Keeping The 1980s Alive And Well In A Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole
Photography by Marco Annunziata
Spider models have always been of great importance to Ferrari on both the road and racing sides of the brand, and although it isn’t the winningest or the rarest, the 308 GTS Quattrovalvole (QV) is an emblematic piece of Ferrari’s open-top timeline. An excellent interpretation by Pininfarina of Porsche’s Targa concept, the 308 GTS haas aged gracefully from modern to classic while still offering one of the more affordable entries to the stable of prancing horses.
As you might remember from our article about the second series of the model—this 308 GTSi—Ferrari’s mechanical engineers decided to use four valves per cylinder in the following series to recover some of the power lost due to the anti-emissions decree that stunted the V8.
The design—an excellent piece of work from Leonardo Fioravanti for Pininfarina—remains very similar to the 308 GTSi that the 308 QV replaced, but there are subtle tweaks to the styling, with the addition of some lights and louvers being the most salient.
I met the owner of this European-market example, Piero, through his father, a collector with a preference for Ferraris. As Piero tells it, ”The passion for cars and especially for Ferraris was undoubtedly passed on to me from my father. The Daytona and the 288 GTO are among my favorite models for their class, made of elegant lines and possessing (at the time) supercar performance. But while I like almost all the iconic Ferraris, and also in colors other than red, I definitely have a preference for my red 308.”
In a story that’s similar to the one we told earlier about the silver 308, Piero was also influenced by an infatuation with Magnum P.I. “For the kids of my generation, this was the Ferrari by definition, the one we dreamed of at night.” Unlike many who perhaps continue to dream of it, Piero after a few years of research managed to obtain one for himself back in 2008, as he recalls; “I was incredibly lucky to find this 1983 Quattrovalvole from an entrepreneur who was no longer able to drive it because of his age. The car has no power steering, no ABS, and no other modern aids so it certainly requires some extra physical effort to drive compared to something modern. I just hope he was able to enjoy it enough for letting me have a turn to.
“Aside from the mechanics which I find excellent, the retractable headlights and the design of the rear window are my favorite details of the car. In general, I believe that on this tubular frame Pininfarina has created one of the most successful models of its time, and still today. Surely this project inspired the subsequent development of the 328, but it also partially influenced the lines of the beautiful 288 GTO in 1984. I believe that at the time the design of the 308 ‘broke’ with the designs of the previous models and started the company down a path that eventually led to the 288 and later the very angular F40.”
The 308 is not on the same plane as those supercars in terms of performance, obviously, but it’s not without its own mechanical merits. The pistons of the QV are configured at 90 degrees, with double overhead camshafts per bank driven by a toothed belt for a total displacement of 2926cc. With the introduction of twin camshaft distribution and four valves per cylinder, the 308’s power had risen from 214hp in the second series to 240hp (235hp for units destined for the USA) in the QV thanks also in part to the K-Jetronic electronically controlled mechanical injection from Bosch. It’s not going to blow the doors off of anything newish, but it’s a far cry from an antique level of speed.
On the topic of the GTS vs GTB, Piero explains his thinking. “Coupes like the 308 GTB with the fixed roof are great cars, but the emotion of driving a fun car with the wind in your hair is a feeling that I think everyone needs to experience at least once. A sense of freedom that when combined with the sound of the engine manages to make even the shortest drives memorable.”
As for maintenance, Piero tells me it’s not as bad as people might assume who don’t know these cars. “An annual check is all it needs. Clutch and belts have recently been replaced. Undoubtedly, the roof opening system is not very easy, but at the time it likely could not have been much better. Still, the characters in Magnum P.I. did not reveal the effort that goes into opening the roof, especially when you have no one to help!” Considering he gives the car a kiss goodnight and runs through the maintenance checklist before each drive, I get the sense that any ungainliness of the solo roof removal isn’t enough to make him let go of this car anytime soon.