Ferrari 308 Buying Guide

Offering a rare blend of performance and style, the Ferrari 308 is an intoxicating proposition – but you need to keep your eyes wide open when buying

Ferrari 308 Buying Guide

How much to pay

• Project £40,000 • Good £60,000-£100,000 • Concours £100,000-£150,000 •

Overview

Practicality ★★
Running costs ★★
Spares ★★★
DIY Friendly★★
Investment ★★★★
Desirability ★★★★

Ferrari’s celebrated line of mid-engined V8s began with the angular GT4, but it really became lodged in the public consciousness thanks to the 308GTB. Leonardo Fioravanti penned a shape that mixed the 246 Dino’s curves with a touch of 1970s wedge, and to an entire generation it remains perhaps the most recognisable of Ferraris.

Over the course of its 10-year production run, the 308 was built to the tune of 13,131 cars, a number that might go some way to explaining why prices stayed low until comparatively recently. If it’s not the rarest of Prancing Horses, it is surely one of the best to drive – a genuine sweet spot in the development of the ‘junior’ Ferrari. The steering is sublime, the balance exquisite and the engine strong.

And just look at it. If ever there was a car to make you take one last glimpse before closing the garage door, this is surely it. That said, don’t be seduced by the styling. If you don’t buy carefully, the dream could turn into an expensive nightmare.

Your AutoClassics Ferrari 308 inspection checklist

Engine

The 308’s V8 is an all-alloy 2926cc unit with double overhead camshafts per bank. At launch, it had a quartet of Weber carburettors, which was replaced with fuel injection in 1980 but at the expense of 40bhp due to emissions regulations. In 1982, most of the lost power was recovered with the introduction of the four-valve Quattrovalvole. European-spec GTBs used dry-sump lubrication until 1981; all GTSs and American 308s featured a wet-sump system.

Whichever variant you’re looking at, the engines are robust as long as servicing schedules are rigorously maintained. Carb-fed 308s need to be serviced every 3000 miles, while the cambelts need replacing at three years or 20,000 miles.

Water-pump bearings are prone to failure, and camshafts can wear. Top-end rattles, excessive exhaust smoke and oil pressure below 45-55psi under load are all signs of a tired engine.

One of the biggest enemies is lack of use – regular outings during which everything gets up to temperature are much better than periods of storage or multiple short journeys. Exhausts can corrode and manifolds can crack, the latter being a time-consuming job to fix.

Some territories – including the home market – had the option of the tax-friendly 2-litre 208, which was later turbocharged in a desperate attempt to boost its performance. Ferrari F1 star Gilles Villeneuve didn’t see the point, instead wondering why they didn’t just turbocharge the 3-litre car…

Gearbox

As with the engine, the five-speed manual gearbox is a tough unit. When it’s cold, however, second gear can be somewhat recalcitrant. Many owners have become used to missing it out entirely and shifting straight into third. If it still baulks when up to temperature, the synchromesh could be worn.

Early 308s were noted for having a very heavy clutch but the mechanism was changed in 1980, which lightened it considerably. The clutch itself will last surprisingly well under a careful owner, but can need replacing in only a few thousand miles if abused.

Suspension and brakes

The 308 employs double wishbones all round with coil springs and telescopic dampers, plus an anti-roll bar at both ends. As you might expect, it’s firm at low speeds but a good example will handle beautifully. The steering is well weighted and full of feedback, and the Ferrari should be planted through fast corners.

Anything less than that requires investigations. Dampers can deteriorate over time on cars that aren’t used, but the ventilated disc brakes should feel strong.

Bodywork

The first 712 cars had a glassfibre body that was made by Scaglietti, but from 1977 Ferrari switched to all-steel construction. That was also the year in which the GTB body style was joined by the GTS, with its removable roof panels.

The ‘vetrorosina’ glassfibre body was well built, but check for crazing and faded paint. It sounds obvious but bear in mind that, even on GRP cars, the chassis beneath was steel, so in terms of corrosion you need to be vigilant whether you’re looking at an early or late 308. Zincrox coating was applied from 1984 onwards, so those cars were better protected when new. The bonnet panel is aluminium – check that it’s not distorted from repeatedly being clumsily closed.

On steel cars, check along the swage line – corrosion that’s not readily visible can be felt if you run your hand along it. Inspect the windscreen surround, the spare-wheel well, the front valance and the sills. Get underneath the car to make sure the outriggers are solid, and also check the bottom of the doors.

Basically, you need to inspect everything – particularly from the swage line down. A specialist will easily be able to spot signs of poor repairs or accident damage.

Interior

The 308 features a stylish and cosseting interior, with supportive leather seats, but the electrical systems can be a weak point. Check the air-conditioning as well as the operation of the electric windows, which can sometimes be very slow.

The control stalks aren’t the most robust, while the senders for oil temperature and pressure can fail. It’s also easy to disconnect the speedometer, so make sure that the mileage can be verified via the paperwork.

History

  • 1975: 308GTB launched at Paris Motor Show.
  • 1977: Steel bodyshell replaces glassfibre; GTS introduced.
  • 1980: Fuel injection replaces carburettors.
  • 1982: QV model introduced with four valves per cylinder.
  • 1985: 308 replaced by 328.

AutoClassics say…

As recently as 2008, the 308 was one of the great classic bargains. Even a carb-fed, dry-sump GTB could be found for £20,000 – and that was for a good, ready-to-use example from a marque specialist. Those days are long gone, though. Glassfibre 308s are now very firmly into six-figure territory, with the best steel cars not far behind.

An inspection by a reputable expert will be vital. Equally important is a bulging history file that’s full of bills for servicing and other maintenance. A neglected 308 will be a money-pit.

Most sought-after are the glassfibre cars, only 154 of which were built in right-hand drive. Next up are the steel-bodied, dry-sump carburettor cars, followed by the four-valve QV injected models. The pre-QV injected cars are less powerful, less fancied and therefore cheaper.

The recent rise in values was surely inevitable. The 308 was simply too good and too beautiful to remain as affordable as it had been.

Specifications

308GTB
  Power 255bhp
  Top speed 154mph
  0-60mph 6.6sec
  Economy 18mpg

308GTBi
  Power 214bhp
  Top speed 149mph
  0-60mph 7sec
  Economy 21mpg

308 QV
  Power 240bhp
  Top speed 158mph
  0-60mph 5.8sec
  Economy 20mpg

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