Where does the passion come from ? Concerning cars, for certain people, it comes from a childhood memory, the first time they’ve seen a particular car, or a Formula One Grand Prix… But to me, it’s a family tradition. Both my Grandfathers were in the automotive industry. One was a Renault dealer, it was his full time job. For my mother’s father, it was a hobby : he had a jewellery during the week, and he was a racing driver on Saturdays and Sundays. He used to race on Renault Gordinis, Ford Mustangs, Mini Coopers, Alpine A110s… And in 1977, after owning a white De Tomaso Pantera GTS, he made his dream come true, by buying a Ferrari 308 GTB.

He loved this car so much he has never sold it, even in 1989 after Enzo Ferrari’s death, when a man wanted to buy it for 10 times the price he’d paid for it 12 years earlier. In 1992 he gave it to my father. In 1993, I was born.

This is a 37 years test of the 308 GTB «Vetroresina». Text and Images : Bertrand D.

308 GTB 6

Back in 1974, if you wanted a Ferrari, it had to be a 12 cylinders : 365 GT4 BB or 365 GT4 2+2. « Little Ferraris » existed, but had a Dino badge instead of the Prancing Horse : the Dino 308 GT4, a 4 seater coach with a Bertone body.

At the Salon de l’Automobile of Paris, in september 1975, the 308 GTB was unvealed, with the 3 litre carburator, 255hp V8 of the 308 GT4, but with a new body, styled by Leonardo Fioravanti for Pininfarina.

The first 712 cars were built with a fiberglass body, which was much faster to manufacture than steel for Scaglietti. By mid 1977, a steel body appeared, and a targa version too, the 308 GTS. The engine was still the same but in 1980, to fit with US pollution legislation, the V8 was converted to injection, and lost 41hp. The order was restablished in 1982 with the 308 GTB/GTS Quattrovalvole and its 240hp.

308 GTB 5

How’s it like to drive ?

First of all, it is important to say that, of course, compared to modern standards, this car is not very powerful, but the fact is, pure power doesn’t matter. What matters is the way it feels, and driving a 308 makes you feel happy : the smell of the oil, the fuel, the leather, the sound of the engine… It puts a big smile on your face, which doesn’t disappear when you get out of the car and look at the wonderful Pininfarina body.

The 308 is a mid-engine Berlinetta, so the weight distribution is excellent. The engine itself is very smooth, you can be at 30 mph, slow down, run over a speedbump, and take the speed up to 30 again, all in 5th gear. Appart from the clutch, which is a bit hard -35kg of pressure on the pedal- it is very nice to drive in the city, even stuck in a traffic jams.

Then you leave the city, and the 308 comes to life. The engine revs very fast to 6’000/7’000 rpm and the red line is at 7’700 rpm, when the engine produces all of its power with a sound which makes you think you’re Niki Lauda on the Fiorano Track back in 1975. And when you remember you’re not, arriving (fast) to a corner, don’t worry : you can count on the breaks. For a 37 years car, they are very effective and tough. You turn the steering wheel and can feel the road : the transmission of informations through it is very accurate. The suspensions are just hard enough and work perfectly with the stiff chassis. With 15,000 miles behind the wheel, and over 25’000 miles in the passenger seat, I’ve never got afraid, or lost control, even under heavy rain. It can oversteer a little bit, but you can correct it easily.

308 GTB 8

Changing gears is a pleasure thanks to the slotted aluminium gate. The gearbox is perfectly staged and double-clutching is very easy with the pedal disposition.

On the highway you are at 70 mph, in 5th gear at 3’000 rpm. If the windows are closed you just have a background sound, very light and nice and can have a conversation without shouting. My car doesn’t have air-conditionning, so both of the windows are often open. I went to Italy with it in August, with a temperature of 35°C, and I wonder how one could drive there with the windows closed. Accelerating trough tunnels is a rare pleasure for your ears and, moreover, you have fresh Italian air in the cockpit! It is very comfortable : after a 700 miles trip you’re not tired, your spine doesn’t hurt, and you can get back in the car for another ride !

Buying a Ferrari 308

There are a lot of 308s on the market today, and prices are rising. You can find a 308 GTB/Si at 30·000€ in good conditions. The vetroresina is worth now around 100·000€ in concours conditions, twice as much as it was worth last year. The advantage of the Vetroresina is its rarety, and the fact it doesn’t rust.

A 308 is a very reliable car. You must maintain it well. A check-up costs about 3,000 euros, with the replacement of the belts. Then the car is fine for 4 years with no big cost. Tyres are tough, and cost 1,300 euros including the installation. Pieces are easy to find, and so are the specialists.

The cylindre head gasket doesn’t need to be changed : it lasts the life of the car.

The fuel consumption is around 12 litres for 100km.

308 GTB 2

In conclusion…

I’m sorry… This test is absolutely not objective… But how could it be ?

This car is great, and –for the moment- it is an excellent way of entering in the Ferrari World, this is a perfect first Ferrari, very pleasant to drive and not too expensive to run.

308 GTB 7