This model is rare outside Italy, but as John Apen reminds us: all valuable things are rare, but not all rare things are valuable

The 308 made its entrance into the automotive world in October 1973 as Bertone combined concepts and design features from both the 246 Dino and the 365.

It was handsome, sleek, and powered by a superior engine. It was a departure for Ferrari, with a V8 engine in place of the standard V12. Nevertheless, it still had the ability to move more precisely and swiftly than its contemporaries.

The Ferrari 208 GT4 was powered by a low-displacement version of the V8 found in the Ferrari 308 GT4. The 208 GT4 used one of the smallest displacement production V8s in history. In spite of its size, the 208's engine produced 180 hp, enabling the car to hit 130 mph.

The 308/208 series was groundbreaking because it was the first production Ferrari to feature a mid-engine layout. The 208 GT4 presented here is a highly original example with only 16,000 miles. It has been meticulously cared for and garage-kept, with service performed on a regular basis.

To ensure that it would be in peak condition for the auction, a thorough mechanical inspection was performed with a service that included new brakes, spark plugs, fluids, hoses, clutch cable, and valve cover gaskets. An excellent driver in very fine condition, this 208 GT4 is an avenue into the elite world of Ferrari ownership.

SCM Analysis


Number Produced:840
Original List Price:$16,500
SCM Valuation:$17,305 at 2002 Bonhams Gstaad, SCM #29721
Tune Up Cost:$3,500
Distributor Caps:$550
Chassis Number Location:Right frame high in engine compartment
Engine Number Location:On the top of the engine in the middle of the V
Club Info:Ferrari Club of America P. O. Box 720597 Atlanta, GA 30358
Investment Grade:D

This 1977 Ferrari 208 GT4 sold for $31,900 at the RM auction in Monterey on August 18.

It’s said you can’t avoid death or taxes, and while death is definitely inevitable, once you understand the rules, there’s a lot you can do to minimize taxes. This 208 GT4 was designed to hedge bets in Europe.

By almost anyone’s standards, a Ferrari is a major purchase, and the tax implications can be enormous, even in the U.S. Depending on the state and city in America, sales taxes and registration could run more that $20,000 on a new six-figure Ferrari. (Of course, if the same person had that same car delivered and registered to his Oregon vacation home, his sales tax would be zero, and his annual registration fee under $50. No wonder their highways are a mess.)

In an international setting, the implications can be even more dramatic. Import duties can run as high as 100% of the value of a new car, so the tax issues surrounding a Ferrari purchase are not trivial.

Prudent tax avoidance can save you a bundle with very little planning. In Georgia, there is a personal property tax on vehicles. The tax is due on the owner’s birthday and could run thousands of dollars on a Ferrari. Canny planning means buying your birthday present the day after your birthday and not the day before.

People get greedy and do stupid things to illegally save a few bucks on taxes. Life’s too short to go to jail over taxes (remember Leona Helmsley?) so cheating is not a good idea. A local schoolteacher made a cash killing in a Ferrari sale only to get hit with a money laundering charge when her bank got suspicious over multiple $9,500 cash deposits.

Before you ask for a low value bill of sale, remember this story. A West Coast man recently told the DMV his million-dollar Ferrari was worth about the same as a new Toyota. A savvy DMV clerk thought otherwise. The taxes would have been cheap compared to the lawyer’s fees it will cost to keep this guy out of jail.

Tax avoidance is an art form in Europe. One famous Ferrari story involves an owner sending his car to Italy for repair and getting back a new one with the same serial number so it could be imported in the customer’s country without duties.

In the early 1970s, a fuel shortage hit Italy especially hard, and as a conservation measure, a heavy tax was placed on cars with an engine displacement over two liters. In 1975, Ferrari saw a business opportunity, as well as an ingenious (and legal) tax avoidance plan, and built a 2-liter version of the 3-liter 308 GT4. Keeping the same stroke, smaller liners were used to choke the bore of the 2,926-cc 308 engine down to a tax-friendly 1,991 ccs.

The 308 GT4 had been around for nearly two years when the 208 GT4 was introduced. A smaller-engine version of a marginally popular car built specifically for the Italian market hardly made a ripple, yet 840 208 GT4s were built before it was phased out in 1980. There was little manufacturing cost saved, but a 17% tax savings proved enough to convince buyers that speed isn’t everything.

Despite the market’s initial resistance to the Bertone-designed 308 GT4, the model won high praise from drivers. The 255-hp (Euro version) 3-liter V8 was exceptionally flexible, made wonderful sounds, and had adequate power for spirited driving. A great chassis with excellent driving position complemented the engine making driving truly fun. A profile of the 308 GT4, written in January 2005, can be found at

The 208 GT4 is differentiated from the 308 GT4 by a narrower front grille and the lack of driving lights. A single exhaust replaces the quad tips of the 308. Other external clues are smaller 195x70x14 tires versus 205s on the 308 and a 208 GT4 badge on the trunk. Inside, a black aluminum panel surrounds the gauges instead of the brushed aluminum panel of the 308.

The performance of the 180-hp 208 engine is enhanced by gear ratios that favor acceleration over top speed. Acceleration is reasonable, but a top speed of 125 mph falls far short of the 308’s 147 mph. Ironically, after all the fuss, the 208 only gained two miles per gallon.

Finding a 208 GT4 outside Italy is rare, but as SCM contributor John Apen reminds us: All valuable things are rare, but not all rare things are valuable. A 208 GT4 should challenge a Mondial 8 for the title of lowest priced Ferrari. $30,000 is top of the market for an exceptional 308 GT4, and $5,000 should be the discount for a 208. This sale blew the curve and frankly came down to two bidders with checkbooks to match their egos.

Perhaps they were suckered by an unconscionable $40,000-$50,000 auction estimate? The seller caught the Hail Mary pass at the state finals. He should drop an extra $1,000 in the collection plate because prayers like this one aren’t often answered.

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