The 308 is one of the latest “true” Ferraris produced when Mr. Enzo still made every choice; part of its popularity in Europe and in the USA was due to its “character” on the TV show “Magnum P.I.” where a private investigator (played by Tom Selleck) ran around the Hawaiian island of Oahu with this red Ferrari.
Magnum P.I. would drive his 308 with the open-top, both because scenes required it and because Selleck himself was definitely too tall for the little cockpit of the Ferrari: the 308 GTS’s seats (you feel like a Formula 1 race driver) have such little room… as all true supercars. Stiff steering, no electronics and the typical Ferrari gear selector grill in view are common for a car driving experience from another time.
The 308 was one of the last “true” Ferraris produced when Mr. Enzo was still the “boss” and took every decision.
For the 70s and 80s generation the 308 is “the” Ferrari, and when you see the prancing horse in front of you in the middle of the steering wheel you go back to your childhood, when Burago’s little red 308 was many children’s favorite toy; it is one of the most popular Ferrari models, produced for almost 15 years (both 308s and 328s).
It became part of social imaginary thanks to its explosive shape drawn by Leonardo Fioravanti (who worked as a designer for Pininfarina) who, in 1975, fixed the exact ratio between rounded and straight lines: it was the first Ferrari “Berlinetta” with the rear V8 engine, coupé or with open top, and it was even the first successful Ferrari on rallies.
Magnum really enjoyed his life: his host Robin Masters allowed him to live as a guest in a huge manor where he could have a private villa and, sporting the customized plate “Robin1”,his Ferrari 308 GTS (S means Scoperta, open) which he alway drove with the open top, usually with a second passenger perched on the other seat.
It was a successful tv show produced from 1980 to 1988, broadcast in Italy two years later: therefore, there were three different 308 models used on the tv-series. For the first season they used a first 255hp carburetor model, well known for its revving problems; from the second to the sixth season the production opted for the “injection” model, less powerful but more reliable; towards the end they used to the 308 “quattrovalvole” model.
At first it had a fiberglass body; after producing fewer than 1000 cars, the production continued with the metal body. Behind the use of the composite material there is a mystery: it was officially introduced to lighten the car for sports purposes, but legend has it that the fiberglass body was the quickest way to launch the car, in order to increase earnings.
The 308 even had an entry level model – the 208 –, with reduced capacity to not pay a tax introduced during the 70s austerity: it looked exactly as the 308 but had a 2 litre V8 engine, and it now widely known as the slowest Ferrari ever built (just 155 hp!). With the turbocharger, so popular in the 80s thanks to Formula 1 single-seaters with Turbo engines, the 208 “Turbo” series production reached an acceptable power of 220hp. In 1985 the 308 received a slight restyling which at the time was sold as a new model, the 328: capacity increased from 3000 to 3200 and new modern details to update the car to the contemporary aesthetic standards: thanks to its popularity in the States with the TV-series, the 328 lasted until 1989.
Watching Magnum P.I., you’ll see the 308 often driven in extreme conditions, oversteering or starting with smoking tires; but in real life it is better to be safe! The weak brakes and the high profile tires make this Ferrari a wonderful GT, not to be put under stress. However, its “voice” is its true added value: the 8 Ferrari cylinders emit an unmistakable symphony that you can listen to – better with the roof open – like you would at a classical music concert: even better if screaming over 5000rpm, but that is obviously not always possible.
So, when you can’t hear the engine singing in town: Ray Ban Aviators on, hawaiian shirt, radio on, Magnum P.I. theme…