Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4

| 21 Jun 2019
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4

Why you’d want a Ferrari 308GT4

There are not many ‘forgotten Ferraris’ – models that lag a little behind the rest in their appreciation in value – and the 308GT4 certainly doesn’t deserve to be among them.

It was the first 2+2 of the ‘junior’ Dino family; it was the first to use the magnificent new four-cam V8; it was the first to use this chassis and suspension layout – and it was the first new Ferrari GT for 20 years to be shaped by anyone other than Pininfarina.

In fact, it was the only Ferrari styled by Marcello Gandini at Bertone – designer of the Miura, Espada and Countach.

Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche all had compact 2+2s with engines of 2.5-3 litres – so it was clearly time that Ferrari stepped into the same market and the GT4’s sales figures confirm that it was a wise move. The boot is a useful size and, with its longer wheelbase, the GT4 handles and rides better than the two-seater 308s.

Performance was significantly affected by the need to meet emissions legislation in different markets and some Federal versions – which also had to bear ugly 5mph impact bumpers – put out 50bhp less.

Sales resistance in the US led Ferrari to abandon Dino as a separate marque, and to authorise the replacement of the Dino badges with the prancing horse. For a time, it was the only Ferrari homologated for sale in the US.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4
(l-r) NART GT4 was built by Bill Schanbacher for ’74 Le Mans; Chris Rea with his in Pirelli Ferrari Formula Classic series

Bertone’s packaging was really impressive and rear vision – indeed all-round visibility – is exceptional for a mid-engined car. The GT4 was superseded by Pininfarina’s Mondial, which was roomier in the back but was heavier and slower.

Normal running repairs are not unduly costly – if you buy a good example and look after it, you should be pleasantly surprised by the bills – but parts unique to the GT4 can be very expensive.

As an example, the rear light plastic surrounds cost £700, plus bumpers and their rubber inserts are unobtainable. As a spokesman for Ferrari pointed out, though: “Classiche can remake any part for any car that Ferrari has ever produced. We have all the drawings for every component. A client having a car restored by Ferrari Classiche can request items to be remanufactured if not available as new old stock.”

Originally two distributors were fitted, one for each bank. Each had two sets of points, one retarding ignition when idling, the other advancing it for normal running; a micro-switch in the throttle linkage controlled the two. It’s tricky to set up, and best replaced with electronics. 

Images: Tony Baker


Ferrari 308GT4: what to look for

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4

Bodywork

See above for trouble spots

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4

Engine

Original sodium-filled valves (which break) will almost certainly have been replaced by now; check, and budget £12-15,000 for an engine rebuild if it can’t be proven. Cambelt must be replaced every three years (circa £700). A detailed and complete service history is highly desirable, as is getting the motor checked by a reputable specialist.

Electronic ignition packs fitted from July 1978 cured plug-fouling issues that cars were prone to in traffic; retro-fitting electronic ignition is perfectly feasible.

Fans on front radiator (£1194 exch) are troublesome; this car has 13in Kenlowes with direct supply via relay. Foam on bonnet ensures all air flows through rad.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4

Suspension

Ride is generally good but Teflon-lined suspension bushes do need replacement from time to time. Dampers seize up on little-used cars. Check dates on tyres.

Gearbox

Gearchange can be notchy when cold, but shouldn’t be obstructive. Fourth-gear synchro is usually first to fail. Clutch kit £294; full ’box overhaul £1250-3500.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4

Interior

Trim could be full leather, hide and cloth, or vinyl and cloth. Rear seats could be replaced by a luggage carrier. Check that all fittings are present: parts are scarce.

Electrics

All electrical gear should be checked, especially windows (slow), aircon and pop-up headlamps. NLA column stalks can only be rebuilt, for $700 (c£540).


Ferrari 308GT4: on the road

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4
Crisp lines look their best in a subtle metallic

Despite it being a 2+2, the GT4 weighs just 60kg more than the GTB – so it’s almost as quick and most people agree that it’s more satisfying to drive. Period tests cited sudden breakaway on the limit in the wet, but it was a very high limit.

The engine is remarkably flexible given its high power output. Drive to the transmission is by step-down gears, so their noise is a constant accompaniment, plus a roar from the V8 when extended.

Well-maintained engines are reliable, plus accessibility for most servicing is good, with one of the easiest oil filters to change on any car.

The crankcase is divided into two parts, one side being the sump for the engine, the other housing the gearbox and limited-slip diff. Oil seals between the two go hard with age and start to leak, allowing engine oil to fill up the gearbox. It’s not disastrous, but the bill to replace the seals is significant because it involves 10 hours’ labour.

Lack of, or intermittent, use is the biggest cause of problems, especially the brakes where the calipers and the marginal handbrake set-up can seize.

Michelin XWX 205/70VR14 tyres are more than £300 each, but many people convert to 16in Superformance wheels – as on the featured car.

