The Quintessential Red Ferrari 308 GTS

1983 Ferrari 308 GTS in Rosso Corsa
1983 Ferrari 308 GTS in Rosso Corsa. Photo by Mark Gittelman

When you say the word Ferrari to someone they’re likely to picture a bright red or in Italian, Rosso Corsa, 308 GTS like Magnum owned in the gumshoe TV series. Without a doubt this car and maybe the Ferrari Testarossa represent the prancing horse in the most honorable way.

This is a car that delivers all of the beauty, exhilaration and refined performance, we have come to expect from an Italian sports car. Here we'll uncover the history behind the 308 series.

We'll also learn the difference between a GTS, GTB and the GT4. Next we'll talk about what it costs to get your hands on one of these automobiles. Finally, we'll cover things to look out for if you come across a Ferrari 308 with a surprisingly low price tag.

Ferrari 308 History 101

They built the Ferrari 308 series for 10 years. The legend began in 1975 and ran through the 1985 model year when it was replaced with the 328 series. This is a Pininfarina styled body, designed by Leonardo Fioravanti. This gentleman also had his hand in designing the Ferrari Dino, F-40 and Daytona models.

They assembled the Italian masterpiece in Maranello, Italy. The first Ferrari badged automobile launched from the very same manufacturing facility in 1947. The plant continues to build automobiles today. The 308 model is a mid engine, rear wheel drive sports car.

The engine is a transverse mounted 3.0 L V-8 funneling power to the wheels through a five speed manual transmission. It's worth pointing out that this 3.0 L engine carries four camshafts strung together with rubber timing belts. European models pumped out 250 HP with the red line at 7,700 RPMs.

This is impressive considering the time period in which this automobile launched. Stricter emissions standards had already killed off the American muscle cars in the early 70s. Ferrari used engineering and technology to produce a fair amount horsepower while exceeding emissions laws.

Magnum's Ride the Ferrari 308 GTS

The Magnum PI TV series helped elevate the value of this already popular automobile. They used a 1978 308 GTS in the first season. However, in the following seasons, they used a 1980 model. In the last three seasons of the TV show you'll see a 1984 308 GTSi.

The i signifies when Ferrari switched from carburetor models to Bosch fuel injection. The last car is also a four valve per cylinder Quattrovalvole. At 6'4" Tom Selleck is a big guy. To make him more comfortable in the automobile, you'll see they performed most of filming with the glass Targa top removed.

They also attempted to have him sit lower in the car by removing all of the padding from the factory bucket seat and then recovering it. They also moved the seat back from its original factory mounting location.

What is the Difference between 308 Models

One of the most common questions you hear in reference to the 308 is what's the difference between a GTS and a GTB. The letter B signifies a Berlinetta model with a solid roof. The GTS on the other hand, uses a removable tinted glass Targa top.

The Ferrari 308 GT4 really is a different car despite its almost identical appearance to the GTB and GTS. The GT4 is a 2+2 model. The four seater boasts an additional 8 inches total length in the wheelbase department. A friend of mine calls it a stretch limo 308. Although it seats four, the two that get in the back will be more comfortable if they are child sized.

What's the Value of a Ferrari 308

In the end, an automobile is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. However, we can still attempt to place a value on this Italian sports car. One of the first determining factors is supply and demand. The demand remains strong for this automobile. Ferrari only built about 12,000 cars in the 10 year span from 1975 through 1985. So the Supply is low.

With that said, the Ferrari 308 is considered an entry-level automobile. Cars in excellent condition pull down prices in the $80,000-$90,000 range. As an example the 1983 Ferrari 308 GTS pictured at the top of this article is up for sale at $89,900. This is a recently serviced low mileage example.

Keep in mind that there are some extremely rare models of Ferrari 308's. The first cars produced from 1975 through 1977 are made out of reinforced fiberglass. There’s a debate about the total number of cars manufactured. Many say that the number is 712 where others say the total production reaches over 800 units. In any event, Ferrari switched over to full steel bodies during the 1977 model year.

The fiberglass 308 cars weigh in at about 300 pounds less than their metal made counterparts. This makes them desirable from a performance point of view and also a collectible point of view. An even smaller amount of these fiberglass cars were made in the GTS Targa top version. With Ferrari owners taking home several of the top 10 most expensive cars ever sold at auction expect to pay well over $200,000 for rarer models.

Caring for a Ferrari is Expensive

Sometimes you come across a Ferrari 308 with high mileage available for an extremely interesting price. Before you jump on what appears to be a good deal make sure an experienced Ferrari mechanic performs a full evaluation on the automobile. As I mentioned above, these four cam engines are tied together with rubber timing belts.

A timing belt replacement service on a Ferrari 308 carries a hefty price tag. In fact, it's recommended that the engine be removed from the vehicle to perform the repairs. Last time I priced the service it cost $8000 to replace the timing belt on a Ferrari 308. Of course, this price will fluctuate depending on whom you find to perform the operation.

The maintenance interval is recommended by the factory at every three years or 30,000 miles. This means if you're looking at a car with a reasonable price tag, the maintenance service probably needs to be done. When a timing belt snaps it can cause extensive damage to the valve train components.

This is the primary reason you should never buy a Ferrari 308 that is not running. Between the high priced maintenance services and the initial costs of a Ferrari I recommend that you also take a look at the De Tomaso Pantera. It's a lot of fun to drive and has a Ford 289 cast iron V-8 in it.