For those of us of a certain age, a supercar without manual transmission is something of an aberration. Automatic changes are fine in large, lazy Grand Tourers – think Ferrari 400/412 or your standard Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow – but there’s nothing like having to race through the gears with a raucous V8 or V12 heralding every gear change behind your ears.
Which is why it remains a shame that Ferrari never offered the quite sensational F430 Scuderia – the lightweight, higher-performance version of what was already a wonderful machine – with a manual, six-speed box. Yet, there is one that exists with such a transmission, so how did that come about?
European Auto Group is a specialist outfit in San Antonio, Texas. Run by Ferrari lover and expert Art Bartosik, they offer conversions from double-clutch auto transmission to six-speed manual on a range of models, including the Ferrari F430 range, and they do very good business.
The reason is this: try to buy a manual F430 today and you will pay as much as $50,000 premium over the double-clutch version. Try to buy an F430 Scuderia and – well, there is only the one! The simple fact is that a conversion – as Bartosik cleverly realised – is cheaper than paying extra, and European Auto Group uses only genuine Ferrari OEM parts.
“With a regular 430,” Bartosik explains, “we’re really just converting the car from one model the factory made, to another. All the parts are OEM Ferrari. They get annoyed when we order them, but pretty much everything we do here aside from the ECU programming uses genuine Ferrari parts.”
However, the challenge of converting a Scuderia is an altogether different issue, as follows:
“Converting a Scud is much harder. The plasma ignition system that the Scud uses is designed specifically for the F1 gearbox and does all this ignition-cut stuff when you shift using the paddles. Programming that stuff out so you can drive it just like a normal stick is very, very hard. So far, we are the only place that has done it.”
Will Bartosik and his crew be converting any more Ferrari F430 Scuderia? The man himself has the word:
“If you had the only one of something, and you were the only person who could build another, you’d probably hang on to it for a little bit before letting it go.”
In the meantime, if you want your ‘standard’ F430 converted to six-speed, $30,000 (about £23,000) does the trick.