Ryan Merrill ©2022, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Ferrari historian Marcel Massini notes that as few as 712 fiberglass-bodied 308 GTBs were produced. Just 100 examples were sent to North America. These early fiberglass cars were nearly 330 pounds lighter than the steel-bodied 308s that followed, allowing drivers to take full advantage of the model’s transverse mid-mounted 2.9-liter V8 for optimal handling.

This car was first sold via Luigi Sports Cars of Montreal. From its early life in Quebec, chassis 19505 remained in Ontario for many years, having passed through several of the province’s premiere collections. From November 2000 until March 2015, it resided in a prominent collection in Toronto. During this time, it was treated to a complete, multi-year restoration to original specifications. The reported goal of this exhaustive process was to secure a Platino Award at the Cavallino Concorso d’Eleganza in Palm Beach, FL.

After being stripped down to bare fiberglass, the car was reported painted in Rosso Corsa at a Ferrari-approved facility. Similarly, the interior was masterfully retrimmed in tan leather with black inserts. In late 2014, it was furnished to an appreciable level of mechanical sorting (including major engine-out service) by Ferrari master technician Massimo Conti. Continued care has been executed within the consignor’s ownership by Tim Stanford Foreign Cars of Fort Lauderdale, FL, and today this desirable Vetroresina is an eminently presentable example of this rare breed.

Furthermore, correspondence on file from Ferrari Classiche confirms that it has issued its certification book, which at the time of cataloging is being processed for delivery.

As presented today, the car rides on date-coded Campagnolo wheels shod in Michelin XWX tires. Accompaniments include a matched spare tire, tool roll and manuals.

This early fiberglass chassis is an attractive choice for Ferrari enthusiasts looking for responsive performance and agile road-handling capabilities in a shapely and well-maintained package.

SCM Analysis

Detailing

Vehicle:1976 Ferrari 308 GTB “Vetroresina”
Years Produced:1975–77
Number Produced:712
SCM Valuation:$163,000
Tune Up Cost:$3,500
Chassis Number Location:Data plate in driver’s door jamb
Engine Number Location:In the “V” on the driver’s side
Club Info:Ferrari Club of America
Website:http://www.ferrariclubofamerica.com
Alternatives:1970–76 Lamborghini Jarama, 1976–78 Lotus Esprit, 1974–77 Porsche 911S
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 153, sold for $173,600, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island auction on March 5, 2022.

The 246 Dino had been a big hit for Ferrari in the early 1970s, but escalating federal safety and emission standards put a nail in its coffin. Meeting the new 5-mph bumper standards required a new body design, and increased displacement would be needed to deliver Ferrari performance from an engine choked by emission equipment.

Beyond the Dino

Ferrari was not going to import its Berlinetta Boxer to the U.S., which meant the new model would be the flag bearer for the marque. It would also have to be a notch up in quality. Dinos were well built, but not up to Ferrari GT standards.

The Dino 308 GT4 was introduced to meet the need. The GT4 featured a 3.0-liter quad-cam V8 with four Weber carbs. It was a wonderful driver, but its 2+2 configuration and Bertone body were not right for a halo model. Ferrari needed another hit, so it looked to Pininfarina for salvation.

Leonardo Fioravanti was just 26 years old when he joined Pininfarina. He would stay there for the next 26 years and have a hand in the design of the 206 and 246 Dino, 365 GTB/4 Daytona, 365 GT4 2+2, Berlinetta Boxer, 288 GTO, Testarossa, and more. Fioravanti was tapped for the 246 Dino’s replacement, and his 308 GTB was a home run.

Getting the GTB into production quickly was a priority. Hand-beaten panels were not an option for the number of bodies needed. Making dies and pressing panels would take too long, so Ferrari looked for another answer.

Finished in fiberglass

Fiberglass had been used for car bodies since the late 1940s but never by Ferrari. The material is ideal for quickly bringing a product to market. Fiberglass can be formed into complex shapes. It is strong, light, and not particularly expensive. Not long after Pininfarina had perfected the 308 GTB’s shape, Carrozzeria Scaglietti was ready to start production.

At the time, however, fiberglass and quality were not synonymous. A fiberglass Ferrari, particularly a V8 Ferrari, did not impress Ferrari’s clients. Fortunately, the GTB’s beautiful styling and impressive performance tempered any resistance to its controversial construction. Today, of course, composite construction is the state of the art in exotic cars.

Vetroresina is an Italian word for fiberglass. Like calling a single-mirror Testarossa a Monospecchio, it is a fancy name for a model that was never marketed in the U.S. that way. The moniker got picked up by a new generation of Ferrari enthusiasts, and it is now the established name for the model.

Devilish details

A former owner restored chassis #19505 with the specific intention of winning a Platino Award at the Cavallino Classic. This is roughly the equivalent of a Corvette receiving a Bloomington Gold Certification. In both cases, cars are judged against a standard rather than the car next to them. Every car that meets the Platino standard receives an award.

Platino awards are earned by scoring at least 97 points out of 100 during concours judging. Platino status indicates a Ferrari looks like it did when it left the factory. Our subject car’s Platino has been elusive despite a trip or two to Cavallino. Too much of its originality had been erased during restoration — a common fate of restored 308s.

Indeed, 308s have a lot of components that make restoration challenging. Parts such as molded vinyl headliners and rubber bumpers cannot be restored to look new. Trim pieces like window frames often get painted rather than removed and re-anodized.

Ferrari sourced many components from outside manufacturers. One supplier may powder-coat its product in satin black, another may paint its component in a semi-gloss black, and another might use black plastic. Restoring these items is not as simple as bead-blasting them and painting them satin black.

It is well known that 308s feature Connolly leather; it is lesser known that the Connolly brothers retired from the OEM leather business in the early 1990s. The unique Connolly Lexan leather has been extinct for a couple of decades. Ferrari 308s restored with modern leather do not look or smell the same as the Connolly-upholstered cars.

So, no matter how well done, restored 308s always look restored. That is okay to an owner who wants a shiny 308 in their garage, but when the goal is looking original, shiny does not cut it.

Pretty, but not Platino

Chassis #19505 will dazzle everyone but a concours judge. The new enamel paint looks more luxurious than the original lacquer. The fresh tan hides are appealing to a wider audience than the original black-accented beige Connolly leather. Even the modern electronic ignition is an upgrade that will make it a “better” car for the new owner. Unfortunately, the improvements move the car further away from the coveted Platino Award.

Fiberglass 308s have a unique appeal. A steel (or acciaio, if you want to start a trend) 308 GTB buyer tends to be an entry-level buyer. A fiberglass GTB buyer is more likely to be an affluent collector purchasing a trophy for their collection, which explains the premium.

Gooding & Company sold this car for $192,500 in 2015 (SCM# 257550). Since then, the fiberglass 308 market has receded. This car may not have reached its Platino goal, but it is still a premium example. It brought big money for today’s market, and deservingly so. The seller may have gotten a little bloodied on the transaction, but he got the going market rate. The buyer spent a lot of money on the car, but it would take a long time and a lot of money to bring a lesser car up to this standard. Everyone should have gone home happy. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)

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