Hawaiin shirt not included

DSCF0224_4bf15b32137e1-lightboxThen a certain moustachioed wearer of Hawaiian shirts drove one on TV and the car became an all-time personal favourite.

Fast forward many years later and having had a string of newer Ferraris (348, 355, 360 and a 575), I had somehow forgotten about 308s. Well not strictly true, but being 6’5 with size 12 feet, I had pretty much convinced myself years ago that I had no chance of being able to fit in a 308. Not sure why because I had never actually sat in one.

Then last summer, I was on a Scuditalia meet (www.scuditalia.com) and one of the guys turned up in a beautiful Nero Daytona 308 GTS. I was totally bowled over by how small and pure the shape was in comparison to modern Ferraris. The car was RHD and I thought, again, no chance (I prefer LHD Ferraris because, with my long legs, the offset/wheelarch intrusion makes for a much better driving position than RHD). But I asked my friend if I could sit in the car and amazingly, it was a perfect fit! Not much spare room, but a very snug, comfy fit!

Another big plus is that the targa roof was stowed behind the seats, yet I could still move the driver’s seat all the way back, unlike in a 355 GTS, where the movement is slightly more restricted against the seat backrest.

So from that moment last summer, I started scanning 308 adverts. I sold my 993 Carrera around that time because I wasn’t using it very much, and thought the money from that should be close to a decent 308.
I went to look at a couple of cars which were very disappointing. One looked pretty on the surface, but the inner door skins, sills and other panels were full of rust. Another had a smoky engine. I was getting a bit disheartened.

I also asked for advice from a friend who has had every Ferrari imaginable and whose present stable includes an F40/F50 and Daytona. He strongly advised me to go for an early carburettored car as opposed to a QV. I did try a QV which felt great to me (though, again, the bodywork was not good), but I could definitely see the appeal of the carb engine -supposedly more powerful- a much more retro interior and a fantastic induction noise that a fuel injected car would not deliver.

Another friend, who heads up the London Area Group of the Ferrari Owners Club also reinforced this view; he has owned his 308 for 20 (or is it 30?) years and he said to me he has only been let down by the car twice in all those years.

Shortly after this conversation, the same friend alerted me to a car that a Ferrari Owners Club member was selling: 1979 Carburettor, 40,000 miles, Rosso Corsa with Crema Leather and, even better, LHD which would give me an improved driving position.
A rare find as most LHDs have now made their way back to mainland Europe and this must be one of only a handful left in the UK.

So I went to see the car that weekend. I was half expecting to see another rust bucket so my hopes were not high. But within 10 seconds of seeing this car in the flesh, I surprised myself by not showing any of my usual caution or restraint when buying cars and immediately shook the owner’s hand and said ‘’I’ll take it” !

Looking over the car, it was a minter. Brilliant paintwork (fully and PROPERLY restored in 2003), retrimmed interior and underside very clean and tidy. I paid for the car within a few days and had it taken up to Supercar Clinic in Manchester for a cambelt service and a full once over. The reason for choosing these guys so far from home is because their head technician, Abbey, is one of the most experienced people with 308s in the UK. He has probably worked on hundreds of them over the years.

As the car had been stood for a couple of years I was expecting a few issues, but the car appeared to be in decent overall condition mechanically too. The shocks were worn, so I had those replaced. I asked the guys to use Hill Engineering cambelt tensioners as they are far superior to Ferrari ones. I had the brake lines upgraded to Goodridge stainless ones with new brake fluid, gearbox oil changed for Redline and a few other bits. I also sourced a Momo steering wheel which had a smaller rim than the Ferrari original, but which looked original (in fact it is the same wheel used in the 246 Dino) and I also fitted a Hill Engineering spacer to give more clearance over the knees.

So the car was ready for the start of spring and I have driven it pretty much every weekend since, wet or dry. The car is very analogue and I love that, it feels very go-kart like, similar to an Elise. The non-assisted steering is heavy at parking speeds, but fantastic otherwise. Really talks to you all the time.

The engine needs to be kept up in the rev range but is surprisingly strong when up there. While not fast by modern standards, it ‘feels’ fast which is probably a better thing.

Another addition I have made is a Nouvalari ‘Supersport’ exhaust system. The one on the car previously was an ANSA system, but this one is something else again. It really gives the car that proper old school race car feel.

I have been on a few runs this month with the Scuditalia guys and the car has performed very well. When not being driven, I have spent time on detailing (see photos!).
Next up are some trackdays and a decent European tour, possibly down to Italy in late summer.

Having never owned a car this old, I am very pleased with just how much fun the car is to drive, much better than I would have expected and in fact the 575 left me last month but the 308 has stepped up admirably well. The sound of those carbs sucking in air with the roof off is truly intoxicating!

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Faisal Ahmed