Yesterday we had a classic 1983 Ferrari in - a 308 GTS Quattrovalvole in for a performance test on the dyno. We often get requests to see how owners classics are doing on power and what the actual horsepower is after losses, particularly after almost 40 years. Before the video of the power test I wanted to take a bit of a retrospective into the history of that era of Ferrari.
In this day and age where everything from Hyundai to Honda's range between 180 to 250 horsepower out of four cylinders (with similar torque values) and a modern 'entry level Ferrari' (Ferrari's words not mine) like the Portofino have 600 HP its often difficult to think that most of the 80's sports cars had significantly less than that. As was the case with many sports cars of the time the 308 was naturally aspirated. In an effort to increase power, Ferrari modified the heads to 4 valves per cylinder - thus the Quattrovalvole badge. The engine is transversely mounted with a 5 speed gated transmission tucked behind and just below the oil sump. Fuel was controlled via a Bosch K Jetronic fuel injection system and spark controlled by a Marelli electronic ignition system. The European version of the car did not have as many emission regulations and Ferrari stated (somewhat optimistically) that version came in with 240 Horsepower at around 7000 rpm with a top speed of 255 km/hr (about 160 mph). and somewhat less for the North American version.
In that era many of the sports cars had surprisingly less power than you might think. For comparison The iconic Lamborghini Countach of the same year came in at an impressive 350 horsepower and a naturally aspirated Porsche 911 was about 172. I mentioned modern Hondas and Hyundai's earlier and I think for fairness and context a 1983 Honda Civic had a 'blistering' 67 Horsepower and a Hyundai Stellar had 10 more than that. For those that are thinking I left out similar era American cars...a 5 litre V8 Mustang had 176 horsepower and a base model C4 Corvette had around 205 HP.
It was the 80's and it was as much about looks, style and exclusivity as it was about speed and handling. In the case of the 308 it was raised to iconic status in part through a mustachioed private detective on Oahu - Magnum PI. It probably did more for advertising in that era than all of Ferraris ad campaigns combined.
Lets be honest though - it would not be the same TV show if Tom Selleck drove a Hyundai Stellar, particularly since it had a hand operated, manual choke, but I digress.
The styling of the car itself followed a series of lines that were as recognizable as the giant shoulder pads in womens dresses (think Dallas or Dynasty) to the 'popped' collars sported by a significant portion of the nation. This particular Targa Top variant era of the model made its debut in 1982 at the Paris Salon. It carried forward a bit of the wedge design that was so in vogue in the decade preceding it and was rendered by Pininfarina’s Leonardo Fioravanti. Over the course of its production run around 4000 of them were produced.
The interior as well takes its cue from the era in all of its analog glory with all of the main cluster of gauges in a single binnacle in front of the driver. RPM and Speedometer take their place on the right and left respectively and the cluster is rounded out by oil pressure and temperature, plus a fuel level gauge.
This particular example we had for a power pull was very impressive. The car starts slow and winds up to its full RPM with its distinctive Ferrari V8 snarl. In this case, the car is smooth and power gains through the RPM band rise steadily. After almost 40 years the car has lost less than 10% of its output and is an excellent example of how a well maintained classic can be.
After the power run and the fans were shut down the room was filled with the smell of a 1980's sports car. Hydrocarbons and octane would be an apt way to describe it and once you have smelled it, its addictive, particularly since I was filming as it hit the top of its RPM range while standing near the exhaust. Although the top of the charts was, "Every breath you take by the Police" for 1983, I cant imagine a better sound track than the high revving Ferrari engine itself. Enjoy.