When introduced in 1973
(officially unveiled at the Paris Motor Show) the Ferrari Dino 308 GT4 was much more than a big brother to the familiar, beautiful little 246GT
. It was almost an entirely new car, save for the steering wheel and alloy road wheels.
Particularly significant in Ferrari folklore was the fact that the 308 GT4 was the first Maranello production car to adopt a V8 engine. It was also a case of "almost" suiting the family man, being a very genuine 2+2 seating configuration within almost as compact a total area as the definitely two-seater 246 GT.
In addition the tail area behind the mid-mounted, transversely-directed, all-aluminum V8 was very un-Ferrari like, it having enough practical luggage space to be both wide and deep enough for two sets of golf clubs!
As with the 246
(2.4 liters, 6-cylinders), the 308 title indicated the capacity and number of cylinders. The former's 65 degree V6 engine had very little in common with the 3-liter V8, which had its ancestry in the 4.4-liter V12 engine best known in its Daytona
However, whereas the V12 was of the usual 60 degree vee-slant, the arrow had been broadened in the V8 engine to the 90 degrees most suitable for a V8. Bore and stroke dimensions were identical to those of the V12 at 81 mm. x 71 mm. (92.5 mm. x 60 mm. are the even more violently oversquare dimensions of the V6), presenting a capacity of 2,926.9 c.c.
Wet liners were used in the alloy cylinder block, the crankshaft running on five main bearings lubricated from a wet sump system, while the transaxle upon which the engine was mounted contained five forward and one reverse gears, a limited slip differential and its own lubricant.
The cylinder head design followed similar practice to the V12, each head carrying two overhead camshafts operating two valves (vee-slanted at 46 degrees) per hemispheerical combustion chamber via thimble tappets. Rubber, toothed timing belts received the ultimate blessing when Ferrari adopted them instead of the usual chains for the Berlinetta Boxer flat-12 engine and the 308's four camshafts were similarly driven to eradiicate the familiar Ferrari valve-gear thrash.
Ignition was by a separate Marelli distributor on each bank, driven by the uppermost (in terms of the angled heads) camshafts, and twin coils. A modest 8.8:1 compression ratio was used, and fuel was fed to the engine via a single Corona fuel pump and four, twin-choke, downdraught Weber 40 DCNF carburetters from a 17,3 gallon (including 3.3 gallon reserve) tank.
At launch there were various power output claims, including 255 b.h.p. @ 7,600 r.p.m.; 255 b.h.p. @ 7,700 r.p.m.; 250 b..h.p. @ 7,600 r.p.m. and 250 b.h.p. @ 7,700 r.p.m.; quoted as DIN, SAE, net or gross in many permutations. Whichever was the more accurate, all were outstanding for the time and compared favourably with the 195 b.h.p. @ 7,600 b.h.p. of the smaller V6. Torque figures for the V8 were equally impressive: 209.76 lb. ft. @ 5,000 r.p.m., against the V6's 165.5 lb. ft. @ 5,500 r.p.m., both figures quoted from the Ferrari handbooks.
Even today if you attend a car show where the smaller Dino is present you will see people drool over the curvaceous, sensual lines of the 246
, an instant classic and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful designs to be put into production in the history of the motor car. Alongside this Pininfarina masterpiece, Bertone's efforts on the 308 were slightly disappointing, the smooth, delicate mouldings having given way to harsher, more acute, sharply-edged contours which seemed to identify all designers thoughts for the 1970's.
Nevertheless, the outcome was attractively, excitingly exotic, and those who regarded it as an ugly duckling alongside its older stablemate could always console themselves with the thought that any attempt to adapt the lines of the 246 into a 2 + 2 would probably have been disastrous. On this subject of the Italian design war, it is interesting to note that Bertone was responsible for the sharp-edged 186 m.p.h. Lamborghini Countach, while Ferrari chose Pininfarina to shape the more rounded features of the 188 m.p.h. Berlinetta Boxer, these two cars battling it out for the title as the World's fastest production car.
