Ferrari 308 GTB/GTS

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Ferrari 308 GTB/GTS

Ferrari 308 GTB/GTS

1975 - 1985
3.0 litre
515 bhp
5 spd. man
Top Speed:
252 km/h
Number Built:
4 star
Ferrari 308 GTB/GTS
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4

Unlike other Italians

The Pininfarina-styled 308 GTB was introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 1975 as a supplement to the Bertone-shaped Dino 308 GT4 and a replacement for the Dino 246. It was designed by Leonardo Fioravanti who had been responsible for some of Ferrari's most celebrated shapes to date such as the Daytona, the Dino and the Berlinetta Boxer. The 308 used elements of these shapes to create something very much in contrast with the angular GT4 2+2. The GTB/GTS was a 2-seater with sweeping curves and aggressive lines, and today is regarded as the most recognizable and iconic Ferrari road car.

Recognizable it may be, but it was also one hell of an awesome car - good for an astonishing 252 km/h. But the problem with 1970s Italian exotica was that they were not all that easy to use, being equipped with finicky engines and gearboxes, fiddly illogical controls or access to the interior which required contortions of the type only achieved with decorum by Harry Houdini. But there was something wrong with the 308 GTB – it wasn’t hard to use, it wasn't hard to get in and out of and was, provided you had enough cash, an easy enough car to live with day to day.

You'd have to watch the stiff synchromesh on second gear when the car was cold, which afflicted not only Italian cars, but also those from Germany. But otherwise, there were no hassles to daily commuting and driving the GTB 308. At the time the Ferrari was one of the few cars with a used price that was keeping up with inflation, so you had a level of investment protection with the A$44,000 price tag.

And there was something special about the 308 GTB. It represented the then latest Ferrari's Dinos and it had its suspension tune polished by no less a test driver than world champion Niki Lauda. Sceptics suggested that Lauda's name was hung on all the Ferraris, but it wasn't so. At Fiorano, Ferrari's own test track outside Modena in north eastern Italy, Lauda spent a lot of time roaring around the track being monitored by TV cameras all the way, filmed in action, too and later giving his own assessment of adjustments as well as the computer’s based on the TV and film.

Heritage of the 308 GTB

To our mind there is no question that the 308 GTB was a special car. It provided adhesion levels beyond what many thought a car capable of. It was so good on corners that most road testers found the limit of their ability long before they found the limit of the car, such was the truly daunting degree of grip. The 308 GTB also came from an almost royal lineage. This Dino linage began in the late 1960's with a special hill-climb car which Ferrari decided to build out of his Formula Two 2 litre V6 engine. It was mid-engined, just like the 246 SP which early in the 1960's won the Targa Florio - and the motor was placed conventionally fore and aft. That was the Dino 206 - 2.0 litres, 6 cylinders and clothed with a pretty Farina body.

In those halcyon days, Enzo Ferrari himself was at the helm of the Ferrari firm and could, through the Italian Government, bring a little pressure to bear on Fiat. He needed that two litre V6 homologated so Fiat obligingly came out with first the Dino Fiat Spyder, then the Dino Bertone Fiat coupe and then the 130 sedan and coupe, all of which used the V6 Ferrari motor made under licence in even larger capacity. The Dino Fiat Spyder with body by Pinin-Farina was a winner. The Bertone coupe was off the pace, given the extra weight it carried. The 130 was alright but had a gaudy dashboard and needed some front end suspension tuning. The coupe was a far better - and it was probably no accident that it looked just like a Ferrari.

That's the background to the Dino whose engine had been enlarged to 2.4 litres Then Ferrari wanted a three litre car to take on the V8 engined Lamborghini Urraco, a beautiful mid-engined V8 done by Bertone for Lamborghini. The 246 Dino simply wasn't wide enough to take a V8. So the new car had to be wider to take the extra two cylinders - because in the process of growing up, the motor of the Dino had been turned sideways. Bertone was contacted and thus began the GT4 Dino, but stupidly Ferrari also wanted a couple of small rear occasional seats in an attempt to compete with the completely useless ones in the Urraco and the Maserati Merak.

