Dueling In The Rain With A Ferrari 208 GTB Turbo
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.