A white V-8 with a fascinating history.
Is Maranello’s plastic fantastic, the fiberglass Ferrari 308, still a value?
Unique, minor variations of popular classics turn car collectors on. For E-type folks, the stimulants of choice are silly impractical things like flat floors without room for feet larger than size 8 and crude outside latches on bonnets with equally homemade, welded louvers. For Ferrari 308 collectors, the pinnacle is a vetroresina (fiberglass) car. Only 808 vetroresina cars were built before production was switched to steel in 1977.
The 308 GTB was introduced in 1975 at the Paris Motor Show. The work of the hyper-talented Leonardo Fioravanti who also designed the 365 GTB/4 Daytona and the 206/246 Dino while at Pininfarina, it was the antithesis of the wedgy, Bertone-designed 308 GT4 2+2. The GT4 wasn’t universally loved. Although technically it was offered instead of the 246 Dino, it didn’t really replace it. Customers wanted the 308 GTB immediately and legend has it, fiberglass was a more expeditious way of getting the car to customers.
Unfortunately, while the fiberglass’s quality was quite good, its downmarket feel, in contrast to steel and alloy’s, put off some customers. Grumbles of creaks and squeaks were heard. Happily though, while non-galvanized pre-1983 308s rust like a Fiat, the glass cars are immune. Euro vetroresina cars also have genuine dry-sump lubrication systems and produce about ten more horsepower. U.S. fiberglass 308s have wet-sump systems but retain the more aggressive camshaft profiles, Weber carbs and they lack catalytic converters, making them the lightest, fastest and best sounding of all 308s.
But are they really worth double an ordinary 308? At the moment, the 308 market seems to be softening a bit, but a great early steel-bodied 308 GTB might still be expected to bring $100,000 compared to about $225,000 for a vetroresina car.
The Ferrari market is all about rarity. And while the 308 itself is a virtual “belly-button” car by Ferrari standards (almost 12,000 were built), the vetroresina is somewhat rare. It’s also the purest expression of the much-loved 308. All ‘glass cars were coupes (berlinettas in Ferrari-speak), and colors like Giallo Fly and Rosso Corsa seem to predominate. The carbs, cams and dry sump lubrication are all a nice nod to Ferrari’s competition heritage (even though the 308 was seldom raced) and the fiberglass’s 331-lb weight savings could be felt from behind the wheel.
So, for pure driving pleasure and investment value, reluctantly, we’d have to say, yes, if you have the money, it’s worth the premium. The fiberglass cars will always appreciate at the front of the 308 market. And for anyone who says that they’ve reached their ceiling, we might point out that some said the same thing about the 308-derived 288 GTO when it was trading for a quarter mil or so.