Should your prancing horse go lame, Ferrari offers With You: free roadside assistance for any model built since 1947 not covered by factory or Power warranties.

It gives 12 months of help if a vehicle breaks down, plus expenses to get home or reach the Authorised Service Centre to which the car has been taken. The service also covers hotel costs incurred by the owner before returning to base or continuing with their journey.


Ferrari 308GT4 price guide

  • Show/rebuilt: £65,000
  • Average: £35-45,000
  • Restoration: £20,000

Ferrari 308GT4 history

1973 Nov Launched at Paris Salon

1974 May First right-hand-drive car built

1975 Jan Electric windows, tinted glass, heated rear window (previously standard) become options on RHD cars (standard again from Oct 1976)

1975 Spring Tax-break 208GT4 added for the Italian market only: 1991cc V8, 170bhp, 137mph

1975 July US cars get Ferrari badging

1976 May Series 2: foglights disappear behind wider grille, front spoiler, improved air-conditioning, single distributor, Ferrari motifs on bonnet, wheels, steering wheel, rear panel; Federal models get less protruding bumpers

1978 Jul Electronic ignition added

1980 Dec 308GT4 replaced by Mondial 8


The owner’s view

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4
Francis Newman says the 308GT4 feels like “a big go-kart”

Owner Francis Newman bought his 308GT4 from a friend four years ago: “I’ve been a Ferrari fan for decades and belonged to the FOC’s Prancing Horse Register, helping out at track days. When I told my wife that I wanted to buy this car, she said, ‘I can’t believe you’ve waited for so long!’ It was built in October 1978 but first registered in the UK in August ’79.

“The car had five owners in 10 years then had a major overhaul. It was retrimmed (it was tan) and the engine rebuilt. I’ve always liked the shape, it was affordable and I can get the seat further back than in a GTB.

“I’ve had to do some bodywork – I knew that it would need it – but mechanically it’s been excellent and just gets better with driving: it feels like a big go-kart. I’ll never sell it: I’ve taken it on track, and we had a great trip to Angoulême.”


Also consider

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4
Lamborghini Urraco (left) and Porsche 911 Carrera are alternative buys

LAMBORGHINI URRACO P250/300

Bertone styling, mid-mounted V8, 2+2 – the Urraco was definitely in Ferrari’s sights with the GT4. Stunning, but it rots for Italy and parts can be a nightmare to find.

Sold 1973-’79 • No. built 710 • Mpg 14-19 • 0-60mph 6.5 secs (P300) • Top speed 162mph • Price new £10,596 (’76) • Price now £60-100,000+


PORSCHE 911 CARRERA 2.7/3.0/SC

The fastest non-turbo 911 of its day outsold Ferrari and Lambo together, due to durability and targa option. Later SC (pictured) better value and much more plentiful.

Sold 1974-’83 • No. built 108,081 • Mpg 17-20 • 0-60mph 6.1 secs • Top speed 146mph • Price new £11,499 (3.0, ’76) • Price now £40-175,000


Ferrari 308GT4: the Classic & Sports Car verdict

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Ferrari 308GT4
After years as the bargain-basement Ferrari, the best examples of the practical 2+2 are now sought-after

The 308GT4 still looks undervalued – despite a surge of interest over the past few years – but beware optimistic asking prices.

Rot can be horrendous, so check carefully for filler and poor repairs, and expect a fat file of recent bills showing the care a Ferrari deserves. If not, budget to get it into good order. Experts reckon that there are not many nice ones.

FOR 

  • Great performance/ride package
  • First mid-engined V8 Ferrari
  • Accommodates larger/taller drivers
  • Currently one of the best-value Cavallinos

 

AGAINST

  • Rust can be rampant
  • Electrical components often troublesome, and problems can be costly to remedy
  • Some parts very expensive or unobtainable

Ferrari 308GT4 specifications

Sold/number built 1973-’80/2826 (plus 840 208GT4)

Construction tubular steel chassis, steel body, aluminium engine lid and front compartment lid

Engine all-alloy four-cam 2927cc V8, with four twin-choke Weber 40DCNF carburettors

Max power 205bhp @ 6600rpm-255bhp @ 7700rpm

Max torque 195lb ft @ 5000rpm-209lb ft @ 5000rpm

Transmission five-speed manual, driving rear wheels via limited-slip differential

Suspension independent, by coil springs, double wishbones, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar 

Steering rack and pinion, 3.3 turns lock to lock

Brakes ventilated discs all round, with servo: front/rear 10.5/10.9in

Length 14ft 1in (4300mm)

Width 5ft 7in (1710mm)

Height 3ft 111/2in (1210mm)

Wheelbase 8ft 41/2in (2550mm)

Weight 3009lb (1365kg)

0-60mph 6.9 secs 

Top speed 154mph

Mpg 16-22

Price new £9442 (1976)


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