Alan Cesar
Alan Cesar Dork
1/18/13 11:41 a.m.

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.

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