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308 buyers guide
my next classic
Ferrari 308 buyers guide
Ever since I started reporting on my experiences with a 308
GTB and a 328 GTB I've been getting a lot
of mail and several questions keep coming back: Which the is best buy?
(answer: see the 308 Vs 328 page) How much should
I pay? (almost impossible to answer) and What should I look for. This
page tries to answer the last question and give prospective 308 buyers
- Read about the different models, the production history and try and
decide which is best suited to your needs (or cravings).
- Join a Ferrari club and seek their advice about the model you want
to buy and the quality of the local (or not so local) Ferrari Mechanics.
- Decide on a good Ferrari Mechanic/Dealer you like to work with/talk
to before you need an inspection done yesterday...
- Be wary of low-mileage cars. First, it's easy to disconnect the speedometer
on 308s so that the odometer won't record the true mileage. But even
if the mileage shown is accurate, a Ferrari that spends its life sitting
without regular use is an unhappy car. Everything from hydraulic systems
to rubber suspension pieces, from shock absorbers to gaskets and seals,
will deteriorate, perish or freeze up without use. And because Ferraris
tend to be weekend playthings, there are plenty of low-mileage cars
around. A car with exceptionally low mileage makes a nice show car,
but that's about it. The best 308 is one that has received both moderate
use and regular service. A well-maintained 308 with 100,000 miles or
more can still be a very strong car and a good buy.
- Is the car a US version or Euro? Euro cars are a little faster, but
can end up being a major headache for US owners if you don't do you
homework first. If it's Euro, does it have EPA and DOT papers? Don't
just accept that they do, ask to see them and make sure the VIN number
match the prospective car. If it's a US car, make sure the emissions
equipment is in tact.
2. The paperwork:
- Look for a vehicle that comes with a complete set of repair receipts
so you can judge its service history and verify its odometer mileage
reading. Be wary of low-mileage cars. First, it's easy to disconnect
the speedometer on 308s so that the odometer won't record the true mileage.
But even if the mileage shown is accurate, a Ferrari that spends its
life sitting without regular use is an unhappy car. Everything from
hydraulic systems to rubber suspension pieces, from shock absorbers
to gaskets and seals, will deteriorate, perish or freeze up without
use. And because Ferraris tend to be weekend playthings, there are plenty
of low-mileage cars around. A car with exceptionally low mileage makes
a nice show car, but that's about it. The best 308 is one that has received
both moderate use and regular service. A well-maintained 308 with 100,000
miles or more can still be a very strong car and a good buy.
- Check the car's records to see that the prescribed service has been
performed. The engine oil and filter should be changed every 3000 miles
or six months. The factory specifies additional service procedures every
15,000 miles; this service will include a tune-up and a valve adjustment.
The 30,000-mile is the big one. It will often include a valve adjustment
plus replacement of the water pump, the two timing belts, ignition parts,
the clutch linings, various seals and hoses. Obviously alI this is an
expensive proposition, which owners too often skip. Ignoring Ferrari's
prescribed service intervals can have catastrophic consequences for
an owner's financial well-being. For instance, if the timing belts aren't
replaced every 30,000 miles or five years, they may break and allow
pistons to crash into valves, necessitating an engine rebuild - something
no faint-hearted enthusiast of moderate means would ever want to face.
3. Visual inspection:
- Visually inspect the car for cosmetic weakness. Unless this car is
very unique, it will have several (or even many) cosmetic weaknesses.
Other than the obvious (paint, leather), look at the following on a
308: The headliner, carpet and rear deck material, feel it. If it's
in great shape, it will be clean looking and soft to the touch. The
rear trunk cover tends to tear and/or have bad zippers. Is the dash
vinyl straight and without knicks?
- Does the car have factory wheels or aftermarket?
- How clean is the engine bay? Does it look like the car has just been
driven and not cared for? Well maintained cars will tend to have much
cleaner and proper looking engine bays.
