Featured: Dueling In The Rain With A Ferrari 208 GTB Turbo

Dueling In The Rain With A Ferrari 208 GTB Turbo

By Petrolicious Productions
July 24, 2015

Story & Photography by: Davide Cironi

There’s only one thing to can pull me out of my bed on a wet Sunday morning like this: Ferrari.

I’m going to drive a 1982 208 GTB, first year of production with a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and 220 horsepower. It’s the first road-going turbo from Maranello, the smallest V8 ever built, and the perfect car for who want to start driving in red…for many reasons.

First, it is beautiful. Your head will turn every time you park it, and you will look at your reflection in every shop window. It wears rough, (very) Italian lines from the ’70–’80s.

It is not as fast as it is beautiful, so if it should be your first time driving a turbo Ferrari, maybe you will not end your drive at the bottom of a river. It is quite friendly, and power is never frightening. Boring, then? No: smooth.

Cheap and chic, like Moschino perfume. You have a pretty cool Ferrari with the money you could spend for any manner of modern, weak, sedan.

Then the driving. Without “Ferraristic” power I can focus on all the other aspects such as gearbox, steering or seat position. It’s everything as I want: hard, rough and noisy. The mid-engined configuration is perfect for learning how to drive this kind of Ferrari, before trying to handle a mean one like 512 BB or 288 GTO. We’re living today in a time that accustoms us to easy speed and directness, even Il Commendatore used to say, “…the modern sport car era demands not pure speed but immediate speed”. When Ferrari built this, it was still trying, today, it’s finally there. It’s hard to imagine more direct cars than a 458 Italia or 488 GTB, but the charm of this old one is related to how the company was trying to do something new.

Driving this little and quite modest Ferrari, I can feel the precise work of engineers who worked according to the laws and rules applied at the time. The Arab Oil Crisis brought Maranello and others to build some strange-today cars like the 208 GTB Turbo, and in those years it was a bit sad. Today, it makes me smile, and very curious, though. The thing I love the most is laying down on the seat, in a very incorrect position for my arms and legs, with the steering wheel so far away, but incredibly fine. So low on the ground, so Ferrari the scent of leather and smoke.

Sunday morning is turning to a rainy afternoon. Up hills, the GTB cuts wet corners and the steering starts to be alive in my hands. Its rear axle is genuine on the power slide, and you can douse the accelerator to make wheels turn just a little faster. Too easy, perhaps, if you’ve already driven a faster old Ferrari, but always satisfying as hell. So spartan, hard to understand without direct experience, better if alone with the car, on a desert country road, with low lights and a soft rain.

It’s getting dark, time to lift the headlights… The best moment of the day.

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Per Eldh
Per Eldh(@per)
5 years ago

Smallest V8 ever? No way.
Ever heard of the Fiat 8V..? THAT’S a small V8.

Anuraj Shah
Anuraj Shah(@anu_shah)
5 years ago

It is a shame that this article is so terribly written.

chris cook
chris cook
4 years ago
Reply to  Anuraj Shah

Like to see you write it in Italian.

Anders Hagström
Anders Hagström(@andershagstromkonsult)
5 years ago

This is indeed a very beautiful car, to my eyes still one of the most curvaceous and gorgeous bodied Ferraris ever made.

But where do you check going rates for the cars you feature, Petrolicious writers?

The 208 may be one of the “cheap” ferraris out there but that still means that, in Europe at least, you pay between 55 000 and a 100 000 Euros for one (and I’m sure we can agree that when it comes to Ferraris buying the cheapest one is never likely to end well), which is far beyond the grasp of most and arguably far more than you’d ever pay for a “weak saloon”. What weak saloons were you thinking of? A BMW M3? Dodge Charger SRT?

The days when you could pick up some of the “lesser” Ferraris cheap has long since passed. Even the once unloved (and perennial entry ticket to Ferrari ownership) Mondial is getting properly expensive. It’s a real sad thing too as Ferraris are more and more the exclusive property of the rich, which on the other hand no doubt serves to keep the cars a romantic fantasy for the plebs, assuring high residuals and maintaining the legend that is the prancing horse.

Tom DesRochers
Tom DesRochers(@brown76)
6 years ago

2.0L? That’s even smaller than the Ford Flathead V8-60 which was 2.2L.
Beautiful car. Too bad most people will get hung up on the resemblance to a certain TV show car and not appreciate this Ferrari for what it is.

Michael Roblin
Michael Roblin(@michaelspeed)
6 years ago

Regardless of turbo and taxes, it is still the last of the beautiful Ferraris! Bella!!

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange(@365daytonafan)
6 years ago

Cool and unusual car especially as a GTB which I’ve always thought looks much nicer than the more common targa topped GTS version of the 2/308.
I think Moto Guzzi fans might take issue with it being the [url=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moto_Guzzi_V8″]smallest V8[/url] ever built though, although I can’t think of a road car with a smaller V8 engine.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
6 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Lange

You got that right Mr Lange [ M/G comment ] Though I’m not entirely sure either is the smallest . Seems to me back in the day someone was making micro V8’s for road and/or racing though for the life of me I cannot remember who ! Oops ! There it is . Heck the 208 isn’t even the first Ferrari V8 thats smaller . That honor belonging to that wonderful 1,489 cc V8 stuck in the back of John Surtees Ferrari 158 then later upgraded to a 1498 cc V12 . Heck the 208’s motor is a boat anchor in comparison


But ahh .. signor Cironi ;

As to this car . As a former Ferrarista /owner/ historian may I heartily and seriously recommend a whole lot more steps up from this little car before giving anything like the On/Off switch 288GTO or the absolutely vile handling and oddly [ its never enough but always feels like too much ] powered 512BB . Suffice it to say .. this may say Ferrari on the badges and for all practical purposes is a Ferrari but the fact is its less dynamic than its 246 V6 older brother and is no where’s near anything amongst the more serious Ferrari’s

Also the reason for this cars existence had nothing to do with the oil crisis or petrol prices [ Arab Oil Crisis was in the 70’s not the 80’s ] but rather was created to get around the very greedy and draconian Italian Tax mans excessively high road and licensing taxes for any cars over and above certain limits such as 1000 cc etc on up with 2000 cc being the break point before the taxes got really ugly . Go to 2001 cc’s and percentage of the tax based on purchase price would of tripled or more ! ( I can’t remember the exact \% but it was ugly )

In other words this was a bargain basement Ferrari relatively speaking created for the sole purpose of getting around the tax man being more affordable both at purchase as well as licensing / road taxes etc

Va bene , Eco , Ciao

6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

Guitar Slinger, 38\%, you are absolutely right. That infamous “IVA sui beni di lusso”, or VAT on luxurious items, was applied on cars over 2,000 cc if run on petrol, or 2500 if diesel. The very same tax that produced BMW’s 320is, a “smaller” M3 just for the Italian (and Portuguese) market. The real thing was 2.3 litres, the 320is 2 liters, with 3 HP less. But costing way much less, thanks to a standard 18\% VAT.