Ferrari 308/328 – Ferraris for beginners. Could this be the best time to scratch that Ferrari itch? We reveal how easy it is to own the last truly beautiful Ferraris. How owning the last Maranello beauty is easier than you’d think. Attracted by the looks, the handling, the badge but put off by punishing bills? Don’t be – we reveal how the 308/328 can be painless to own too. Words: Russ Smith. Photography: Richard Pardon.
The clues are there. Though you may not get serious Ferrari collectors interested in 308s – purely because too many were built to satisfy their desire for exclusivity and one-upmanship – prices for really good ones are definitely on the up. Lots of people are buying classics now, and for those untainted by number prejudice the 308/328 is simply one of the best-looking cars, with the most desirable of badges, to be found for under £50,000.
The glassfibre cars are already starting to build a head of steam; you’re now more likely to find those priced above £60,000 than below, and at the current rate of interest they will soon routinely be £70k-plus. But they are the outliers here, with the good excuse of being the original model, and with a total of 712 built that is well below the magic 1000 mark that triggers interest from Ferrari collectors. We’ve even seen one advertised recently for £82,500, but assume that was just someone’s sense of humour. For now.
But these are not cars for collectors, they are for people who want to enjoy a Ferrari for what it does, and are probably still the best entry point for marque ownership. You can still buy a good 308/328 for less than half that wild sum above, especially less-loved versions like the 1980-1982 fuel-injected 308s. These suffer the stigma of a 40bhp power drop compared to earlier cars but, if you can shrug that off and cope with ‘only’ 214bhp, the Bosch injection makes them easier to live with; and like for like they are currently around £5k-£10k cheaper than other 308s.
Though rooted firmly in its Dino 246GT predecessor, the 308 enjoys one of Ferraris’ most iconic profiles, instantly recognisable the world over – even if you take the badges off. In a way it’s Ferrari’s 911: facelifted for the 328, borrowed heavily from for the Ferrari 288 GTO, and echoes of which could still clearly be seen in the 360 – incidentally the only Ferrari to have so far outsold the 308.
There’s also no small amount of family resemblance in another Ferrari legend, the F40. At its launch in 1975 the GTB was instantly embraced by enthusiasts simply for not being the 308 GT4 2+2 with which it shared an engine (and most of the chassis) and which continued to be sold alongside it. The Bertone-styled GT4 wedge may have latterly achieved a degree of redemption and acceptability, but for most of its life has been shunned by the cognoscenti. Autosport magazine’s first encounter with the GT4 contained words like ‘disappointing’ and ‘ugly duckling’. In the polite tones of Seventies motoring journalists wanting to drive Maranello Concessionaires’ next Ferrari demonstrator, that roughly translates into ‘your mother was a Moskvitch and your father smelled of diesel oil’.
‘The 308s styling was greeted by industrial quantities of lyrical waxing. Pininfarina was back’
Not so the 308, whose styling was greeted by industrial quantities of lyrical waxing. Bertone’s brief fling with Ferrari was over for good. Pininfarina was back – more specifically its dynamic design duo of Leonardo Fioravanti and Aldo Brovarone, still on a roll after shaping the Daytona and Berlinetta Boxer.
The fun starts well below the speed limit… Heavy clutch in earlier cars makes stop/start town driving tiresome.
In fact the 308 can be seen as a successful ‘best of’ morphing of the Boxer and the 246 GT. The end result was so successful and so right, in fact, that it would continue to be sold with barely a design tweak for ten years, which was unheard of for fashion-led Ferrari – few previous models had lasted for half that time. At first the 308 was sold only in fixed-roof GTB form, though a Targa-topped GTS model was always likely because it had been so popular on the 246.
The 308’s most striking innovation was being the first production Ferrari with a glassfibre body. Many rumours surround the reason for this and its fairly swift demise after less than two years – some of which are probably true. It is said to have been done to get the car into production more quickly, as glassfibre moulds are easier to make than dies to press metal panels. That makes sense, as Ferrari had left a gap in its range by ending 246 production in 1973 without a true replacement to hand. So the switch to mostly steel bodies may always have been planned and not done, as some suggest, to counter some negative reaction in America to ‘plastic’ Ferraris. What is certainly true is that it was quicker to build cars with steel panels, and Ferrari quickly found it couldn’t build the 308 fast enough to meet demand, even before the GTS was launched – by absolutely no coincidence at the same time as production switched from glassfibre to metal.
In fact the 308 was never entirely glassfibre. The bonnet is aluminium and there’s a tubular steel chassis underneath, along with steel bulkhead and engine bay panelling. So the potential for corrosion is only lowered, not removed. Likewise, later cars were not all steel: glassfibre was retained for the floorpan, which will come as a relief to many. Anti-corrosion measures weren’t adopted by Ferrari until 1984, and even then fell well short of the galvanising that Porsches enjoyed.
