The advent of the new Pininfarina-designed 308 GTB was hailed as one of the best Ferraris of modern times. And it is no wonder-following on the heels of the mechanically inspired but visually challenged 308 GT4, the new 308 was drop-dead gorgeous.

As Sergio Pininfarina himself pointed out, "Every Ferrari car previously designed by us was a great success in the market." From a styling point of view, the 308 owes more to the legendary 246 Dino than to any previous road-going Ferrari. Perhaps equally important, the 308 GTB was the first non-12-cylinder road car to carry the Ferrari badge.

The car was quite sophisticated, particularly for the time, with a transverse-mounted all-alloy four-cam V8 engine, initially producing 205 hp-a remarkable figure. With four-wheel independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes, the car was extremely well-balanced, and offered taut handling along with a compliant ride.

Originally sold in 1982, this 308 was immediately treated to sympathetic ownership and care. Showing less than 15,000 miles on the odometer-believed to be correct from new-this original example is in excellent overall condition. It is complete with its original manuals, as well as with the original and correct Campagnolo alloy wheels.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1981 Ferrari 308 GTBi
Years Produced:1980-82
Number Produced:494
Original List Price:$50,625
SCM Valuation:$25,000 - $30,000
Tune Up Cost:$3,000
Distributor Caps:$387
Chassis Number Location:Top frame rail, passenger side in engine compartment
Engine Number Location:Top right side of engine, in the V
Club Info:Ferrari Owner's Club, 8642 Cleta Street, Downey, CA 90241. 562/861-6992 Ferrari Club of America, PO Box 720597, Atlanta, GA 30358
Alternatives:DeTomaso Pantera, Maserati Merak, Acura NSX, Lamborghini Jalpa
Investment Grade:D

This car sold at RM’s Monterey auction, August 16, 2002, for $26,400, including buyer’s premium.

Even the best manufacturers make mistakes. Porsche made a series of 911s with chain tensioner problems, Mercedes had the single-row timing chain fiasco and Ferrari has the 1980-82 Ferrari 308s.

1980 marked the beginning of some rather draconian federal emissions regulations. Ferrari, recognizing its carbureted 308 engines would not meet the 1980 standards, set out to solve the problem. The result was the 308 GTBi and 308 GTSi.

These new “i” cars became the second generation of 308 GTB/GTS cars. The i indicated the introduction of fuel injection and the Marelli Digiplex Ignition system as a solution to emissions problems. The i might also be seen as meaning “improved,” as these cars benefited from a host of changes. A new interior appeared in the all-new 1980 308 with Michelin TRX tires, high-tech enamel paint, a lighter clutch and a longer shift lever phased in as the year progressed. The changes were not free-1980 models cost 17% more than their 1979 counterparts.

The carbureted 308s pumped out a reasonable 205 hp in US trim. The new i model was still rated at 205 hp but actually produced somewhere around a lackluster 180 hp. The new car was further demeaned by the loss of the Weber’s crisp response and wonderful induction noise.

The loss of power was a significant blow, but the real problem was far more sinister. A design or manufacturing problem-one that was never identified-caused many i cars to develop serious oil consumption issues. Problem cars drank a quart of oil in less than 200 miles.

To Ferrari’s credit, they stood behind their mistake. Problem cars were treated to an engine transplant. Unfortunately many of the afflicted cars were never diagnosed as having a problem, and there was neither rhyme nor reason as to when the problem would surface. One car might have a problem from new, one at 20,000 miles, and many never developed a problem at all. The cars did not drip oil and did not smoke. Often owners never realized they had a problem until their car was years out of warranty.

Many afflicted cars became hot potatoes, passing from owner to owner as soon as a problem was noticed. Dealers quickly awoke to the problems and became wary of offering used i models. Even a repaired car was suspicious as the replacement engine could be susceptible to the same problem. Bad examples exhibited some telltale signs (such as stained paint behind the license plate), but without performing an elaborate test the problem was-and still is-difficult to recognize.

The car pictured here was a risky buy. With only 15,000 miles, it could very easily harbor a bad engine or one that just hasn’t gone bad yet. With no mention of a major service, chances are good a $3,000 service is due immediately, with the potential for more expensive fixes to follow soon thereafter. That’s also the upper mileage allowable for the TRX tires that are currently obtainable only through Coker Tires for around $1,000 a set. And for that amount, you get 20-year-old tire technology.

On the other hand, if everything is good and performance is not an issue, $26,400 is on the money. Sharp, low-mileage 308s are becoming extinct. Finding another one with this low mileage and in this unabused condition would be difficult.

Nonetheless, while the price is market-correct, I would hesitate to recommend this car, or a similar 308i, to a client. The downside of an i is an engine rebuild, and there is no upside. The next generation 308 Quattrovalvoles only cost a few thousand more and were virtually trouble-free. If you’re looking for a 308, my advice would be to find a good carbureted car or spend a little more for a QV.-Steve Ahlgrim

(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of RM Auctions.)

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