In 1975, Ferrari unveiled a mid-engined model designed by Pininfarina. The rakish coupe was called the 308 GTB, and one could argue it made the company’s name. In fact, Ferrari might be seen to agree with that assertion, as it’s newest model, the 488 GTB, is a nod in name and side-gill design to that iconic machine.
The value of the original GTB and its ultimate iteration — the 328 GTB and targa-top GTS, which bowed out in — is rising frighteningly and, for many experts, perplexingly fast, making this model perhaps the latest to benefit from the surge in Ferrari prices of late.
Hold your prancing horses, you say: The 308? No sir, Ferrari’s legendary name was made way before that modestly fast V-8 thanks to not just Formula One triumphs but also decades of 12-cylinder machines that hunted prey on Europe’s greatest race tracks. Think GTO, 275 GTB/4 and Daytona to name just a few. So why assign such importance to the 308/328?
Here’s why. Way before Luca di Montezemolo, Ferrari’s recently exiled king, used his Columbia University-honed business acumen to turn the Italian automaker into a luxury nameplate that would find its way onto everything from theme parks to slippers, the 308 GTB had just that sort of broad marketing effect.
Suddenly, a Ferrari was on posters in college dorm rooms; I’m personally guilty, having framed the classic Rick McBride image of the 308 GTB flanked by one of a wine bottle and a reclined woman with the simple words, “Decisions, decisions.” From 1980 to 1988, a red Ferrari 308 and 328 zipped across the small screen as the personal transportation of Tom Selleck in “Magnum P.I,” which arguably set the automaker up for a later Testarossa-led romp in “Miami Vice.” The 308 GTB made Ferrari a pop-culture hit.
The good news for admirers of this model — and countless boomers first fell in love with Ferrari after they spied a 308/328 on the road — was that for a long time it was considered an entry-level Maranello machine. Up until just a year or so ago, you could routinely spot these cars for comparative (that is compared to $38 million GTOs) peanuts: $40,000 for a nice 308, maybe $60,000 for a gleaming 1989 GTS complete with then-new tech such as ABS brakes and remote side mirrors.
And now? Dream on. A quick perusal of any number of online auto-sales sites quickly unearths 308s at pristine late-model 328 prices, and 328s routinely listing for $100,000 or more. The very early and rare 308 models that were made of fiberglass may well push into the territory of what some new Ferraris cost: Gooding and Company expects to get as much as $225,000 for a 1977 308 GTB Vetroresina at its Amelia Island auction this month.
Crazy? While freely praising the 308/328’s admittedly modest merits, most marque experts say yes.
“Although you need to keep a few thousand around each year for things like belt changes and other maintenance, I always felt that that series was a great entry-level exotic. But at $100,000 I’m much less enthused,” says Keith Martin, publisher of Sports Car Market, which keeps a careful eye on classic car values.
Also on the negative side of the ledger for Martin is the 308/328’s Fiat-sourced switchgear (the Italian giant bought a 50% stake in Ferrari in 1969) and that they’re far from rare (stats show that some 20,000 308/328s were built).
“I’m assuming people are getting caught up in the mania of the moment,” says Martin, adding that before this year most staggering used-Ferrari prices - such as a $10 million Steve McQueen-owned 275 GTB/4 - “had a logic to them. But I think we’re entering the realm of irrational, where anything that’s red and ends in an ‘i’ is thought of as gold.”
Longtime classic-Ferrari seller Michael Sheehan calls it simply “a classic trickle down, and now we’re at the bottom of the food chain.” He says that he recently purchased a 328 based solely on a few blurry iPhone photos, and came out the financial winner for it. He took another car on consignment at his Southern California-based Ferraris-Online.com, and “sold it to a dealer for a correct $79,000, who I saw then immediately marked it up to $130,000.”
On his blog, Sheehan writes about the five Ferrari booms. Today, “it’s the same story, just a different year and a different generation.” The 308/328 series was for “that guy who couldn’t afford a Daytona, but wanted to join the party.”
When asked if he’d recommend the 308/328 as a purchase, Sheehan laughs. “The late ones were nice, with a lighter clutch and a smoother, four-valve engine, but they’re hog slow with heavy steering,” he says. “But, I guess that doesn’t matter.”
Forza magazine editor Aaron Jenkins concurs.
“There’s no doubt that any year (Porsche) Boxster will speed away from a 328, because it’s old tech and it feels like it,” says Jenkins, who has regularly run features on the 308/328 in his pages. “That said, the 328 delivers a truly vintage car feel. There’s the noise and vibration. It’s like being inside a machine, or with a wild animal. When you’re in a Boxster, you’re just sitting inside a car.”
Jenkins also highlights the 328’s classic gated shifter, “which demands extra thinking from the driver, but in turn delivers a much more personal experience.”
So if you’ve always wanted a 308/328, have priced permanently raced off into the silly zone?
Jenkins says this is the longest Ferrari price boom to date, and he knows of many people just now getting into the used-Ferrari-selling game, implying there’s still more money to be made. Sheehan, too, is loathe to predict when the bubble will burst.
Back in 1989, Martin was actually selling new Ferrari 328s at the well-regarded Ron Tonkin dealership in Oregon. He remembers being thrilled with the car, which finally did away with the 308 ugly US-spec bumpers and offered a modicum of modern conveniences.
“People were getting all excited saying these were the last of Enzo-era cars (Ferrari died in 1988 at age 90), which was nonsense and just a reason to get excited about the model,” he says. “But in the end, rarity is the key to (classic car) prices, and the truth is they just made too many of this model to make them unique.”
His advice: wait a while, and the 308/328 price point just might correct itself.
Otherwise, look into a early model Ferrari 360 Modena, circa 1999-2002. Says Martin: “It’s three times the car that a 328 is, and right now, I guess also about the same price.”