It takes just a cursory glance at Dave Diesen’s 308 GTB (s/n 22703) to see that this car has been modified with a singular purpose in mind: to go faster. The lightweight front and rear decklids are fastened with Dzus fittings. A set of red Sparco seats beckons from inside the cockpit. The stock wheels have been replaced by taller and wider rollers, complemented with flared fenders and a lower ride height.
Once you talk with the car’s owner, it’s not surprising this Ferrari has received such treatment; Diesen has always had a thing for speed. “I raced hydroplanes when I was a teenager,” he says. “I was the youngest person in the U.S. who was racing them.”
A diabetes diagnosis meant that Diesen was disallowed from competition in the thundering speed boats, but he simply switched gears from water to land and began racing motorcycles at Seattle International Raceway in the early 1980s. As far as street cars went, Diesen’s taste ran to anything that was fast and affordable, which meant a lot of American muscle passed through his garage. “I worked as a professional car painter, so I would find cars in fields and then fix them up and drive them,” he says.
In the late 1980s, Diesen relocated to Mesa, Arizona to study industrial design. A decade later, with a successful career in engineering well under way, he had the means to splurge on a nice classic car. He was initially looking at buying a 1965 Corvette, but his wife, Anita, had a different idea. “She suggested I get one of those cars I always wanted,” he says. She meant a Ferrari, which Diesen didn’t think he could afford. After looking at the market for used 308s, however, he was surprised to find he could get one for about the same price as a mid-year Corvette.
In 2001, Diesen went to look at a 308 GTS for sale at nearby Scottsdale Exotics. “They also had a GTB and I just fell in love with the lines of it,” he says.
The berlinetta was a 1978 model that was still in decent shape, though it was painted a few different shades of red. “It didn’t come with any documents, and a lot of the parts on it, like the springs and sway bars, were chromed,” Diesen recalls. “It wasn’t the kind of car you’d want to turn back to original, but it was a good driver.”
And drive it he did, quickly pressing the Ferrari into service as daily transport. “It was an impressive car for its age,” says Diesen. “It handled extremely well. It was down on power a little compared to more modern cars, but it was a lot of fun.”