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Ferrari 308 GT4

Ferrari 308 GT4 Published: 4th Nov 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: A good 308
  • Worst model: Iffy LHD models
  • Budget buy: Projects/208s
  • OK for unleaded?: Needs additive
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L4299 x W1708mm
  • Spares situation: Generally good
  • DIY ease?: So-so
  • Club support: Very good
  • Appreciating asset?: Starting to be…
  • Good buy or good-bye?: It’s a Dino – and an underrated one!
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Sharp-suited replacement for the iconic 246 Dino has always been slated – yet is not as bad as you’ve been led to believe and is a great first Ferrari offering strong performance and handling. Still fine value if you buy right

Any car that had to follow in the tyre tracks of the Dino 246GT was always in for a tough time but the GT4 namesake had it harder than most. A sharper styled replacement that provided 2+2 seating, it was a different car to the 246, even though it used the same basic platform, and never gained the same affection. So it was replaced by the ‘Magnum PI’ 308 after less than 3000 sales, which while not exceeding the 206/246 output levels, was still pretty exceptional for a Ferrari!

Because the 308 replacement was more what buyers wanted, the GT4 quickly became forgotten and its reputation unfairly tarnished; it’s only now 40 years on that the GT4 is being given its due credit. As your first Ferrari they make a lot of sense and those sharp-suited looks are coming back into fashion. Some Ferrari experts even believe it is actualy the better car than the original icon – but keep that to yourself…

History

1973 Designed by Bertone’s Gandini, he took the 246 and stretched the 92 inch platform wheelbase by eight inches to accommodate a new 255bhp 3-litre V8 engine and occasional rear seats, clothed in a very 70’s body style that had a bit of the Lamborghini Urraco about it. It looked like no previous Ferrari and as Pinninfarina was responsible for penning past Prancing Horses, you can imagine the upset it caused… Badged the Dino 308 GT4, it weighed in at 1285kg (200kg over the 246) and cost in excess of £8000 in the UK, as dear as a Jensen Interceptor.

1975 In the wake of the 1970’s Energy Crisis Ferrari was suffering like everybody else so offered an ‘economy’ model – the 208 GT4. Essentially, it was the same car albeit fitted with a downsized 1998cc V8, yielding around 170bhp. 208s are identified by silver instead of matt black grille and details plus skinnier tyres. That October a Scaglietti-built 308GTB two-seater – based on the GT4 albeit with the original 246’s wheelbase – was shown at the Paris Salon meaning the writing was on the wall for the unwanted GT4, which lost its Dino name a year later.

Other than a revised intake early on to cure excessive engine noise (but what a nice noise!), the GT4 received little development afterwards until it was dropped in 1980 – less than 25 were made that year. The 308’s mantle taken over by the 308/328 although the spiritual successor to the GT4, Mondial, surfaced a year later – and, alas, suffers from a similar unfair reputation in Ferrari circles today!

Driving and press comments

With apologies to Triumph owners, the way some enthusiasts and not say ‘experts’ bang on about the GT4 you’d think Ferrari made a GT6! Granted, it’s not the most exciting Ferrari ever to be made but it’s not bad either – in fact, some Ferrari experts quietly say that it’s a better car to drive than the iconic Dino, if not to look at or invest in.

In terms of outright pace, the car was extremely rapid in its day (0-60 under seven seconds) but now feels only pleasingly vigorous, although it’s appreciably faster than the lighter older 246 plus the V8’s added torque makes it less hard work, too.

Handling suffers due to the added weight and longer wheelbase over the more agile 246GT, but the trade off is a better ride (a revelation for a sports car) and highspeed sure-footedness (thanks to wider track used) so the handling is still to a high order for its era. Some will say the 246GT remains more the thoroughbred and it certainly has a sharper steering. That said, for most of us who can’t compare a GT4 to a 246, it will draw no criticisms – apart from its low speed heaviness perhaps.

As 2+2, yes it’s naturally cramped for well-built adults and only suffices for small kids, but it is probably no worse than, say, a Porsche 944 or a Jaguar XK8 which are as fast yet a lot cheaper than this Ferrari.

What about the 208 car? Very few came to the UK as only 840 were made anyway. Obviously, performance is well down on the 308 but is quite lively – and who’s to know what’s under the bonnet?

