If you’re about to dismiss this Ferrari 308 GT4 thinking it doesn’t interest you one iota – it’s one of 'those poor man’s Ferraris' – I get that. And it might be because you’re like me. I was a wee lad in the ‘80s, and my bedroom wall was decorated with a picture of a Testarossa and a model of an F40. And then, in the ‘90s, I ogled Ferrari 355s and 550s on the road. All of these were very pretty – or at least striking in the case of the Testarossa and F40 – and all were Pininfarina designs.
The 308 GT4 was not a Pininfarina design, and it looked like it was from a different age to my eyes back then. Not a very good one, either, with its obviously ‘70s lines. That’s because it was the first Ferrari in decades not to be styled by Pininfarina, but by Bertone. Marcello Gandini was the stylist who did it, and he’d styled the Miura and the Countach – both very different-looking cars to the Ferraris that had been penned 11km away on the other side of Turin. That’s the only reason I can conjure as to why the GT4’s such a forgotten Ferrari, because in other respects it really shouldn’t be.
It was a seminal moment for Maranello and included some notable firsts. Not only was it the first Ferrari in decades to be styled by an entity other than Pininfarina, it was also the first mid-engine V8 Ferrari, and look what amazing cars that path has created since. That engine was the new, quad-cam, 2.9-litre V8, which nestled tightly in a transverse configuration just behind the cabin. And with four Weber DCNF carbs, it produced a very healthy 255hp. The chassis was basically a development of the Dino’s tubular spaceframe, but with some extra pipework to stretch it enough for a second pair of seats in the back.
This was an important move for Ferrari, because its rivals all had 2+2s among their ranges. Porsche, obviously, had the 911, Lamborghini had the Espada (also styled by Gandini), and Maserati has a history of 2+2s. Speaking of which, when I think of the Sebring I go a bit wobbly, but that was long gone by the time the GT4 was conceived. The Sebring's replacement was a less obvious beauty in the shape of the Indy. Anyway, the GT4’s importance to Maranello was underlined by claims that Enzo Ferrari himself took a direct interest in honing it. The rumour is that he had a mock-up of the GT4’s interior made, so he could sit in it and get elements of its driving position just right.
With its Dino underpinnings, the mid-engined layout and double wishbone suspension set-up had been given time to ripen. This is another reason why it’s odd that the GT4 isn’t revered. What’s underneath this went on to create the 308 GTB, which is celebrated the world over. And yet, with its longer wheelbase, it’s arguably the case that the GT4 handled and rode better than the 308. Does this back up my theory that it’s all about Pininfarina’s designs? After all, the 308 had been created by that design house and returned to swoops and curves. It probably helped also that it was seen on TV around the world, with certain private detective bombing about Hawaii in one – in what’s possibly the silliest P.I.’s car this side of an all-pink Phantom.
Personally, I think that the GT4’s styling has matured rather nicely. It’s one of those cars that in your head you dismiss at the first mention, then, one day you spot one and think, err, hang on a mo… No longer do I look at it and see a car that’s the ugly duckling of Ferraris. I see something that looks different and interesting compared with Maranello's other models, but with a hint of Series I Esprit at the front. The rear, with those delectable stainless quad exhausts jutting out, looks like it means business, too. Talking about business, I’ve never driven a GT4, but I understand it’s a mid-engine Ferrari that’s useable. It has a decent boot for this type of car, which makes it good for touring, and Bertone’s design used lots of glass, so you can actually see out of it. It’s also a car that someone taller, like me, could fit into.
The interior is amazing. The gated gear lever is traditional Ferrari, but the dashboard looks like a section was cut out of Control Room B at Battersea Power Station and dropped straight in. The mass of chrome-rimmed dials set into aluminium, with wings at either end that are angled towards the driver and filled with sliders and toggle switches, is all rather lovely. As is the condition of this car’s interior. The advert says, ‘The car has been cherished by its fastidious owner(s) throughout its life and for the last 15+ years has resided with a long-standing customer of ours, the car has passed from father to daughter, both looking after the car admirably'. From the pictures it’s hard to disagree.
It's tempting to say that this is a great investment opportunity, but who knows where values will go in the future. £62,500 is certainly an awful lot less than you’ll pay for a Dino, mind, on which this car is based. It’s also cheaper than an equivalent 308, although not by nearly as much. If you have the money for this, you could certainly be considering both, and I think if you went for this GT4 rather than its more obvious cousin, I would have a good deal of respect for you. I wouldn’t have said that a few decades ago.
Specification | Ferrari 308 GT4
Engine: 2,927cc, V8, naturally aspirated
Transmission: five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 255 @ 7,700rpm
Torque (lb ft): 209 @ 5,000rpm
Recorded mileage: 57,000
Year registered: 1978
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £62,500
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