During the '70s, there was a major shift in what the definition of a Ferrari->ke252 really was. Enzo Ferrari had been opposed to mid-engine layouts for a long time, with the reasoning that a horse is supposed to pull a cart, so an engine therefore belongs at the front of a car. Enzo also believed that the setup would be too difficult to drive, but the company's engineers convinced him that it wouldn't be, and the first Belinetta Boxer models hit dealerships in 1973.
But, Enzo still held firm that Ferraris should have 12-cylinder engines, and when the idea came up to sell road-going versions of the six- and eight-cylinder Dino race cars,->ke148 these weren't allowed to wear Ferrari badges. But, that too changed with the 308,->ke3523 a mid-engine, V-8 road car that ended up being such a massive success. Ferrari has kept a mid-engine, V-8 berlinetta as its primary mainstream model ever since. An improved version of the car, known as the 328, was sold all of the way up until 1989, and the 308 was also the basis for the 288 GTO, considered by many to be Ferrari's first real supercar.->ke177 Clearly, it was an exceptional car in its day.
Continue reading to learn more about the Ferrari 308 GTBi.
The design of the 308 was based closely on the design of the 308 GT4, a 2+2 using the same engine that debuted two years earlier, at the time still wearing a Dino badge. This isn't so unusual except that the GT4 had been designed by Bertone, in itself highly usual at the time, and the 308 GTB two-seater was designed by Pininferina. It's a very small car, and very low to the ground, just 44 inches tall.
This made it very light, but early units were made with fiberglass bodies, making them exceptionally light. But, by the time Ferrari had switched from the 308 GTB to the 308 GTBi in 1980, that was long over with. There was a targa version of the car available, and the GTS ,which generally sold much better than the GTB fixed-roof cars in nearly every version of the car that Ferrari built.
Despite the “GT” in the name of the 308 GTB/GTS/GTBi/GTSi, the 308 was much more of a sports car than a gran turismo. For those who wanted a little more interior or luggage space, there was the 308 GT4, or the later Mondial. That's not to say that the 308 was uncomfortable, but it wasn't all that well suited to long trips, unless you were really determined. There is an unusually large number of gauges, switches and dials in the 308's cockpit, which led to the journalist P.J. O'Rourke to compare it to the Millennium Falcon. He goes on to explain that these are exceptionally difficult to understand, as the manual was “translated from Italian to English by someone who spoke only Chinese.”
The only real difference between the 308 GTB/GTS and the later GTBi/GTSi is that the later cars had fuel injection in place of the four twin-choke, Weber carburetors. This might sound good, but in reality, a lot of the fuel injection systems being introduced at this time weren't very good, and were only added to comply with new U.S. emissions regulations. This means there was a drop in power, down from 240 horsepower for the original version to 211 horsepower for European models and 202 for U.S. models. That's a depressing drop, and its no wonder that the '80-'83 models are the least popular of all the mainstream variants of the 308.
Things would get better in '82, when Ferrari launched the Quattrovalvole, a version of the fuel injected engine with four valves per cylinder. This brought the power back up to where it had been, and sales picked back up again. The engine is technically 2.9 liters, but Ferrari rounded this up to 3.0 in the name of the car. The 308 doesn't follow earlier Ferrari conventions, which used numbers based on the car's unitary displacement. In this case, the first two digits, 3-0, stood for the engine's total displacement, while the 8 stood for the number of cylinders. Some, but not all Ferrari V-8 models since have followed this convention, with the 458 being the most recent.
On the plus side, the 308 and 328 are considered to be not only some of the most reliable Ferraris of all time, but also the last models that the owner could reasonably expect to perform regular maintenance on themselves. Future models, particularly those with flat engines, would require the engine to be removed just to change the spark plugs, but this wasn't so with the 308/328.
The combined sales of the 308 and 328 total nearly 20,000 units, a number Ferrari wouldn't be able to top for a long time. That, combined with the fact that this is a V-8 model, means that buying a 308 today doesn't cost a whole lot, relatively speaking. The average price across all versions of the 308 (not counting the GT4, that's a different model) is about $45,000.
Fuel injected models would theoretically cost less, but at this point, the vehicle's condition will probably be the bigger factor in determining price. It's interesting to note that 308 values have seen the same recent upward trend as many other Ferrari models, in spite of it still having a price in the lower five digits. In 2009 or 2010, you probably could have picked one up in good condition for $10,000, but that's over now.
The 308 had a long enough production life compared to span a couple of V-8 Lamborghini models, but the GTBi/GTSi was launched just ahead of the Jalpa. The Lambo had a bigger and more powerful engine than the 308, especially the emissions-neutered version. The styling was similar in many respects to the Countach, but was an easier car to drive, which certainly didn't hurt. At the time, it was Lamborghini's most successful V-8 model, but it still didn't even come close to matching the sales of the 308.
Read our full review on the Lamborghini Jalpa here.
The 930 had the exact same lifespan as the 308/328, from 1975 to 1989, and was probably its biggest rival in North America, where the 911 has always enjoyed big sales figures. Despite the difference in nomenclature, the 930 is essentially just a turbocharged version of the original 911. Future generations would drop the naming distinction, and would become the “911 Turbo.” The 930 was more powerful than the 308 and lighter as well; it was a quick car, and gave the 308 a real run for its money.
The 308 was a fantastic car, and you can tell this is true by virtue of the fact that it had to be. It was a car that would have been unthinkable for Ferrari just five years earlier, and if Ferrari engineers were going to convince Enzo to let them bend the rules, they had to make sure they were doing it for something really special. The 308, and the V-8 sports cars that came after it, were so profitable for Ferrari that 2+2 V-12 gran turismos no longer needed to be bread and butter models, and Ferrari was able to build more lavish and near-supercar versions of these. It's one of those shining examples in the automotive industry where building a truly excellent car was also by far the best business decision.
Jacob is a former Audi mechanic turned automotive journalist. His love for cars started the first time he held a Porsche 911 Hot Wheels car in his hands, and the very same car continues to fascinate him in its full-sized form. An Army reservist, Jacob spends a fair number of weekends riding around in Humvees and not getting enough sleep.