It’s unlikely to be any more economical over a 308 due to pushing that heavy 2+2 body; 308s could easily see over 20mpg with only moderate restraint although with an 8000rpm rev limit – and maximum torque of 210lft delivered at a heady 5000rpm – restraint is difficult. “If you don’t like its deep silken howl you don’t want a Ferrari,” quipped one road test – how true.

As you’d expect given the Dino name, when it came to press persecution, there was little of it at the time although an absolute verdict on the new model seemed to depend on the test car’s actual condition. Motor, for example, back in 1975 was dismayed at the poor finish of its steed: door dropping, flooded carpets after a water splash and a feeling of ‘kit car’ was remarked upon. Rival Autocar on the other hand, commended its test GT4: “You get a quality of finish inside and out that is a sheer joy to behold” – although the testers did comment on those dropping doors!

One area where all road tests were in broad agreement with concerned the heating and ventilation set up which was lousy at best although some cars came with optional air conditioning to improve matters.

Motor was the most critical bunch of testers. “By absolute standards the 308 is in many respects a very fine car. But if you have been lucky enough to have sampled its predecessor you might be fairly disappointed, we were”. Still there again, with a GT4 you’re not paying (or ever likely to) 246 Dino prices, are you?

Let’s fast forward to more modern reviews like Classic Cars, who back in ‘82 judged the 308 GT4 a better car than a similar-aged Porsche 911 would you believe, thanks to its higher cornering limits that were easier for most drivers to handle. “Let your heart rule your head and the Ferrari steals the contest,” it wrote. In fact, the journo even bought one – after previously running a 911!

Values and marketplace

Roger Collingwood of The Ferrari Centre once told us that the GT4 is vastly underrated and – whisper it – drives better than a 246, especially on a track. “People buy the 246 Dino for its looks,” says Roger. But as we touched upon earlier, compared to the 246GT, the GT4 will always sell for relative pennies although the days of bargain ones are rapidly fading fast with price tags of £70K (or more) on the horizon for truly exceptional cars – but that’s only about the quarter the price of a 246! Projects start at £20K but they will be a bit of a basket case.

Even if you find a good 208, think hard; performance is nothing like a 308 and you’ll only save a bit on fuel – certainly not on classic insurance costs.

Finally, can you run one on a tight budget? The realistic answer is not really; Most specialists reckon on spending around £1500-£2000 a year even on a lightly used classic. Running one like a new car will be a pipe dream, but you can do it okay on an average wage by diligent DIY when you can, plus there are plenty of independent specialists who can help contain costs such as The Ferrari Centre.

Improvements

Dino GT4s are fairly common on the race tracks where dedicated Ferrari events regularly take place (contact an owners’ club for details) so it can obviously be made to go much better!

However, just getting a standard car back up to full health may be all the Dino GT4 you need. As anybody who has (and who hasn’t!) seen the old Top Gear ‘Supercar Challenge’, episode, the intrepid trio bought this Ferrari for under 10 grand before later discovering that its out-of-sorts engine had lost some 60bhp over the years!

So it makes sense to ensure your car is absolutely spot on for starters; we’d advise fitting electronic ignition and having that expensive quartet of Weber 40 DCNFs overhauled which may run into four figures but chances are that they haven’t had a penny spent on them for decades!

Naturally, enlist a carburettor or Ferrari specialist to set them up properly – a session on the rolling road is bound to pull out a few more hidden (prancing) horses as well, before you get deeply involved in head and cam upgrades – which are available.

The suspension benefits from better damping and polybushing; kits are available form Herts-based Superformance (01992 445300). The suspension’s geometry needs expert setting up and it may be a good idea to speak to a GT4 racer or club for any top tips here.

The chunky 7x16 inch rims from the later 308 are said to offer the greatest benefits along with a slight geometry change, says The Ferrari Centre. Superformance offers a meatier 310mm front disc conversion too but later 355 spec anchors are equally as good, adds The Ferrari Centre.

What To Look For

Running gear

 

  • All gearboxes suffer from the usual Ferrari trait of being cantankerous when cold, but shouldn’t be a problem once the oil has warmed up; first and second synchros wear out first.
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  • Suspensions pose few inherent problems; just look for the usual deterioration, particularly the front wishbones. Geometry is not something the typical fast-fit can handle, so seek out a Dino specialist.
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  • Brakes really only suffer from seizure due to lack of miles, so see that the car pulls up straight and true. Handbrakes were never that effective and they need careful setting up to work ok.