The slab sides made the 308 look much wider than the 246
and presented a comparatively vast amount of elbow room inside, yet the overall width was only 0.12 in. greater at 5 ft. 7.32 in. The two rear seats were accommodated by building the 308 with an 8 in. longer wheelbase, yet the sharply cropped nose and tail kept down the overall length, at just over 14 ft., to 21 in. more than the 246
. Of necessity, for rear seat headroom, the 308 was some 3 in. higher, while the front and rear tracks were increased by almost 2 in. to improve stability with the longer wheelbase. The suspension layout was identical to that of the 246
though there were detail changes in geometry and none of the parts were interchangeable.
Both ends of the suspension gained their impeccable handling and roadholding characterisstics from pressed-steel wishbone arrangeements, with coil springs/Koni telescopic damper units and anti-roll bars. Ventilated outboard discs were fitted all round, a tandem master cylinder and vacuum servo-unit being mounted on the front bulkhead and the rear circuit incorporating a pressure limiting valve. The central handbrake lever operated on the normal rear pads, so was self-adjusting.
And so to the important question of rear seat room. Sit in the back of a 308 and you will inevitably find the need to splay your knees either side of the passenger seat - a task more difficult if you were sitting behind the driver as it would severly restrict his/her arm movements. But for children even up to young teenage size the seating was ideal. Unlike the Porsche's occassional seals, the Dino 308's rear seats were the real thing, luxuriously shaped and trimmed, with headrests on the rear bulkhead and with lap-sash belts as standard, stowed away in central and side open lockers when not in use. The front seats were a big improvement on those of the 246
, mainly because the absence of a bulkhead immediately behind them enabled them to have adjustable back rests, accurately adjustable with a knob, whilst a separate release lever allowed them to be folded forwards for rear seat access.
Trimming of the 'seating 'surfaces and the door panels was in realistic artificial suede. The thin-rimmed, leather-covered steering wheel was less vertical and closer than on contemporary German sports cars, most noteably the Porsche, meaning you would need to carefully adjust your seat to ensure the long travel of the clutch would not intefere.
The Good And The Bad For 246 Dino Drivers
Jumping out of the Dino 246
and into the 308 would produce two immediate impressions. First the good one: the torque and flexibility of the V8 was quite wonderful. On the one hand the engine would rev to the definitive 7,700 r.p.m. red line on the Veglia tachometer, an staggering number of revs for a road-going production V8, and on the other the 308 would crawl along and pick-up smoothly from just over 1,000 r.p.m. in fifth gear, equal to 22-25 m.p.h. The torque curve peaked at 5,000 r.p.m., but was comparatively gentle in its shape all the way from 3,500 r.p.m., and mid-range acceleration was excellent.
This meant that great performance did not make the driver reliant on over-use of the gearbox, as was more the case with the dynamo-like short-stroke V6. For out-and-out performance it payed to waggle the lever through its traditional Ferrari five-speed alloy gate, as maximum power didn't occur till around about maximum revs - and through the gears the needle hit that in a couple of blinks of an eyelid.
But there was a negative. Ferraris of any cylinder configuration have always been reenowned for the beautiful noises they make, music to the ears whether in the cockpit or behind the exhaust. The same could not be said of the V8 which, if anything, was akin to the noise emitted by a twin-cam Lotus-Ford engine - not that the latter engine is a bad unit at all - but for the money required to buy a Ferrari it was somewhat of a let down.
Instrumentation was clear on the typically Ferrari aluminum facia panel, but was noteable for the absence of an ammeter or voltmeter. There were gauges for fuel, oil pressure and temperature, and water temperature grouped around the 180 m.p.h. speedometer and 10,000 r.p.m. tachometer and even a clock. Two-speed screen-wipers and washers were controlled by a stalk on the right of the steering column. A short stalk on the left controlled the flashing indicators and a longer one looked after the operation of the four pop-up Halogen headlights (which also featured a facility for emergency operation, with the car stationary, should the electric motors fail. Twin Carello auxiliary lamps were fitted under the radiator grille.