- Look for rust along the lower rocker panels, door bottoms and the
rear quarter panels. A little rust boil or two is not a deal killer,
but you should at least be aware of what you're buying. Those little
boils can get much worse if the car is to be stored/parked outdoors.
It wasn't until 1980 that Ferrari offered any kind of warranty against
corrosion because until then, the cars carried virtually no rust- proofing.
And keep in mind that the fiberglass-bodied cars still have steel rocker
panels, yet another common area for rust.
- Check the condition of the roof and window seals with the roof out
(GTS) and the doors open. The seals should be smooth and free of defects,
otherwise plan on replacing the ones that need it. Close the doors,
install the roof and make sure the windows seal well against the body
seal (at the rear) and the roof seal (at the top).
- Look around the underside of the car for obvious signs of oversprayed
paint from poor body repair and of oil or other leakage's. Check for
signs of the car having bottomed out badly. While under there, look
at the brake calipers and see that there's no fluid weeping. Also, look
at the shocks and make sure they're not loosing hydraulic fluid.
4. Drive the car:
- Check for electrical problems. Overall, 308s - carburetor cars in
particular - seem to have weak electrical systems. Fuse boxes melt.
Power window lifts, never speedy to begin with, become agonizingly slow.
And the electric motors that raise the headlights are prone to fail.
On fuel-injected cars, the electronic ignition control units may go
berserk; they sit in the trunk where they can get soaked if water seeps
through leaky taillight seals. Though all these electrical gremlins
are annoying, they aren't generally horrifically expensive to correct.
- The car should start easily and idle reasonable well (although not
as smoothly as a modern car). Can you shift into every gear? With the
clutch on the floor, can you shift into every gear without any grinding?
Do the brake and the clutch pedal, when released, rest at the same level?
Does the car pull to the left or right? Does the car pull to the left
or right under braking? At 70-80 MPH the car should be *rock solid*
without any shakes or obvious rattles. There should be no "dead-spot"
in the center of the steering like many other cars have. Does the car
smoke when starting? Does the car produce white smoke when accelerating
hard (a light tan/brown haze is normal)?
- Don't expect too much. Yes, Ferraris are very expensive when new.
And yes, they are exotic. But Ferrari has often been slow to adopt features
that we take for granted even on lesser cars. The lack of rustproofing
is one example. And Ferrari didn't give the 308s grease fittings in
their suspensions; after 50,000 miles many 308s will need every moving
part in their suspensions renewed.
5. Professional inspection:
- Be sure to have the car inspected by a Ferrari specialist before you
buy. If he is going to service the car for you in the future he will
do his best to give you a thorough report on the car and point to all
the bits that will need servicing in the future. He will look for problems
common to all old cars - low compression, poorly repaired collision
damage and so on. But Ferraris have their own peculiarities.
- For US spec. cars carefully inspect the emissions-control equipment.
The 308s came with a variety of emissions-control equipment. Until 1978,
they were saddled with a thermal reactor and twin air-injection pumps.
From 1978 on, they had twin catalytic converters. And all carburetor
cars had dual-point ignitions. During your pre-purchase inspection,
make certain the appropriate equipment for the car is in place and operating
correctly. When these 308s were young and the emissions inspection rules
were more lenient, many owners removed the thermal reactors, gutted
the catalytic converters or replaced everything with European exhaust
systems. But retrofitting this emissions-control equipment is costly.
And keep in mind that getting all those Webers properly adjusted and
running in synch on the early 308s is an arduous task requiring large
doses of experience, patience and concentration. On the other hand,
once properly set up, they'll stay that way for a long time.
- Though in most instances you'll want to use genuine-issue Ferrari
parts, the savvy mechanic knows that a set of Repco brake pads works
just as well as Ferrari pads, that an electric radiator fan switch from
a VW Rabbit is the equal of a Ferrari switch or that the electric mirror
switch from a BMW 7-Series is the same one Ferrari uses . A good mechanic
can make your dream of owning a Ferrari a little more affordable.
6. Drive and enjoy!