 

Engine

 

  • The engine is quite robust if serviced properly, although many won’t have had that luxury. The most important thing is to see that the timing belts have been replaced on time; every 30,000 miles and no later is recommended. Make no mistake, this is a massive job costing around £1500 depending upon who does the job. But skip this outlay at your peril because a snapped belt will wreck the engine costing a lot more.
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  • Ditto valve clearance settings, which aren’t for the novice. If the engine has to be dropped then it’s best to tackle these jobs plus replace any suspect hoses and so on at the same time. Camshafts wear out quite easily.
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  • With the engine hot and running, look for smoke. A light mist is normal but blue signifies bore wear while a whitish fog suggests a head gasket is on the way out. Either of these faults will prove expensive to fix, but overall the V8 is a toughie.

 

Body and chassis

 

  • The chassis must be the first port of call. A modified Dino 246 tubular affair – admittedly sturdy – they can rot badly. Cast an eagle eye for patch repairs and don’t be afraid to have a prod around. Just as importantly, watch for kinks and patch ups signifying previous accident damage (odd tyre wear and wonky steering are other pointers to the latter).
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  • Rusty GT4s are a given. Check the front wings (especially at the windscreen), door bottoms (usually blocked drain holes) arches, boot, bonnet and so on. Check headlamps pop up and down properly; wonky ones suggest a frontal clout at some point in the past.
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  • Check the floor and bulkheads for damp and resultant corrosion and check the inner wings for creasing (accident) and rot. Most UK cars were rightly Rosso red, but others were silver, yellow or blue.

 

Electrics

 

  • It’s an old Italian, so expect some quirky electrics. Chief concern is the fuse box, which can suffer from poor/rusty connections although some owners reckon it’s overworked. Look for dodgy switches and connections both to the main light switch and the hazard flashers. Electric windows slow? Some owners reckon that wiring them directly to the battery can speed things up a bit.

 

General

 

  • It’s a Ferrari – but don’t let the badge and a sense of occasion get to you! Treat it as hard-nosed as any other second-hand car. It’s all too easy to get carried away.
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  • While GT4s look great value, remember they still need the maintenance and care that’s in tune with their prices when brand new. As these models are hardly the most loved of Ferraris, you will come across a fair few tired examples that are anything but the bargains that they appear under the skin.
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  • Before you even start hunting around, check the paperwork and see that there’s some level of service history. Deliberating over a Dino is harder than your average classic so if you reckon that it’s beyond your capabilities then enlist an expert, preferably a well-known specialist. Failing this, the owners’ club, based in Silverstone, will help you. Click on http://www.ferrariownersclub.co.uk for help, tips and general assistance.

Three Of A Kind

Ferrari Mondial
Ferrari Mondial
Essentially, it's the replacement for the GT4 and again a clever mid-engined 2+2 albeit with a larger chassis that was used right up to the 456. Roomier than the 308, and with better handling, the 8 was criticised for meek (214bhp!) performance – improved on later cars. There's also a cabriolet range. Like the GT4, they look great value but the flipside is that there's many poor examples about.
Porsche 911
Porsche 911
Top rival to the Ferrari – any Ferrari really – is the eternal 911 that just gets better with age. Thanks to sheer numbers, you can have – for similar budgets – a 911, the later Carrera 3.2, the 933 (last of the 'classic' 911s) and even a 996 – it really depends on how modern you want to go. All are blessed with VW Golf-like ease of use and dependability and are usually cheaper to run than a Ferrari.
Maserati 3200/4200
Maserati 3200/4200
There are similarities with the 308GT4 here not least the fact that there's a fair bit of Ferrari in this modern Maserati and that they sell for a relative pittance. The V8 has breath-taking pace, surrounded by glamourous lines and an evocative badge. Whisper it, but some specialists prefer it to a Prancing Horse, and with prices from £14,000, why not do the same? If it had a Ferrari badge you could treble the prices.

Verdict

While we’re not saying that the GT4 is better than one of our all time favourites – the 246GT – the later Dino is no dinosaur either, as some 3000 sales testify. Like our XJ-S, the GT4 suffered more from having to follow an all time great than suffering any deficiencies. They make fine first (classic) Ferraris, which while are not the bargains they were up until recently, still represent very good value.



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