The Long Haul

After nearly 220,000 miles, this 308 GT4 is still going strong.

May 31, 2013
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From 20 feet away, Mike Fitz-Gerald’s Dino 308 GT4 (s/n 10606) looks crisp and fresh in its Nocciola Metallazzato (hazelnut metallic) paint, which shifts from medium brown to gold depending on the light. At 10 feet, a couple of scrapes become visible, as does a missing inch of pinstriping. From 5 feet away, a few rock chips, chipped paint along the rear edge of the driver’s door, some nicks in the bumpers and scuffed brightwork come into view. Clearly, this is no diaper-dried trailer queen.

“I think it shows great!” Fitz-Gerald says cheerfully. “It was repainted in the original color, let’s see, about 23 years ago. It had a little bit of rust repair, at the bottom of the doors, around the same time. Oh, and a truck that was being towed by another truck hit it once when it was parked outside a restaurant in San Francisco. I bought a new quarter panel, but they only needed the rearmost foot of it, so I had the rest painted red and hung it on the mantel. It’s still there; people see it and wonder what the hell it is.”

If Fitz-Gerald doesn’t sound like a stereotypical Ferrari owner, even though he’s owned six Prancing Horses over the years, his 308 GT4 certainly doesn’t come across as a stereotypical Ferrari. Nor could it, with 217,727 miles on its odometer. That’s right: Over the last 35 years, Fitz-Gerald has driven this car nearly the distance from the Earth to the moon. Given that feat, this Ferrari looks fantastic.

INTRODUCED AT THE 1973 PARIS AUTO SHOW, the Dino 308 GT4 marked a significant departure for Ferrari. For starters, it was the first road-going Ferrari to be powered by a V8 engine. This 90° DOHC 3-liter powerplant, rated at 240 horsepower in U.S. specification, was tucked behind the cockpit. A mid-engine 2+2 was another first for Ferrari, although the layout wasn’t completely successful; the rear seats were sized for small children.

The most noticeable change to the status quo was the GT4’s angular, wedge-shaped design, which was quite different from other Ferraris of the era. The reason was simple: While Pininfarina had styled every Ferrari street car since the mid-1950s, including the Dino 206/246, the 308 GT4 had been penned by Bertone. This seemingly odd decision came about because Bertone, which at the time was best known for designing Lamborghinis, had created the Fiat Dino 2+2.

While the 308 GT4’s exterior styling was controversial, its engine and handling were universally praised; indeed, the GT4 is widely considered a better handling machine than the later, smaller 308 GTB/GTS. Sales were initially slow, but picked up significantly in mid-1976 when the cars began to be badged as Ferraris. Between 1974 and 1980, 2,826 GT4s were built.

Our featured car is a 1975 model (the Ferrari badge on the nose and the wheels were added after the car left the factory), and it lived an unusual life before Fitz-Gerald purchased it in 1978. “The car was bought new by Bob Benson of Bob Benson Buick in Petaluma, California,” explains Fitz-Gerald. “Bob was also a Ferrari collector. He’d buy a brand-new Ferrari, put it in his showroom and leave the window sticker on the car. When people came in to look at the Ferrari, they’d be aghast at the price, and his salesmen would ask, ‘Wouldn’t you rather have a Buick?’ The 308 GT4 may have been the poor man’s Ferrari, but it was still an expensive car; the window sticker lists it at $26,000, and Buicks were maybe $4,000.”

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