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Lou Trottier's Ferrari 308 project arrives.Lou Trottier/The Globe and Mail

My project car Ferrari 308 GTS has been keeping a secret, and it’s a pretty big one.

In hindsight, I’m now confident that this acquisition was a mid-life crisis purchase. It was a rash decision to buy my dream car, a purchase that could have gone very wrong.

The previous owner, a fellow technician, had the same Ferrari bug, buying and importing the car from an auction south of the border ten years earlier. He acquired it a bargain price because the vehicle was missing most of its interior and because the purchase was made just before the model’s sudden spike in value. He spent the next ten years sourcing most of the missing pieces but lost interest, I suspect, as he took on more project cars. Eventually, after the right amount of financial pressure was applied, he reluctantly agreed to sell it.

When the car arrived, I took stock, documenting all the recently sourced interior pieces that were in numerous boxes and trying to figure out what was still missing, which, thankfully, was very little. The bad news is that I had a vehicle that hadn’t run in at least ten years, needed paint, had no service history and required complete reassembly.

I didn’t dare try and start the engine when the car first landed because the recommended five-year timing-belt interval had expired at least ten years earlier. Given the exorbitant cost (typically about $20,000 to rebuild a Ferrari engine of this vintage), taking the chance of having a catastrophic timing-belt failure at that point was too risky. Therefore, engine removal was first on my list before the remainder of the car was ferried off to the body shop. My intent had been to replace the engine’s two timing belts and perform other basic engine maintenance at my repair shop, while the body was out being painted. Once it returned, I would re-install the engine, get it running and see what I was dealing with mechanically.

Now for the good news. The body shop reports that the car had a partial restoration before it made its way to Canada. These steel-bodied cars were prone to rust, but the lower sills, known as the rocker panels, have been replaced, and several other body sheet-metal panels have also seen significant repair.

This is where it gets really interesting. With the engine out, fixed on an engine stand, I began its timing-belt service when I noticed signs of a recent engine repair. Inspired to look deeper, I was startled at what I found. Removing the engine’s valve covers yielded four brand new camshafts, valves and rebuilt cylinder heads. Flipping the motor over and closely examining the bottom end also revealed a recently serviced and balanced crank shaft, further confirming what I now suspected – that a full engine rebuild had just been completed. Why someone would foot the bill on this hefty rebuild and then decided to give up on the car, I may never know. What I do know is that life just got much better for me and my forgotten project car.

Your automotive questions, answered

Hi Lou,

I had the same issue with my 2007 Lexus IS250 as the owner of the 2011 Grand Caravan in the March 21 G&M. It began two years ago and was diagnosed by the dealer as a defective O2 sensor during my regular servicing. The price for the replacement of the sensor was $400-$500, as I recall. Before arranging the appointment for repair, a crisp dry winter day came along, and the check-engine light went off. Then began a cycle of long periods when the check-engine light was off, a few days when it was on, all related to humidity. A few months ago, I had to have part of the exhaust replaced (not at the dealer); it involved the area where the O2 sensors were mounted. So far, the check-engine light has not come on. I speculate that the issue with the O2 sensors and the check-engine light were related to the deterioration a 12-year-old exhaust system, perhaps the development of a small but ultimately growing leak in the area of the O2 sensors. Your thoughts?

Brian P, Halifax

It definitely sounds like they are related. Your Lexus features an Air/Fuel Ratio sensor (AFR) before the catalytic converter and an oxygen sensor post-converter. AFR sensors are similar to standard oxygen sensors but have a wider range of usable information. Thus, they can provide the vehicle’s powertrain control module (PCM) with a more accurate reading. The pre-catalytic AFR sensor is used to monitor the actual engine air/fuel ratio, while the post-converter oxygen sensor exists only to monitor deterioration of the catalytic converter.

Both of the sensors are typically, incorrectly referred to as oxygen sensors, as they perform essentially the same job of measuring oxygen. But they are indeed different.

I don’t know which one you are referring to, but yes, an exhaust leak will allow un-metered oxygen to enter the exhaust system. If your leak was close to either sensor, they would read incorrectly and possibly display a fault code for a system too lean or sensor out of range. However, the check-engine light coming on for humidity levels doesn’t seem to correlate with an exhaust leak.

My 2012 Kia Sorento is making awful clunking noises when driving over bumps. It sounds like it’s coming from both front and back. Any suggestions?


Clunking noises over bumps is a frequently requested diagnosis inquiry. Fortunately, the most common failure item causing those awful sounds is a pretty simple fix.

A full inspection of the suspension is required at this point to ensure nothing else has failed, but I suspect that an inspection will yield expired sway-bar links. A sway bar, also known as anti-roll bar and stabilizer bar, is a suspension piece made of spring steel connecting both the front left and right suspension. Another separate bar at the rear suspension will do the same job. The purpose of this bar is to counteract body roll.

For example, as you typically enter a major highway and are taking that very tight right-hand sweeping turn, you will notice that your vehicle wants to roll to the outside. Actually, what is happening is your driver’s side suspension is compressing while the passenger side is decompressing. The job of the sway, anti-roll bar is to take energy from one side and distribute it to the other, thereby negating a bit of that roll.

Now on to your noise. At each suspension corner, this bar is connected to the suspension through a link. The links on your Kia have flexible ball sockets at each end to allow for suspension travel. This source of your noise will likely be emanating from those worn-out ball sockets built into the links. Every time you hit a bump in the road, the suspension travels up, rapidly causing a jolt to these links, and a subsequent noise is heard in the cabin.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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