Ferrari's family of immensely successful V8 road cars began in 1973 with the 308 GT4. The Maranello factory's first V8-engined road car and first mid-engine 2+2, the 308 GT4 was styled by Bertone rather than the customary Pininfarina. By placing the front seats well forward, Bertone made room for two children or one sideways-seated adult in the rear, while the compact engine/transaxle package left space behind the engine bay for a luggage compartment.
Although the newcomer's wedge-shaped styling was controversial, the performance of its quad-cam, 3-liter V8 did not disappoint, proving sufficient to propel the 308 past 150 mph, with 0-60 mph coming in under 7 seconds.
Road & Track was most impressed by the 308 GT4's blend of speed and civility when they tested one in 1974: "Apart from the performance, which you take for granted in a Ferrari, and the aforementioned remarkable flexibility of the engine, perhaps the most outstanding feature of the Dino 308 is the excellent ride it provides. There is no low-speed harshness and at speed the road irregularities are beautifully smoothed out. The progress, compared to earlier Ferraris, is enormous."
The present owner purchased the vehicle from FAF Motorcars Atlanta in 1990. He advises us that the car is original apart from a repaint, and that it has just undergone its 60,000-mile service. Indicated mileage is about 55,000 miles. Finished in red with tan leather interior, it is presented in excellent condition throughout.
The SCM Analysis
This car sold for $23,000 at Bonhams & Butterfields' Quail Lodge sale, held in Carmel, CA on August 13, 2004.
As the only Ferrari product available in the U.S. after the 365 GTB/4 Daytona and the Dino 246 models were discontinued, the Dino 308 GT4 had huge shoes to fill. Problem was, it had small feet.
Marketed under Ferrari's lower level brand, Dino, the GT4 had neither the Daytona's muscular performance nor the 246's delicate lines. The Bertone-penned wedge lacked any styling clues to associate it with its famous linage and its 2+2 seating configuration was not well accepted in the U.S. The 308 GT4 was a commercial disappointment, with unsold 1975 models still loitering in dealers' showrooms at least two model years later.
There are three different versions of the 308 GT4. The initial model, referred to as a Series I, features some unflattering bumpers, Dino-style wheels and Dino badging. In late 1975 the factory attempted to bolster sales by introducing a Series II with improved bumpers, traditional Ferrari five-star wheels and Ferrari badges. Some Series I cars were updated to Series II configuration by the distributor, but with varying results. As such, there is no absolute rule as to what a Series I or Series II car should look like.
In 1977 the GT4 received updates including a factory sunroof and a new dash with improved air conditioning ducting. Catalytic converters were fitted to 1978-1979 models; these very rare late cars are often called Series III models, and while not quite as fast as the early models, they are still quite desirable.
While aesthetically challenged, the GT4 is a blast to drive. The large doors allow easy access to a comfortable interior and the seats slide back far enough that a tall driver has plenty room for his legs, as long as no one tries to fit in the diminutive rear seat. A cab-forward design well before Chrysler coined the phrase, the GT4's driver sits almost out to the front wheels, with an expansive windshield to yield a panoramic view of the road. While quite loud and lacking in creature comforts, few cars deliver as much driving enjoyment for the money.
But as an investment, the GT4 is a dud. This car would have sold new for around $24,000, and 15 years later they were selling for about the same money. (In this case, $500 less—I was the one who sold 308 GT4 S/N 10540 back in 1990, for $23,500.) Today we see this car make $20,000, plus a $3,000 commission, so only the mechanics are getting rich off 308 GT4s. On the other hand, there are not too many cars that can retain their value this well, especially while racking up 55,000 miles.
The normal market for GT4s goes from $15,000 for a fixer-upper to near $30,000 for a top-condition later example. As with all Ferraris, condition is paramount. The GT4 is straightforward to service, but a scruffy car can go through money like a needy mistress. A major service can run 20 percent of the value of the car, though the interval can be stretched to every five to seven years.
Weak points aren't that common. The original paint was good for 15 years tops, so most cars have been repainted by now, or need it. Second- and fourth-gear synchronizers were weak, but fortunately a weak synchro won't keep you from driving your car. While you might think that rebuilding a transaxle for $2,500 is the way to go, the "while we're at it" add-ons you'll want to undertake while the engine is out will certainly eat you alive.
When I first encountered the car pictured here it was painted gold and had less than 24,000 miles showing. It's now red, a color that few 308 GT4s were originally painted. As evidence, I'd point to a circa-1976 list of 308 GT4s in inventory at the East Coast distributor that I happen to possess. It shows 25 Series I cars and 19 Series II cars, none of which were red.
But red is a color that probably appeals to a lot of first-time Ferrari buyers, as should the most distinctive feature of S/N 10540, its rare luggage shelf. This was an option that substituted a flat, carpeted shelf in place of the rear seat, adding a sportier appearance and improving the GT4's cargo capacity.
You'd be hard pressed to find a good entry-level Ferrari for less than this car's $23k sales price. 308 GT4 values won't be going down from here, so the cost of maintenance will be the buyer's cost of ownership. Given that his car just had a major service, he can likely look forward to years of enjoyment. While there is very little chance of an upside here, the downside should be entirely predictable and manageable.
(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)