13,131 (all, including 208 variants)
tubular steel chassis with steel body panels (early cars glassfibre)
|all-alloy, double-overhead-camshaft-per-bank 2926cc V8, four Weber 40DCNF carburettors
|all-alloy, double-overhead-camshaft- per-bank 3185cc V8. Bosch K-Jetroiic fuel injection
|255bhp @ 7700rpm
|267bhp @ 7000rpm
|210lb ft @ 5000rpm
|224lb ft @ 5500rpm
|driving rear wheels
independent, by double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers; anti-roll bar f/r
|independent by double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar and telescopic dampers
|rack and pinion
|All ventilated discs, with servo
|14ft 6in (4419mm)
5ft 8in (1727mm)
3ft 8in (1130mm)
|7ft 7in (2311mm)
Though the GTB arguably has a greater purity of line, it was the GTS that buyers really wanted. Right from the outset it outsold the GTB, and the rate at which it was doing so steadily increased until 308 Qv and then 328 production when Ferrari was selling at least four GTSs for every GTB.
The difference between the models is more than merely a lift-out roof section – which it is worth mentioning at this point slots neatly behind the seats in a protective bag. Cleverly balancing the look of the black Targa top, there are louvred covers over the rear side windows whose slats are perfectly angled so as not to hinder over- the-shoulder vision. They also hinge out of the way to provide access to the filler cap or for cleaning the glass. In a nod to the GTS being expected to live a less racy life, the engine was given a more normal wet sump, as US-spec GTBs had always had. European GTBs got to keep their dry-sump oil system. Similarly, little thought was given to extra body stiffening; rough roads will induce a little scuttle shake in a GTS, and if the top is in place you’ll hear it squeak as the body flexes.
Chrome-free dash and flush-fitting switchgear mark out the Eighties’ interior of the 328
‘The 308 would continue to be sold with barely a design tweak for ten years – unheard-of for fashion-led Ferrari’
We’ve deliberately lumped the 328 in with the 308 because it’s more a facelift than a truly new model. Fired by the wish to stay ahead of rivals in the junior supercar stakes, Ferrari bored and stroked the engine to 3.2 litres to deliver 270bhp and two fingers in the direction of Porsche, whose 3.2-litre 911 Carrera had only 231bhp. Underneath, the chassis is much the same, with just minor revisions such as the slightly quicker steering rack from the 288 GTO, still unassisted. The rest is all down to dressing up a Seventies car to look like an Eighties one, with mixed success. With more than a dash of Testarossa influence, the nose and tail have been smoothed and body-coloured in a way that visually lowers the car, and to modern eyes the 16in alloys look better ‘balanced’ with the design. However, some of the 308’s racy aggression has been lost by moving the cooling slats from behind the pop-up headlamps to between them in the leading edge of the bonnet. Many also prefer original 308 details such as the delicate finger-latches to open the doors. No surprise, given that they were replaced by style-free flaps set flush with the doorskins. There’s also something about the 308’s more prominent front spoiler – particularly the optional deeper one – that screams speed rather than subtlety.
It’s a similar story in the cabin. Driven by safety requirements as much as fashion, the centre console’s bank of classic black and chrome levers and flick-switches have been replaced by large, flush rocker switches and flat knobs in the style of a bad guy’s computer control panel from an Eighties Bond movie. This was described at the time by Motor as ‘a pleasing lack of chrome’, though it largely comes down to your taste and age, and all will appreciate the 328’s clearer gauges and improved ergonomics.
Whichever model you prefer, or can afford, they all have one thing in common: the driving experience. Quite simply, it is sublime. If you have a sporty bent and enjoy driving, there is perhaps no better car. Newer sports cars may have more power, better grip and clever gadgets, but most of that is irrelevant on the road and none I have driven has the same all-encompassing tactility of the 308 and 328. They are also remarkably easy and forgiving cars to drive quickly, at least in the dry. Whatever your skill level, a 308 will make you look better, and even pressing hard you soon discover that old wives’ tales about mid-engined cars existing to toss you into the scenery at the first opportunity are just that: old wives’ tales.
Little effort – and great enjoyment – In getting that needle around to the other side of the dial
And though sporting, the ride is remarkably supple, soaking up mid-corner bumps and irregularities without deviation from the chosen line or loosening of fillings – all with a reassuring, mild touch of understeer. If there is a catch it’s merely that anyone of six foot or more will struggle with the confines of a 308’s cabin. They’re better accommodated in the 328.
