Supercars in the 1970s and 1980s were a very different thing from the ultra-modern wonders we see in 2016. These days, we are fortunate enough to enjoy insanely fast cars often with computerised technology controlling just about everything you do behind the wheel. I can’t help but feel that modern supercar motoring has become so advanced that we have lost a lot of the pure exhilaration and dare I say it – the danger! You might think I’ve lost the plot, but in my mind, modern supercars have lost their charm.
Enter the Ferrari 308 GTS. Anyone who has seen one in the metal knows it is a creation of pure Italian beauty. Anyone who has heard one will remember the unique roar of that big carburetted V8 engine, built in the days before emissions and fuel economy were of any real concern. Anyone who has been lucky enough to drive one (sadly, I haven’t) will probably remember it for the rest of their life. The Ferrari 308 GTS, like many supercars of yesteryear, was a car you really had to drive, a real mid-engined monster with no power steering or ABS.
Like most who adore it, my love affair with the Ferrari 308 GTS began quite a few years ago when I was watching reruns of Magnum PI, which originally aired from 1980 to 1988. If you haven’t seen Magnum PI, you must check it out. It stars Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, a man who is literally living the moustachioed dream in Hawaii. It’s never really explained why, but somehow Magnum has managed to score a job doing god knows what (security?) for a rich but always absent man called Robin Masters.
Interestingly, Masters never appears on screen (though occasionally we hear his voice, played by the great Orson Welles), meaning that the premise of the show revolves around Magnum doing whatever he wants and solving a few mysteries along the way. What better way to solve mysteries and cause havoc by driving the wheels off a Ferrari 308 GTS that you don’t even own!
Owing to Tom Selleck’s 6’4” frame, the Ferrari 308s used on set had to be modified so he could just fit in them (even then it was a squeeze) – the seat cushions were apparently removed and the frame repositioned so he could fold himself in. Somewhat comically, you can see in the show that the top of his head is still above the top of the windscreen, which is possibly why you hardly ever see him driving the convertible with the roof on.
Over the production life of the series, there were three different Ferrari 308 GTS models used – and then they of course had a few of each, depending on the type of shot required. The most interesting type used toward the end of the series was the 308 GTSi Quattrovalvole. This absolute ball-tearer of a 308 had four valve cylinder heads, increasing max power to 230hp. It could get to 100km/h in around 6.1 seconds and top speed was 250km/h, which seems fairly sedate by 2016 standards, but remember – this was over 30 years ago!
Unfortunately, the closest I will probably ever get to one of these much sought after vehicles is at MotorEx where an actual Ferrari 308 used in the production of Magnum PI will be on display. However if you have the cash, and if you can find one for sale…expect to spend at least $150,000. That said, I reckon $150k is pretty good value for a timeless classic that will likely appreciate in value with age – and unlike the DeLorean which is famous just because it was in a movie, it’s actually a great car that appeals to fans and non-fans alike…I want one!