Journal: Creating The V8 Ferrari Legend

Creating The V8 Ferrari Legend

By Alan Franklin
March 27, 2013

The 308 was introduced in 1975 to replace the aging Dino-badged 246, and was sold alongside the 308 GT4, which was also marketed under the Dino name until the sub-brand’s 1976 demise. Significant as Ferrari’s first non-twelve-cylinder road car, the V8-powered 308 opened the brand to an entirely new segment of individuals—they were certainly wealthy but perhaps not wealthy enough to have previously afforded one of Maranello’s finest.

Styled by Fioravanti, the 308 heavily expanded on a new corporate design language partially introduced in his 1973 512 BB. Utilizing forms that combined the emerging fashion for sharp, geometric angles with more traditional, organically-inspired Ferrari styling cues, it embedded a new public mental image of what a “Ferrari” looked like and set the design tone for the company’s next two generations of cars.

Powered by a 2.9 liter DOHC V8, initially with carburetors and two valves per cylinder, later versions saw the introduction of fuel injection and then four valve heads. Early cars featured fiberglass bodywork and weighed as little as 2,300 lbs.; from June of 1977 panels were made of steel. Utilizing double wishbones and large disc brakes at all four corners, the 308 was thoroughly modern in its approach and really redefined the idea of contemporary sports car handling. It cornered flatly and with a mostly neutral balance and provided tons of accuracy and feedback through a steering wheel mounted at an angle immediately familiar to anyone who’s ever driven a bus… for all its relative modernity it remained a 1970s Italian automobile, full of idiosyncratic charm.

Here’s the part where we’re supposed to mention Magnum P.I., but don’t worry, we won’t. Instead, we’ll focus on the car’s success among the throng of the newly rich, their fortunes earned quick and loose during the stock market boom of the early 1980s, a group typified by conspicuous consumption of jackets with shoulder pads, gold jewelry, and hair gel. The 308 (and its broadly-similar replacement, 1985’s 328) and Porsche 911 were their sports cars of choice, and to this day remain seriously desirable icons of the decade that taste otherwise forgot.

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Tags 308/ Ferrari/ History/ V8
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Michael Wilson
Michael Wilson(@michael_wilson)
4 years ago

I did want to mention that there was a slight anachronism in there regarding the 512 boxer. The earliest iteration of the boxer was the 365. Same car just slightly different styling and sporting a 4.4 instead of 5.0 12 cyl

Ken Clark
Ken Clark
4 years ago

I was a teenager when the 308 was introduced and through a mutual acquaintance actually had the opportunity to drive one, at 17 years old! I still remember the experience and my first impression upon seeing the car in the flesh, and how wonderfully small it was. Just a perfect sports car against todays massive vehicles., designed by artists not wind tunnels.

Rip Curl
Rip Curl(@nuvolari)
8 years ago

To me the 308 is THE most beautiful car of all time but only in the GTB variant. I have had mine for over a decade and would not trade it for anything. It is just so striking to look at and a wonderful car to drive.

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

Ferrari were actually making V8 engines for race purposes as far back as the early sixties with the 268SP (and even earlier if you count the rebadged Lancia Ferrari D50 which I don’t).
The early GRP cars are the most coverted due to their lightness and rarity (around 700 made IIRC) but in reality the weight difference to the steel carb cars that followed is quite small. European carburettor cars featured dry sump engines (on all carb GTB’s there is disagreement whether some Euro GTS’ are dry Sump). Later injected cars are wet sump whether or not they are US or Euro cars. The 8 valve injected 308’s are down on power around 214bhp for the Euro version although the later 4v heads on the quattrovalvole restored the power to 240bhp. There were also Italian market versions with sleeved down 2.0 litre V8s badged 208 as a tax break special. It was the smallest production V8 and later versions were turbocharged to give power more or less equivalent to the 3.0 N/A engines (although presumably power delivery is rather different).
The engine whilst certainly not a cut down version of the Daytona’s V12 shares quite a lot in common with it (the pistons for example are the same), and the swept volume is 2/3’s that of the Daytona’s engine.

Michel Patry
Michel Patry(@michel)
8 years ago

Beautifull car, for me, Magnum certainly had a part of it but the major influence for my love for this car came from Gilles Villeneuve.
Saw him once in Montreal with a 308, everybody was chatting with Gilles but the car struck me more and never forgot about it.

Jon Warshawsky
Jon Warshawsky(@bullfighter)
8 years ago

Still a beautiful car, and nice to drive. I had a 328 GTS — the targa roof, gated shifter, low seating position — all great stuff. Later Ferraris never quite got it right to the same degree.

Ae Neuman
Ae Neuman(@fb_1293493178)
8 years ago

the 308 was a boyhood dreamcar, albeit the fixed roof berlinetta.
hated magnum but loved the momo veloce steering wheel enough to buy several for use in non-ferraris.

8 years ago

to this day my favorite Ferrari was the 355

8 years ago

I’m getting old 😉

It was a Jag in LA Law… I don’t know why I remembered it being a 911…

8 years ago

Another of my dreams growing up in the 80’s. And yes. It was fueled by Magnum. Just as my lust for the 911 was sparked by the LA Law opening sequence license plate slam.

8 years ago

I am six foot tall and I couldn’t get out of 308. The car is so small!

8 years ago
Reply to  WolfTrax

It’s a probllem for most of all european sport cars of the 70’s and 80’s. In Europe everything is smaller than in US