Futzing with a Ferrari is a risky proposition at best. Our friends in Italy spend exorbitant amounts of time and money developing their products to the point that, for most owners, the only thing you need to add is fuel. Most attempts at Ferrari “tuning” make the car different, not better, and there’s a big difference between the two. It’s enough to make Enzo Ferrari spin in his grave at 8,900 rpm.
I was therefore somewhat skeptical when I crossed paths with this screaming yellow 1994 348 Challenge (s/n 98498). At first glance, its resume read like a boy-racer fantasy—twin turbochargers, an intercooler, custom interior, uprated suspension and brakes—and I halfway expected to encounter the dying gasps of a racetrack refuge.
The truth was quite different: Stacey Slead’s 348 looks like it could have just rolled off the Maranello production line. The attention to detail is simply stunning, as are the integration of numerous components from a later-model Ferrari and the astonishing amount of power produced by the 3.4-liter engine, more on which shortly. Maybe, I thought, Enzo wouldn’t be so quick to condemn this car.
IN THEIR UNASSUMING SHOP near San Diego, California, Ferrari mechanics Slead and Steve Maxwell endure the daily thunder produced by F18 Hornets and F16s operating from the Marines’ nearby Miramar air station. The entire building shakes as a pair of Harriers screams overhead, and I cover my ears like a 10-year-old at a Megadeth concert. Slead and Maxwell don’t flinch; they’ve got their collective noses deep in Solidworks software, reviewing some new intake trumpets Maxwell just designed. Essentially joined at the hip, the pair have been friends and business partners ever since they met courtesy of an ’80s Maserati.
“I was having the typical problems with my Maserati—basically, everything,” recalled Slead. “Steve took a look at it, shook his head and threw me the keys to a Ferrari 348 that was for sale in his shop. That was it. I was hooked.”
Slead bought that 348 and happily began driving it. But one day, Slead and Maxwell, who are both huge fans of the Ferrari F40, looked at each other and said, We need to put a couple of turbos on this car. Maxwell had previously turbocharged several high-end Italian cars, and surmised the same twin-turbo architecture would lend itself well to the 348’s V8. The engine was promptly pulled and torn down, and a replacement mill was fitted so Slead could continue driving the car in the meantime. As fate would have it, however, the Ferrari was soon totalled in a traffic accident.
Slead was still determined to build his dream 348, so he quickly began a search for a new chassis. But he decided to raise his game and start not with a street car but with a 348 Challenge race car.