Window Shopper: Ferrari 308 and 328


Story By Alan Cesar

Your bookish aunt and your accountant brother-in-law probably don’t know what a Morgan is, but they instantly recognize that yellow wedge with the horsey logo as a Ferrari. Why? After all, these two niche manufacturers were once on the same level of obscurity: They both produced low-volume, high-performance cars for enthusiasts in the know.
Ferrari earned recognition worldwide as a brand of top-tier performance cars thanks to the 308—and partly its association with a certain famous mustache: Magnum, P.I.
The 308 is the single most important F-car. It built the mythology and identity of the brand and made it desirable to the masses. A gated shifter, round taillights, and a screaming 7700 rpm V8 engine could all be yours in a 308.
In 1977, the model’s first year in the U.S., fully fiberglass bodies were bolted to tube frames underneath. Only 712 of these were made, and it’s hard to find one for sale. All subsequent years wore steel bodies with fiberglass floor pans, resulting in a weight penalty of 331 pounds. Reasons for the change are unclear.
Even so laden, the later cars aren’t slouches. Wring that Italian V8 all the way out and you’ll get 240 horsepower from the Weber-carbureted versions. Fuel injection arrived in 1980, but mostly in order to meet increasingly strict U.S. emissions regulations: Horsepower dropped to 205.
Ferrari restored power by introducing the four-valve Quattrovalvole engine for 1982. They then bumped displacement from 3.0 liters to 3.2 to create the rather similar 1985-’89 Ferrari 328. That follow-up model version is heavier, but with 270 horsepower it’s also the best performer of the lot—faster even than a fiberglass-bodied 308.
Drive one of these to work instead of a new Accord and the world will look at you in an entirely different way, even though you’ve spent about the same money.
And driving it is exactly what you should do. The 308 and 328 are supremely drivable and robust, but especially so if you use one at least weekly. Let it sit too long and problems will develop. To keep it running, you must keep running it.
Look to shell out about $2500 per year for upkeep. Major components don’t really break; the engine, clutch and gearbox are all strong. Prepare to spend $25,000 to $35,000 for a good steel-bodied 308; the 328 commands a $10,000 premium over that. If a fiberglass car is a must, expect a long search and set aside at least $70,000.
Sure, that money will buy a pole barn chock full of MGBs, but some say that simply sitting inside this Ferrari rivals the MGB driving experience. It’s hard to beat having an F-car in your garage. Your Facebook-addicted nephew will think you’re way cool even if you don’t grow a mustache.

Shopping and Ownership

These 308 and 328 Ferraris came as coupes and spiders—GTB and GTS, respectively. An “i” suffix adorns fuel-injected 308s. The GTB’s is a solid, world-class chassis, but it’s rarer than the spider’s. The GTS is about what you’d expect in comparison: a bit heavier, a bit more flexible.

We’d rather work on a carbureted 308 than one with injection—there’s just less stuff in the way—although syncing multiple carbs can be a chore. Fuel injection, of course, cures this problem, but it makes the rest of the car a bit tougher to work on.

Avoid 308s with TRX wheels unless you can haggle a wheel replacement cost into the price. The metric-diameter tires for those TRX wheels are expensive and not very good. The only reason to keep TRX wheels is if you’re after maximum originality. A set of 16-inch wheels will set you back about $1200, but tire options are far broader and better.

The bodywork, especially on the fiberglass 308s, has body filler from the factory. Ferrari used it to fill seams and imperfections in the fiberglass. The paint is also less than stellar: Don’t expect the sheen of a Rolls-Royce from your 308.

The fairly small production run—about 12,000 cars total—means you can usually find out who owned each car and whether they took good care of it. Buy one with service records if possible, but that’s getting harder to do these days. Thanks to the car’s robustness, though, a prepurchase inspection is often sufficient.

Don’t expect a leak-free car: Oil will come out the valve cover gaskets, and there’s not much you can do about it. Driving the car regularly will keep the water pump seal in good shape; if you let it sit too long, expect to replace the water pump within 15,000 miles.

Wiring is the weak point, and many owners like to fiddle with these electrical systems. Don’t buy one that’s been poorly modified or poorly rewired.

Most electrical problems come back to the poorly designed fuse box with riveted terminals. Resistance across the rivets melts the fuse box. Birdman’s Ferrari Parts makes a replacement aluminum fusebox that solves the majority of problems and looks like an OEM piece.

Interior switchgear became more reliable as the series progressed—mass-produced Fiat parts were substituted for Ferrari parts—but this also made the interior a bit blander. Don’t be too concerned about windows that rise slowly: Window motors in these cars are simply underpowered.

Make sure the car has the tool kit ($1000), owner’s manual ($300) and jack pack ($400). These parts are regularly sold on eBay, typically by a car’s unscrupulous owner.

Fixing interiors gets expensive in a hurry thanks to the Connolly leather. Figure $3000 to reupholster the seats, $4500 for all of the leather found inside the car. Replacing the carpet—also of high quality—will cost about $1000.

Fitted luggage made by Schedoni is incredibly good if you can find it. It was offered as an option and goes for about $700 on the used market.

Ferrarichat is the best forum for real answers and debunked mythology. Its members are helpful and knowledgeable. Don’t waste your time at other forums.

Parts and Service

Birdman’s Ferrari Parts
birdmanferrari.com

T. Rutlands
(800) 638-1444
trutlands.com

Resources

Ferrari Club of America
(800) 328-0444
ferrariclubofamerica.org

Ferrari Owners Club
ferrariownersclub.org

FerrariChat
ferrarichat.com

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