Keith’s Blog: A Ferrari Road Trip Gone Awry

“I thought you were shooting a gun at me.”

That’s what the police officer said when he pulled us over in Coos Bay, OR.

We were an unlikely group of adventurers. Me, co-conspirator Richard Lincoln (of Bradley GT and Autozam fame), my son Bradley — and Carrera, Richard’s cockapoo dog.

I decided a couple of months ago that I really needed to own a Ferrari 308 GT4. Maybe it was the changing of the seasons, maybe it was the Keto diet I’m trying to assume. Who knows?

Soon enough, one turned up. It was a 1975 model in hazelnut with a cloth interior. It was offered at Fantasy Junction. It had covered 217,000 documented miles — and it clearly was waiting for me.

Bradley and I flew to Oakland, and met Richard and Carrera at Fantasy Junction to pick up the car.

The car looked even better than I expected, and soon enough we were on our journey.

The first 100 miles were bliss. The car’s rebuilt engine was strong and revved easily. The gearbox was tight and shifted easily into 2nd gear even when cold.

Bradley and Carrera were squeezed into the back seat. Bradley did mention he would be more comfortable if he didn’t have legs.

The troubles started after our dinner at the Benbow Inn, near Garberville, CA. The GT4 began to backfire.

Bruce Trenery, the owner of Fantasy Junction, had mentioned that the car had been acting up recently. But he said that expert Patrick Otis had tracked down the problem and solved it. Either the fix failed or a new problem was popping up.

Since we were 400 miles from Portland, we decided to soldier on.

The GT4 was turning out to be an amazing road trip car. The seating position is perfect — legend has it that Ferrari employed Niki Lauda to help fine tune the driver’s position and front suspension setup.

We spend the night in Ferndale. We broke our fast at the Samoan Cookhouse outside of Eureka. No Keto diet options here.

The GT4 continued to misbehave, but to an acceptable level.

That night after we got gas in Coos Bay, the ignition problems became intolerable.

During our drive from Coos Bay to our hotel in Florence, we were pulled over. The officer mentioned he had been sitting by the side of the road in his car and suddenly heard two rifle shots and ducked down.

Then he heard us cackle by and noticed the flames shooting out of the left exhaust bank.

We showed him our documentation. He waved us on, with the admonition that we “really should do something about that backfiring.” We agreed.

The next morning, I test drove the car, looking for any indication that I could nurse it the 160 miles back to Portland.

It ran worse than ever, and the backfires sounded like rifle shots. Visions of holed pistons and blown-out muffler baffles danced through my head — and frightened my wallet.

I called a tow company, and an hour later the three of us — and the dog — were in the cab of a truck, the GT4 tied down behind us.

Three hours later the car was in the SCM garage.

I don’t regret a second of the trip. When it was right, the car performed beautifully. Bradley, Richard and I got to have a great adventure.

The car got home, and all is well. It goes to Matt Crandall’s shop, Avant-Garde Collection. Matt, as a former GM of Ron Tonkin’s Ferrari dealership, was confident his mechanic could set the car right

As we walked away from the car Bradley asked, “When do you think the two of us can take it out for a road trip, so I can sit in the front seat?”

Soon. Very soon, I promised. Another adventure awaits.

 

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

Posted in Blogs, Keith Martin

3 comments

  1. A great choice Keith. It looks like you have already discovered the charms of the 308 GT4 and I look forward to more installments as you fix the backfiring, enjoy the driving experience and relive the 70’s. I have owned my 79 GT4 for 30 years and still feel a sense of occasion every time I drive it. The unobstructed view out the front window, the metal click as the gear lever moves through the gate and the way the engine just loves to rev is addictive.
    The GT4 keeps company with my 74 Alfa Spider and they have such different characteristics, if personified the GT4 would be a mature businessman, well dressed, confident, slightly arrogant and usually in a hurry. The Spider would be wearing jeans, walk with a swagger, the life of the party and “you’d better watch your girlfriend”.
    It’s nice to see your GT4 in such a period color scheme.

  2. Purchasing a Ferrari with 214,000 miles! Are you nuts? You’ve got bigger juevos then me ( or a bigger wallet)

  3. These cars are highly underrated. They’re very usable, have a nice performance envelope, and make a great noise (no not the backfiring). The styling, criticized when new, has also aged well IMHO. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it in the long run.

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