The 308 line is perhaps the most familiar to the many Ferrari fans around the world. This is in part because it was the car driven by Magnum P.I. in the TV series of the same name, but it is also known for its longevity as it remained on the market for 10 years, achieving sales of over 6,000. Not to mention that the 208 and 328 were also descended from it. It was fitting then, that it saw the light with a double “catwalk” launch: at the 1975 Paris and London motor shows.
Mechanically, it used the same engine as the Dino 308 GT4, while aesthetically it was designed by Pininfarina, recalling and following the lines of the first Dino and the 365 GT4 BB berlinetta. The adoption of the V8 engine, combined with the “freshness” of the lines, attracted a new younger and dynamic clientèle, despite the oil crisis of the time. It was an immediate success, both with the public and the press.
This car and the subsequent V8 models derived from it were the basis of Ferrari production over the next 10 years and beyond. The 308 GTB marked a change for Ferrari because it was the first car to be built with a fibreglass body. This material, more suitable for racing where a premium is put on lightness, was replaced by more traditional steel and aluminium in late 1976 for cars in the US market; the metals later being used on cars produced for the European market too. A version with a “Targa” type roof, called the 308 GTS, also joined the GTB in late 1977. In 1980, due to changes in emission regulations, especially in the US, the four carburettors were replaced by direct injection, and the models were subsequently named 308 GTBi and 308 GTSi.
Television fame also boosted the reputation of the 308, as the GTS was driven by private investigator Thomas Magnum in the megahit TV series Magnum P.I. The series was filmed in Hawaii and ran for eight seasons between 1980 and 1988. In the first series, the popular actor Tom Selleck drove the 1979 GTS, a 3-litre V8 with an output of 240 hp in the US version. In the second series he used the new 308 GTSi with fuel injection and 214 hp, recognisable by the two rectangular mirrors and black grilles behind the front headlights. From the fourth season he had a 308 GTS Quattrovalvole from 1984, once again with an output of 240 hp.