1975 Ferrari 308GT4: Ferrari’s odd man out

1975 Ferrari 308GT4

1975 Ferrari 308GT4

We know a secret, but we’ll tell you because we’re old friends and we know we can trust you. Ready? O.K. The Ferrari 308GT4 is a great car. Really.

Yeah, we know you’ve read otherwise, but bear with us and we’ll explain.

The Ferrari 308GT4 was designed as a successor to–if not the replacement for–the 246GTB/S. But times had changed. The 246GT series was fashioned when Ferrari was independent–before emissions, safety, fuel economy and all the other sorts of social responsibilities were thrust upon the automotive industry.

But on June 18, 1969, Enzo Ferrari met alone with Gianni Agnelli in his office, the two men agreeing to Fiat’s purchase of 50 percent of Ferrari SpA’s stock and the splitting of Ferrari into two division. The Riparto Corse, or racing division, would be under the direction of Enzo himself. The Riparto Industriale would be the production or GT division, and would be Fiat’s responsibility.

The Dino 246GT had been announced in the spring of 1969 and the first prototypes of the V8 Dino hit the road in 1972, the same year that the Dino 246GTS debuted. At the same time, the Fiat Dinos, coupes by Bertone and spyders by Pininfarina, were in production. Then at the Paris Salon in October 1973, the new 308GT4 appeared. It was probably, as the dates suggest, the first full fruit of the Ferrari-Fiat union.

Most noticeable, of course, was the Bertone body. Some called it “sober.” Sure, compared to the voluptuous 246 series. Yet the Ferrari 308GT4 was a pure, honest form, a wedge for which Triumph would later try–and fail. The functional scoops on the C-pillar added distinction without pretension. And for a four-seat mid-engine GT, it was a marvel of packaging. Within a 100.4-inch wheelbase, it included front and rear seats and a transverse-mounted 3.0-liter V-8 and five-speed transmission.

The Ferrari 308GT4’s back seat was to automotive journalists what the Obama administration is to Jay Leno–a source of humor. Even the most deadpan writer couldn’t resist the total lack of rear legroom in the “2+2.” The best that could be said is that it provided extra cargo capacity, especially since the rear trunk volume was only five cubic feet and the hold was mostly filled by the spare tire. But the Lamborghini Urraco and Maserati Merak, both of the same era as the GT4, also had similarly useless rear seats. But four seats at least recognized the wasteful hedonism of a two-seater, even if they didn’t do anything about it.

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John is a veteran auto writer, first published in Custom Rodder magazine in 1980. Since then, he has been published in all the big car magazines, including Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Auto Week, Automobile, plus a variety of others, including but certainly not limited to Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, and Special Interest Automobiles. John’s work has also been featured in a number of consumer and general interest magazines such as Consumers Digest, Popular Science and others. John has written four books, including a history of the Mazda RX-7 (selling for more out-of-print than it did new), buyers’ guides for Mazda, Datsun/Nissan and Volvo cars, and is co-author of 365 Cars You Must Drive with Motor Trend editor Matt Stone, and his work has been translated into Italian, Estonian, Portuguese, Russian, and Bulgarian. John is recipient of the prestigious Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, awarded by the International Motor Press Association, and the Golden Quill from the Washington Automotive Press Association. John has three adult daughters and has been married for more that four decades to Mary Ann, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.