The cars we loved.
An ugly is not usually synonyms with Ferrari. For die-hard Ferrari enthusiasts there really is no such thing, but even they would admit that a few models come close. The Dino 308 GT4 comes to mind. Ferrari’s were usually designed by Pininfarina through the ’60s with sensuous flowing designs.
The 308 would be different. It would be a bold step into modernism with angular boxy lines from Bertone. The 308 was not just different looking it was a different kind of Ferrari. It was the first Ferrari road car with a V8 and the first mid-engine design with 2+2 seating. In theory it was the best of all worlds with the balance and dynamics that come with a near 50/50 weight distribution and the practicality of a back seat (although small).
Unfortunately the 308 was not easy to love at first sight. It confused buyers and dealers alike when it arrived on American shores in 1975. Early cars did not even wear the Ferrari badge instead arrived sporting Dino script badges. The Dino name might have recalled the famous Pininfarina designed Dino 246 GTS, but with the 308 there were no warm feelings for its awkward lines.
The 308 had a flying buttress design like the 246 and similar Campagnoto styled wheels. That may have been enough to label it a 246 successor, but to many it fell short simply because the Bertone design lacked the flowing grace of the older car. Ferrari might have ignored a clue to the 308’s reception when it got mixed reactions at the Paris Motor show where it debuted in 1973. Mixed reviews for any Ferrari concept aimed at production was rare, as long as the lines were flowing and they came from Pininfarina.
It was not all Bertone’s fault. Stringent crash test regulations saw many manufacturers scrambling to make new safety bumpers. On the 308 big black bumpers they did no favors to the car’s design because they appeared bolted on. Despite the bumper design, the car’s best view is from the front where it resembles a line of Ferrari designs that would stretch well into the ’80s.
Dino badges or not, this was a still a Ferrari with supercar performance. It’s 3.0 liter V8 was a dual overhead cam design that made around 240 hp. It could scoot the GT4 from 0 to 60 in the 6 second range. Pretty impressive for the mid ’70s. The 308 could reach a top speed of 138 mph with passengers seated in the realitive comfort of a GT car. Performance and comfort were obviously not one of the 308’s sore spots.
The long doors made it easy to get into the snug cockpit. While not the most ergonomically correct design, the dash came with the expected full complement of gauges and touches of real wood mixed with other high quality materials. Many of the cars shipped to the US came with leather seating and door surfaces.
The 308 today is seen as a sleeper investment. It was significant for its many technical details, but lacks the phanche typical of earlier Ferrari (designed by Pinninfarana). Its design might not be for everyone, but as a significant technical milestone in Ferrari history, the 308 is likely to appreciate in value. After 1976 the 308 would finally get the Ferrari badge and continue on until 1980. Badged as a Dino or a Ferrari the 308 is due for some respect either way. For about the cost of a new Accord or Camry, you can have a piece of almost forgotton Ferrari history.