All this is accompanied by the finest of soundtracks, just inches from your ears. Unless someone has fitted a noisy sports exhaust the engine is actually quite unobtrusive below 3000rpm – you’ll hear more transmission whine than engine noise – but above that the sound builds into the kind of addictive racetrack wail that raises hairs on the back of your neck and makes your heart beat a little faster, and goes on getting better and better all the way to the redline. Pre-1980 cars get the added bonus of induction roar from the Webers that gets damped down by later injection systems. Don’t worry, it’s not too loud – you can still converse with a passenger or hear the radio at up to about 120mph. And eventually you may perhaps want to do both those things – if the novelty ever wears off.
328 brought the original 308 styling into the Eighties with body colour bumpers and flush lighting.
The clutch is a little heavy on early cars, to the extent that it could become annoying in stop-start town driving. But this was addressed with the introduction of the injected cars, which got both a lighter clutch and modified gearbox with slicker shifting. Also, like many mid-engined cars, encroachment of the front wheel well means that the pedals are offset to the left, though not by enough to spoil the driving position.
Whichever model you decide might suit you best, the key to enjoying ownership is buying the right car in the first place, which is one that’s been properly cared for and isn’t storing up a lot of deferred maintenance. You still need to allow £2000-£2500 a year to run one properly, which accounts for regular servicing and keeping on top of anything that goes wrong or needs improvement, but that’s probably no more than you would spend running a Jaguar E-type. An annual service from a specialist is about £600, and every four years the cambelt needs replacing, which adds another £600. Clutches last under 30,000 miles and a new one is around £900 fitted.
Flush-fitting flap is a stylistic step backwards from 308 finger-latch. 328 boasts quicker steering from 288 GTO.
What you really want to avoid are the big bills. Engines are tough and last up to 120,000 miles depending on care and use, but a rebuild will be £12,500 or more. Make sure that hot oil pressure doesn’t fall below 40-45psi, and check the engine thoroughly for oil leaks. You should also check that old MoTs and service records back up the mileage – it’s very easy (and profitable) to disconnect the speedo cable on a 308.
Bodies are, of course, the other major concern. Rust can break out anywhere, though particularly from the swage line down. There’s good body panel availability – but at a price. Any repairs need to be done to a high quality because the Ferrari-buying market is understandably fussy. You should be too.
Front wings are £ 1000-plus, full sills are nearly £600 a side and doorskins £300 each plus another £40 for the inevitable frame repair section. Even wheelarch repair sections are nearly £150 each, and the vulnerable 308 front bumper is £395 in glassfibre. Far better, if you can, to find a car that someone has already spent proper money on restoring, because at current values you’ll be streets ahead of buying a less-good one and restoring it.
Professional inspection is highly recommended before you reach the stage of signing on any dotted line. Just don’t wait too long to start looking if you are tempted. After doing very little for years, the market is definitely strengthening for 308s and 328s, particularly those in top condition. The right one for £40,000 today could soon look like the bargain of the decade.
Thanks to: Andrew Everett, Mike Wheeler; Tim Walker of walkersportxo.uk, clubscuderia.co .uk and everyone at Studio 434
Mike Wheeler of Rardley Motors in Hindhead, Surrey (rardleymotors. com) has been selling Ferraris for more than 30 years and is very keen on the 308 range. ‘It’s a good first Ferrari – in fact, it has fulfilled that role for many years now. They’re easy to drive, easy to use regularly and easy to look after. The electric windows are about the most complicated bit.
‘A lot of people look after them themselves – or bring them to us just for the regular cambelt changes. Many enthusiasts who wanted – but can’t quite stretch to – a 246 Dino are buying them at the moment. ‘Some buyers are hung up over the idea of a glassfibre 308, so we try to establish why. Usually it’s rarity or because they think the car won’t rust, but there’s steel underneath – and the gelcoat crazes, which can actually be just as difficult to deal with. They’re also getting expensive – good ones cost more than £60,000 now. The steel-bodied carburettor-equipped cars aren’t that much more common in the UK.
‘The 308 Qvs are good value at about £40,000. While 328s are a similar price, there aren’t many of those about. For both of those the GTS and GTB are similar money because the GTB is so much rarer in the later models. ‘Steel/carb 308s bridge the gap at £35,000-£50,000, with the GTBi/GTSi the cheapest at £30,000-£35,000 for the best, but there aren’t many of those around either.
‘Whichever model you’re looking at, it’s condition that’s more important than anything. And don’t be too fussy about paint or the interior colour scheme – there’s simply not enough choice about for that.’
