1976 Ferrari 308 GT4
Given that so many contemporary performance cars now employ the mid-engine layout, it is hard to imagine that Ferrari once resisted it so firmly. So hesitant was Enzo about mid-engine design that he insisted on employing front-engined Grand Prix cars well after other constructors adopted the layout, much to the chagrin of Ferrari’s Formula 1 drivers in the 1960 season. Ferrari were quicker to adopt the layout in street cars, introducing the 206 Dino in 1967, just a year after the Miura was introduced.
Although it didn’t have 12 cylinders, the Dino had a wonderfully athletic, lithe feel that makes it one of the most enjoyable driver’s cars of the era. This was preserved in the following evolution of the same car, the 246, and its replacement as well, the 308 GT4.
The GT4 is an extraordinary car for several reasons. First among these was that it started a dynasty which still exists today, namely the mid-engined V8 Ferrari. Secondly, it was styled by Bertone, not Pininfarina, which was the default styling house for regular production Ferraris for over fifty years.
Unlike previous Pininfarina designs, the GT4 was linear and angular, challenging the former rounded architecture of the previous decades. The fresh Bertone design, penned by Marcello Gandini and personally guided by Enzo Ferrari himself, featured a sizable trunk, room behind the front seats for luggage and small passengers, and reasonable access to the transverse mounted dual overhead cam V8 engine. Seating position was pushed forward, creating fantastic visibility, but also proportions that made it something of an acquired taste.
Not an acquired taste are the GT4’s fantastic driving manners. Curiously, the experience feels closer to that of a 246 than to subsequent 308s, whose interior layout and positions of controls create a driving position and cabin ambience far interior to that of the GT4, which is wonderfully airy and spacious. Critically, the GT4 has quad Weber carburetors atop its all-aluminum quad cam 7,700 RPM engine, and which provides a far more spirited (both in terms of power delivery an aurally) experience than the CIS-injected 308s of the 80s. The entire driving experience is so compelling that it has made the 308 GT4 something of an underground favorite among the cognoscenti, those who have owned and driven enough Ferraris to realize that this truly is one of the best driving Ferraris ever made.
This particular car has a fascinating story, being one of the last to leave the factory, despite having been produced in 1976, four years before production ended in 1980. Curiously, it was only sold new in 1981, and is believed to be one of the last two GT4s to be delivered. It has some of the features of a US model car like the front and rear bumpers, but it has never been to North America. Instead, it has spent its entire life in Italy, and retains its original tools, and also has its ASI Targa Oro certification. Recently serviced, it drives wonderfully and is ready to be enjoyed by its new owner.