Given the overwhelming success of the 308, Ferrari must have been tempted to leave the model in production for even longer than it did. But in 1985, an evolutionary-not-revolutionary replacement finally arrived, in the form of the 328.
Introduced at the Frankfurt Auto Show, the 328 looked like what it was: an updated and face-lifted 308, once again offered as a berlinetta (GTB) or targa (GTS). Integrated, color-coded bumpers, a new front fascia, hot-air vents in the hood, and redesigned five-spoke wheels helped distinguish the new car from its predecessor. The 328 also featured a more contemporary cabin, with redesigned seats, dash, and door panels, as well as significantly improved air-conditioning and electric windows.
Under the skin, the 328 utilized a slightly modified 308 chassis and Ferrari’s usual four-wheel independent suspension and disc brakes. More significant were the changes made to the car’s V8 engine, which now produced 260 horsepower in U.S. trim (a gain of 30 hp over the 308 QV), thanks to a displacement increase to 3.2 liters from 3.0, reworked heads and cams, and a new electronic ignition system.
The automotive media was impressed. Road & Track reported that the “328 powerplant rewards with its enormous flexibility. This is an engine that will motor sedately around town, making soothing rumbling noises, or will wind itself up to redline with that exciting Ferrari snarl that has echoed around every major race circuit in the world.” The story continued, “on any sort of road, smooth or bumpy, this is a car that will lope through high-speed bends effortlessly” and “certainly most drivers will rarely approach [the car’s] limits on the road, but will instead delight in the supple ride characteristics and the precise cornering ability.”
R&T did question the gearbox’s reluctance to shift into second when cold, the awkward angle of the steering wheel, the confusing HVAC system, and the “devilishly well hidden” interior door releases. Nonetheless, the magazine concluded, “the 328 is a fine example of evolutionary improvement and a wonderful driving machine.”
That was the original 328. In March 1988, starting with s/n 76626, the model received a suspension make-over; these are sometimes called Series 2 or 1988.5 cars. The front suspension was changed to incorporate anti-drive geometry, while the steering setup was altered to allow for the addition of anti-lock brakes. At the time, ABS was optional elsewhere and not available in the U.S., but in 1989 ABS became standard equipment in America. The biggest outward change was the wheels, which featured a convex face instead of the earlier concave look.
The 328 occupies an unusual position in the V8 hierarchy, costing more than both its 308 predecessor and its 348 replacement. The reason for the car’s continuing popularity is clear: It offers good looks, an involving driving experience, real refinement, and impressive reliability. For these reasons, the 328 is easy to recommend.
As a replacement for the hugely successful but long-in-the-tooth 308, the 328 was an immediate sales success. It quickly took over the mantle of Maranello’s most popular model, with Ferrari selling 50 percent more 328s than 308 QVs over a similar time period. By the time 328 production ended in late 1989, a total of 1,344 GTBs and 6,068 GTSs had been built.
The 328’s popularity wasn’t solely due to the fact it was much improved over its predecessor; it had the additional advantage of being born at the beginning of a five-year economic boom. New 328s initially sold in the $55,000 range, but by late ’89, the peak of the boom years, used models were selling for $110,000 or more. A quick look through the September ’89 issue of the Ferrari Market Letter reveals asking prices ranging from $115,000 to $135,000—an impressive increase over its asking prices from just three months earlier, which generally ranged from $75,000 to $90,000! This was classic boom pricing, and once the party was over in the early 1990s, 328 values dropped by as much as 50 percent.
One example: In January 1990, at the very peak of the market, FML featured a 9,000-mile 1988 328 GTS offered for sale at $133,500. In 2008, that same 328, now with 19,000 miles, was sold by Barrett-Jackson for $77,000, which was then about $10,000 above the top of the market. Today, a 19,000-mile ’88 GTS would likely sell in the $90,000 range, while a perfect, ultra-low-mileage ’89 GTS might command $140,000.
While most 328s are resale red, the market values other colors such as black and blue about $25,000 higher than a similar red car. We redefined the peak of the market, and the extra value of low-mileage unique color combos, with the sale of a black/black 1989 328 GTB (s/n 80281). This 9,400-mile car, which was the only ’89 GTB in that color combination from the factory and was formerly owned by Steve McQueen’s son Chad, sold at a staggering $320,000 in March 2022 on Bring a Trailer.
When new, the 328 GTS proved to be the overwhelming favorite with buyers, outselling the GTB by a roughly 5:1 margin. That preference has long since flipped, with berlinettas now selling for significantly more than the much more common targa-top models. —Michael Sheehan
These prices are for cars in good to great condition as of April 2023.
Over its nine-year production run, the Ferrari 308 evolved to comply with new emissions and safety regulations. This ongoing evolution led, in late 1985, to the introduction of a new model: the 328.
While the 308 was both user-friendly and dependable, the 328 represented a more substantial improvement than its on-paper specifications conveyed. This is not to say the new model was perfect—it did have a few teething problems—but the 328 quickly earned and kept a reputation as being the most reliable, user-friendly, and mechanic-friendly Ferrari built to date.
As both a Ferrari shop owner and someone who’s sold more than 100 examples over the last three-plus decades, I can’t say enough good things about the 328. The model is dependable, easy to service, and a pleasure to own and drive.