The gear-lever gate was contained in a slim central console. Gear-lever movement had been considerably reduced compared with the 246, though gearchanges could be notchy unless the clutch pedal was pushed right into the bulkhead. Also mounted on the console were the choke lever, cigar lighter and controls for the optional heated rear screen, electric windows and air-conditioning equipment, a long reach within the restrictions of the fixed belts. Normal heater switches were grouped on the left of the facia panel, matched by auxiliary light, hazard warning and heater fan switches on the right. There was a useful lockable cubby-hole containing the fuse boxes 2nd an inspection lamp and deep pockets were formed in the doors by the arm-rest door-pulls. Each door contained a courtesy light in its central panel (there was also a central one above the rear screen) and a warning light in its trailing edge.
Twin, lockable levers in the driver's door pillar released self-supporting rear lids for the engine and fully-carpeted boot, the front "bonnet" was released by another lever under the facia and all three had separate emergency releases. The radiator was located under the bonnet (from which hot air was ducted upwards through the steel panel), along with the emergency space-saver spare wheel, battery, servo, washer bottle and motors for the lights. The space saver spare was shod with a Michelin 105 R18X tire, while the normal 6H road-wheels were shod with Michelin 205/70 VR14 XWX tires. A maximum speed of 90 m.p.h. was recommended when the spare wheel was fitted, though the handbook added "It is necessary to avoid any sharp braking because this special wheel will be the first wheel to lock or skid causing the tire unnecessary damage" - not a comforting prospect!
If the extra weight made the 308 Dino marginally less agile than the 246
, it also improved its straight line and cornering stability - or at least the wider track and revised steering geometry did. As there were very few vehicles more stable than a 246 Dino it seems superfluous to add that the 308 instantly become one the the world's best handling and roadholding road cars. The steering felt very similar to the 246 - the same Cam Gears rack and pinion was used - and lock to lock took an identicaI 3 turns. As those turns provided a poor turning circle of only 39.3 ft., it could be seen that the steering was not as high geared as you would expect. On the plus side, the steering was superbly sensitive and responsive without becoming reactionary over bumps and was light enough to make parking easy.
If the 308 was cornered on a trailing throttle it understeered noticeably, but if cornering under power the effect of the limited slip differential helped produce a mild degree of understeer in exactly the right amount to ensure stability and evasive qualities. The roadholding of the 308 was phenomenal, there was minimal roll and, though suspension movement was small, the ride was surprisingly good. The improved cornering stability compared with the 246 was most noticeable on long, sweeping bends; the latter car tending to exhibit some diagonal pitching which was eradicated on the 308.
, who had also dispensed with a servo completely, Ferrari did not believe in over assisting the brakes at the expense of feel. Thus, high speed stops required a moderately heavy foot to assist the servo: The Dino then pulled up in ultra-short distances with hardly a trace of squat or nose-dive. In traffic the brakes were equally at home, braking effort being proportionally less than at speed and without any fierceness.
Ferrari claimed a standing quarter-mile time of 14.4 seconds and a standing kilometre time of 26.2 seconds, with a terminal speed of 131 m.p.h. The kilometre figure was only 0.6 seconds quicker than the Dino 246GT
, but this marginal difference belied the improved ease with which the torquey V8 coped with such fierce acceleration.
Summing up the Dino 308 GT4, it can be said that the car was "almost" magnificent, the 3-liter V8 engine being quite docile at one end of the scale and providing brilliant performance at the other. The only really sour note was the obligatory list of extra-cost options, of which many should have been considered as essential on a car of this calibre. Options included metallic paint, electric windows, air-conditioning, a heated rear window, tinted glass, combined leather/cloth upholstery and all-leather upholstery.
Introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 1975
, the 208 GT4 2+2 was a low-displacement version of the V8 produced for Europe. The engine was de-bored to (66.8 x 71 mm) 2.0 L (1991 cc) V8, resulting in the smallest production V8 in history. Power output was 170 hp (126 kW) at 7,700 rpm for a top speed of 137 mph (220 km/h). A lower final drive ratio and skinnier tires completed the technical changes for the 208. Chrome (rather than black) accents outside and the lack of fog lights were visual indicators of the little engine. The 208 GTB replaced the 208 GT4 in 1980