Andrew Everett bought his 308 GTB five years ago after spotting it at a local car dealer. ‘It was the spec I wanted – dry sump, carburettors and a Berlinetta – so I had it checked out by a specialist. He pointed out things that would need doing, but said it was very good at the price. I had the carbs rebuilt and the timing belt and all hoses replaced. I’ve replaced the carpets and recoloured the seats with a Buffalo Leather kit. I’ve spent about £12k over five years on servicing and bringing it up to spec, which isn’t bad.
‘When I open the garage door it still makes me smile. It also gives other people enjoyment seeing it driven, and riding in it. I do charity days, giving rides to kids from hospices and injured service personnel. ‘There’s a great camaraderie among Ferrari owners.’
Tim Walker’s love it of 308/328s resulted in him becoming a marque specialist. He bought his latest 328 three years ago. “I found it through the Ferrari Owners’ Club, far from pristine and formerly left-hand drive. I race in Class 3 of the Pirelli Ferrari Classic series, which is for road-legal, MoT’d cars, and it still gets used on the road like many of the competitors. I finished second in the series last year, so no guesses on my goal for 2014!
‘On the road the 328 is great – fast enough, reliable and sensible to run. You can drive it quite hard and still not be breaking speed limits. The steering is very communicative and the exhaust note very pleasant. ‘The air-conditioning system is pretty poor, so a lot of people remove the aircon compressor and keep it in a box – and not having it in situ speeds up cambelt changes a little.’
Know your 308 series
Although on the surface these cars look pretty similar, they went through a lot of changes that affect their desirability and market value. Swot up before you start searching…
1975 308 GTB (the B’ is for Berlinetta) launched with the 255bhp dry-sump V8 from the 308 GT4 2+2. Styled by Pininfarina, it is the first production Ferrari to have a glassfibre body (the aluminium bonnet notwithstanding).
1976 Unable to build the glassfibre-bodied 308 quickly enough to meet demand, in late 1976 Ferrari starts the switch to steel bodies – though retaining a glassfibre floorpan. As a result, about 68kg is added to the car’s weight.
1977 Last of the 712 glassfibre cars is completed in July. Range is expanded with the 308 GTS (‘S’ for Spider) with lift-out Targa top and vents over rear side windows. GTS also uses a wet-rather than dry-sump version of the V8.
1980 Engines get Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection and Marelli electronic ignition; cars rebadged 308 GTBi/ GTSi. Power drops to 214bhp for Europe, 205bhp for US. Italian and New Zealand markets get 208 GTB/ GTS with tax-dodging 1990cc V8.
1988 Around mid-year ABS brakes become an option. All 328s from this point get Mondial-style convex five-spoke alloys in place of dished wheels. Production ends in autumn
1989 after 7412 328s have been built: just 1344 were GTBs.
1982 Four-valve cylinder heads up power to 240bhp. The T in model name replaced by quattrovalvole, Qv for short. 2.0 model becomes 208 Turbo; power up to 220bhp. A roof spoiler and extra ducts ahead of rear arches mark them out.
1985 Ferraris bestseller to date (more than 12,000) morphs into the 328 with smoother, body-coloured nose and tail. The engine grows to 3185cc and 270bhp. Italian 2.0-litre models now simply GTB/GTS turbo, giving 254bhp.
…how about a Mondial?
If a GTB/GTS is out of reach there’s a half-price option in the shape of the four-seater Mondial that was built alongside them from 1980-1993, using the same engines and glassfibre floor. Choose from coupe or soft-top: the latter costs about 25 per cent more.
Their main enemy isn’t rot – rust in the lower half of the body is usually cosmetic rather than structural. What really gives Mondials a bad name is electrics – you can get failure of or problems with anything in the system, particularly switches and the fusebox.
Persistent low value also means many suffer from deferred maintenance. You often find examples with baggy suspension, or cambelts well beyond their three-year change regime. Note that many Mondials were sold with metric wheels and tyres, and new rubber is £400 a corner. Many owners switch to 16in wheels, at a similar cost, which makes subsequent tyre changes a lot cheaper. Post- 1989 ‘t’ models are even more complex and dear to run: best avoided. The durable Qv is the best choice.
Engine Mid-mounted 2926-3185cc V8. dohc per bank, four Weber 40DCNF carburettors or Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection
Power 255- 270bhp @ 7700-7000rpm;210-224lb ft @ 5000-5500rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual with LSD, rear-wheel drive
Steering Rack and pinion
Front and rear: independent by double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar and telescopic dampers Brakes Front and rear: vented discs, servo-assisted (ABS from 1988)
Weight 1303-1475kg (2870-3250lb)
Performance Top speed: 140-155mph: 0-60mph: 7.9-5.9sec
Fuel consumption 15-20mpg
Cost new £16,499 (308,1978) – £46,500 (328,1988)
Value now £15,000-£45,000