Mission Creep

What started as a search for more power soon spiralled out of control.

December 2, 2011
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In November 2003, Wil deGroot, master mechanic and owner of Exoticars in Frenchtown, New Jersey, bought this 1978 Ferrari 308 GTB (s/n 22857) from a guy in Roswell, New Mexico. “I assumed with Area 51, and since it was advertised with ‘Koenig modifications,’ it would be a high-performance version,” deGroot said. “It turned out the modifications were just wheels and a body kit; the car was mechanically totally stock when I got it. And that led to the supercharger.”

While deGroot had long been a fan of the 308’s styling, he always felt the car could use a little more get-up-and-go. “The car was designed by the same guy [Leonardo Fioravanti] that did the Daytona and a few other Ferraris, so it’s a beautiful car,” he explained. “Unfortunately, it came out in the ‘no gas and no emissions’ era, and I think that’s what killed its power. I’m just filling the void that conditions, circumstances and legislation kind of decided.”

Before we get into specifics, let’s talk about mission creep. This dreaded problem, which infects a lot of project cars, occurs when an owner’s desire for one thing—in this case, more power—leads to another thing, and then another, in a cascade of modifications. As deGroot described it, “It didn’t have the power that I wanted, so I decided to so something about that. Then, well, if I start making more power, I’m going to make more heat, so I’m going to have to do something about that. And while I’m at it, I might as well do this and, gee, this car is going to be so fast I better do something about the brakes. And, well, this car is 30 years old, so I should rebuild the suspension and put some modern tires on it.”

Isn’t that always how it starts?

WHILE TURBOCHARGERS GENERALLY MAKE MORE POWER than superchargers, deGroot chose the latter due to the tight confines of the 308’s engine compartment. After researching the available units on

the market, he settled on a Lysholm compressor made by Opcon in Sweden. The reason? This screw-type supercharger heats the air less than a roots-type blower, and heat is the enemy of power.

Given the limited space available, deGroot had to plan carefully to ensure that the supercharger and its plumbing would fit. “First, I got drawings from the supercharger manufacturer,” he said. “Next, I took pictures from Ferrari manuals of the engine and got dimensions from that, and then I drew the engine, drew the supercharger and connected the dots with a plenum chamber-slash-manifold in between.”

Also from Issue 115

  • 458 Spider: Ferrari's best car made better
  • The SA Aperta redefines the GTO experience
  • Creating a factory-fresh Spyder California
  • Ferrari finishes the ALMS season with a win
  • Ferrari scores a pair of podium finishes
  • 250 GTOs invade Pebble Beach
  • Legends: The 250 GTO
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