they picked up all the necessary trim pieces as well as seat pads and seatbelts from Group 5 Motorsport, their neighbor in San Diego and the shop responsible for alerting us to this piece of machinery.
They then took the engine they had built for the original car and put it back into the new yellow one. While that powerplant was breaking in, Maxwell continued to build the pieces necessary to complete the system.
This is where the story gets really interesting. The amount of R&D put into this Ferrari is mind-numbing. The person responsible for the majority of this work was Maxwell, so we’ll let him take over:
First, we knew it would need much more cooling capacity, as well as intercoolers. So I ordered two much larger radiators. I then sent the front bumper out to have the A/C condenser inlet mirrored on the left side of the bumper for the intercooler radiator. Because of the space constraints of the mid-engine design, it was much easier to use a liquid intercooler. When the bumper came back, I fabricated an aluminum duct to ensure proper airflow across the radiator. The radiator placement required relocating the battery to the trunk, so I CNC machined a special mount. Then I fabricated the water tank and pump mounts for the intercooler to go under the front trunk liner. I made hard aluminum lines to the rear of the car.
Meanwhile, on the engine that came out of the 348 Challenge, I fabricated equal-length four-to-one Inconel headers from blocks of aluminum that weighed 75 pounds each. They were integrated into the oil drains of the turbo that held them in place. I made the intake manifold from seven separate blocks of aluminum. I bought Tial wastegates from Group 5 and a Tial blow-off valve. I then made the intercooler. We fitted the engine with the intake manifold that was matched to it with a much larger single plenum instead of the two smaller ones. Amazingly, even with 8.75:1 compression ratio, the engine made more power naturally aspirated than it had with the old Challenge engine.