Ferrari also wanted a proper two seater sports car to replace the 246 Dino. So he turned again to Pinin Farina and you have the 308 GTB Dino. Ferrari had been taken over by Fiat during the production of the 246 Dino. After all, the Government couldn't very well take over Ferrari ad it already owned Alfa Romeo! Scaglietti was to build the bodies for the Ferrari 308 GTB. Owned by Ferrari that concern was a specialist in lightweight manufacture. Some of the early 308GTB's were done in aluminium before a switch to fibreglass.

Behind the Wheel

Behind the wheel, the first thing you would notice was that the choke was redundant. Two pumps, turn the key and you were away. The clutch was heavy, as was the steering at parking speeds. But the all important engine was a delight – happy to rev to over 7700 rpm with strong torque available across plenty of the rpm range. Open it and you had four dual throat Webers a mere 50 centimetres down the rear mudguard air intake from the drivers right ear. Their gobbling under acceleration sounded like a turkey farm at Christmas. For a weekend away there was a luggage locker in the tail with a zipped plastic cover to keep things clean. You reached by lifting the latch which also gave access to the engine.

Of course you couldn’t carry enough luggage to spend more than a night or two away, but you never bought a Ferrari for its practicality, so we cannot deduct points on this score. In first gear you could run the 308GTB to 65 km/h, then second to over 95 km/h, third to 133 km/h, fourth to 180 km/h, and fifth to a licence losing 252 km/h. Even when you shifted into fourth, the push in the back continued right on, undiminished. Into fifth, there was a bit more lag and the wind-up to top speed took a while. But the shape was very good so the drag was low and stability high. Wind noise was there but drowned by the engine's happy commotion.

If you do transgressed the grip quotient of the tyres, suspension and shock absorbers, you got a whisker of oversteer at the limit. Below that you could have understeer for coming out. In Australia you needed to find $44,000 to cover the price tag. If you cared about fuel consumption, you wouldn’t have been thinking of buying one of these, even though the 308GTB was easily able to cruise at 100 km/h in the 20-21 mpg area (13.4-14.1 litres per 100 km). And likewise if you were intent on keeping insurance premiums to a minimum the 308GTB would not have been on your shopping list. But these criteria were hardly what the car should have been judged by, either then or now.

Ferrari 308 GTS

The targa topped 308 GTS was introduced in 1977, and was made famous on the television series Magnum, P.I.. Several cars were used, a new one for each season, most being auctioned off after filming. The first was a 1979 model with chassis number 28251. The mechanically similar 308 GT4 shared much with the original Dino, and the 308. Both sat on the same tube-frame platform, with a 92 in (2,300 mm) wheelbase for the 308 GTB (the 308 GT4 has a longer wheelbase, being a 2+2), and 4-wheel double wishbone independent suspension. The V8 engine was a DOHC design, with four Weber 40DCNF carburettors. European versions produced 255 hp (190 kW) at 7,000 rpm (7700 rpm redline), but American versions were down to 240 hp (178 kW) at 6,600 rpm due to emissions control devices.

A notable aspect of the early 308 GTB was that, although still built by Carrozzeria Scaglietti, the 308's bodywork was entirely made of glass-reinforced plastic (or GRP), allowing a very light weight of 1,050 kg (2,315 lb). The engine borrowed its dry-sump lubrication from Ferrari's racing experience. This lasted until June, 1977, when the 308 was switched to steel, resulting in an, alleged, 150 kg (331 lb) additional weight. However, a steel-bodied GTB only weighs 12 kg (26 lb) more than its fibreglass body counterpart. All steel versions of the 308 GTS had a conventional wet-sump engine while GTB models retained the dry sump lubrication until 1981.

There were 12,004 308s produced from 1975 to 1985. Only 712 of the first fibreglass versions were made. The 308 models were embraced by Ferrari fans and critics today. In 2004, Sports Car International named this car number five on the list of Top Sports Cars of the 1970s.
Ferrari 308 GTB

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Also see:

Ferrari 308 GT4
Ferrari History
Enzo Ferrari
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