From Television To Reality, This Ferrari 308 GTSi Has Inspired Its Owner For Decades
Photography by Marco Annunziata
As we drive to reach the photo location in his Ferrari, Emanuele—who, as a child of the ’80s, certainly remembers Magnum, P.I.—tells me a little about his childhood. “When I was a kid, I used to watch TV shows that in my opinion were more beautiful and compelling than those of today, but the one I loved most was definitely Magnum, P.I. which I followed from the very first episode. That show was the reason why I fell madly in love with this model of Ferrari, and why I drive one today.”
The “beauty” of 1980s crimertainment may be up for debate, but Emanuele’s infatuation with the 308 was all but a universal condition among budding car enthusiasts who watched it tearing around on the tube TVs. To them, a mid-engine Ferrari sports car was not so much a symbol of success as the embodiment of something far more important: of being cool. Which is why the tribulations of the 308’s lifespan are kind of ironic. Here was a car that was basically synonymous with awesomeness, but that was almost continually blunted by rules and regulations.
In 1980, new anti-pollution standards transformed the 308 GTB and its respective targa version, the 308 GTS, into the new 308 GTBi and 308 GTSi, with the “i” standing for the new Bosch injection system that replaced the carbs. Sounds like technological progress, right? And Thomas Magnum himself seemed to endorse the new version, swapping his 1979 308 GTS for an ’81 308 GTSi to ferry him around Hawaii. The injected cars delivered the power in a smoother, more linear manner, but unfortunately there was less of it. Horsepower was traded for greener emissions, and although the engineers at Ferrari were pretty quick to find ways of making up the deficit, the result of their hard work—the four-valve, 3.2-liter Quattrovalvole—ended up clawing back some of the lost power, but at a new cost: weight. Leaving out the outrageous GTO model that was born from the platform, that’s the cynical history of the 308’s development in a nutshell.
But if you own any of them, if you are able to make them a part of the good part of your life, none of that matters once you get off the internet and into the front seat. Emanuele has the right attitude. As the saying of many a classified ad goes, he knows what he has. And what he has is a Ferrari that he hasn’t stopped loving since he saw it on TV decades ago. “Although it does not have a 12-cylinder engine, this is a true Ferrari, isn’t it?”
Emanuele goes on to explain how his 308 represents an evolutionary period in the brand’s history, how it bridged the gap between two distinct eras but without having its identity muddled or lost in the space between, and I’m compelled to agree with him. The contents of the engine compartment served as a jumping off point for the turbocharged supercars of the 1980s, while its styling deftly adapted the Dino’s design into the wedge aesthetic that largely dominated the decade that followed.
The car was drawn by Leonardo Fioravanti with a rectangular grille below the bumper line, a planar hood, and retractable headlights as the main departures from the 206 and 246 Dinos it replaced, and while the iterations of the 308 added more features to the otherwise minimalist look, the car’s always retained some important traits of the style of Aldo Brovarone and his Dinos, like the pairs of circular rear lights, the concave rear window, the long intakes on the sides, and the buttresses on either side of the engine cover.
On the topic of his particular example’s looks, Emanuele says that ”The famous red of Ferrari cars is iconic and just as beautiful as ever (even if to me the color of the Ferrari team remains yellow in my head), but I think that other colors like this silver are should also be appreciated, for both elegance and maturity. I don’t like to be noticed if possible, and this color, or lack of, helps with that. But I don’t mean to say that I wouldn’t drive anything else. For example, I find the metallic blue that was used for the launch of the 308 GTB at the 1975 Paris Motor Show perfect for this model.”
As in the first 308 models, the interior of Emanuele’s is very welcoming and bright. Unlike some other mid-engine cars of its time, the instruments and controls all seem to be ergonomically aligned, and in the GTSi models the clock and oil temp gauge are in the center of the console, to make them more visible than in previous models where they were hidden in the lower left part of the dashboard. Simply put, it’s a cockpit that makes more sense than you’d expect from an early-‘80s sports car, and it’s a nice place to find yourself in. Emanuele certainly gets his seat time in.
“It gives me great satisfaction to drive this car, and even if I don’t use it every day to go to work, I try to drive it as often as possible. Luckily I don’t have to go far, since in Tuscany we have very nice roads suitable for all types of driving. Although it is undoubtedly a sports car, I find it very comfortable and elegant, you don’t need to drive it aggressively to enjoy it. The seats are covered in leather with the dashboard and armrests in black vinyl, the door panels above and below the armrests are also covered in leather. It’s not a fully flocked interior without any amenities. It was sold with a hi-fi stereo, tinted windows, and an electrically operated mirror on the driver’s side. I like to drive it every season if possible, but of course, spring and summer are ideal. On sunny days I make a point to remove the roof. Why have a targa top that stays fixed?”
Emanuele isn’t shy about adding to the odometer, but he takes great care to preserve its originality while doing so. The only thing he’s modified on his 308 is a “feature and defect” that all Ferrari 308 GTSi have, a common problem when restarting with a hot engine. Emanuele’s Ferrari has also been approved by the ASI (Automotoclub Storico Italiano) and received a gold plate designation, but that’s not going to turn it into a garage ornament anytime soon.