The 328 is also wallet-friendly, with an annual inspection-and-fluids service costing around $1,200. A major service (which among other things involves replacing the cam belts, adjusting the valves, and rebuilding the water pump) comes every five years and begins at roughly $7,000. The reality, however, is that service costs are all over the place, due in part to age (the newest 328 is now 33 years old) and in part to the fact that no two cars will have been maintained the same way. Substandard or deferred maintenance can substantially increase the costs of ownership—which is why I always suggest investing in a detailed pre-purchase inspection by a qualified shop and buying the best car available, rather than looking for the best deal, since a good car will cost less in the long run.
Turning to problem areas, they are few and far between. Since some 308 engines suffered from low oil pressure at high temperatures, Ferrari simply increased the oil pressure in the 328. Unfortunately, this increase, particularly when the oil was still cold, was sometimes too much for the oil-cooler hoses and, less often, the cooler itself; from time to time, these components would blow up, spraying oil all over the place. Ferrari issued a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) calling for a modification to the oil-pressure relief valve to lower the oil pressure. Almost all cars will have already received this fix.
The Marelli Microplex ignition system used a failure-prone transistor module attached to the top of the coil. Again, a TSB was issued, and almost all 328s will have already been fixed.
The 328’s 3.2-liter engine introduced a redesigned ignition rotor and cam-mounted extension. This extension incorporated a built-in rubber vibration damper that often delaminated, allowing oil from the pressurized camshaft to leak, sometimes profusely, from the distributors. Yet another TSB was issued to replace the extensions with solid units, and, once again, almost all cars will have already received this fix.
The 328’s unique front wheel bearings were sealed, so when they wore out you threw them away and replaced them. That worked fine when the bearings were cheap, but now they cost around $1,300 each, not including the labor to install them. If the bearing grease dries up—which is very common now given the model’s age—the inexpensive fix is to take the bearing apart before it fails and re-grease everything. This job runs about $1,200.
It’s becoming all too common for the 328’s electronic heating and ventilation controls to become problematic, and new replacements don’t exist. The only solution is to find a good serviceable used unit from a salvage yard or online seller.
The major problem with any 328 is that they are all old enough that any original rubber components—from tires and brake lines to shocks and suspension bushings to heater and cooling hoses—are long past their sell-by date. A review of a car’s service records (and that recommended pre-purchase inspection) will reveal which rubber bits need to be replaced, which in turn will allow you to negotiate a lower purchase price or set a budget to handle the deferred maintenance. —Michael Sheehan
On The Road
The 328 isn’t particularly fast by the standards of modern Ferraris, but it remains a very involving car to drive. Here’s some of what we’ve said about the model over the years.
“The 328: A Great Place to Start!” FORZA #15
The doors open easily, the cozy interior looking inviting and thoroughly modern compared to the 308’s—although, after sliding in under the low-slung targa roof and moving the supportive but hard seat all the way back, I discover that my 6-foot-3 frame just barely fits.
My first miles are racked up in rush-hour traffic—both on and off the freeway. Visibility, both straight ahead and to the sides, is excellent, but the rear view is somewhat blocked by the third brake light’s intrusion on the back window. Initially more disconcerting will be the pedals’ severe center offset, causing my size-12 clutch foot to occasionally brush the dead pedal.
Regardless, what makes this Ferrari so endearing and easy to drive is its size; this is an intimate car. The cockpit is cozy, and all exterior dimensions are close, not way out there s-o-m-e-w-h-e-r-e, as is the case with, for instance, a Boxer. Couple this compactness with lightning-fast controls and you have the perfect car to squeeze through holes in traffic with—or better yet, rip up your favorite back road. Push it through fast or slow turns, and the steering communicates the road surface wonderfully, doing a light dance in your hands.
“The Real World,” FORZA #111
Heading southbound onto the West Side Highway, I pushed the Ferrari harder. The engine finally could breathe deeply, and it came alive; the 328 darted down the road as though it had been waiting all day for an open stretch of asphalt. The power delivery was very fluid, with no sudden surge or drop off in momentum as the tach needle spun around the dial. As it did at lower speeds, the Ferrari felt quick, not fast, yet [its] nimbleness gave the car a wonderful quality of seeming faster than it really was. Triple-digit speeds were not a prerequisite for having fun.
With wind swirling around the cabin, the growl of the mid-mounted V8 increased another octave. The sound was not the banshee wail of today’s Ferrari V8s. Instead, the note was more mechanical, but still totally different from the grumblings of eight-cylinder engines from Germany or America.
“Flashback Face-Off,” FORZA #117
Peak torque arrives at 5,500 rpm, but knowing the full 270 hp awaits at 7,000 rpm encourages me to keep my foot in it. The engine howls contentedly at higher revs, and the clickety-clack shift action becomes smoother and easier the faster I drive.
The Ferrari’s steering lightens as speeds increase, and while the relatively soft suspension allows noticeable body roll through the turns, there’s plenty of grip from the tires. The balance and nimble handling err towards neutrality, though there’s a noticeable whiff of understeer on initial turn-in. When the rear tires do exceed their purchase on the road, the 328’s chassis breaks away in a controllable, predictable manner; the car delivers no surprises as cornering speeds climb. On the stopping end of things, the brake pedal is on the hard side and lacks feedback, but leaning on it slows the car quickly enough.
Overall, the Ferrari offers a polished and cohesive driving experience that only gets better the harder you drive it. It also feels incredibly special, from the view through the windshield to the feel of the interior.