The 308 is considered by many to be one of Ferrari’s greatest manufacturing and styling triumphs. The original 308 GTB released in 1975 was the first production Ferrari to be produced with a fiberglass body, excluding the front bonnet which was aluminium. These models are also sometimes referred to as the GRP (glass reinforced plastic) or Vetroresina (Italian for fiberglass) cars.
The first production 308 GTB was unveiled at the Paris Salon in October 1975 and was an instant hit with the motoring press and general public. Fans of the Dino 246 GT were particularly pleased to see some of the design elements of the old car carried across, such as the scalloper air intakes on the side panels, twin tail lights and recessed curved rear window. The car also received the “wedge” treatment which was fashionable at the time, but unlike some of its contemporaries it was applied in restraint.
There are various arguments about why fiberglass was chosen for the first limited production run of this model. The most commonly accepted reason is Ferrari were disappointed with the sales results of the earlier Dino 308 GT4 introduced in 1973, and wanted to speed up the production of the new car to offset lost sales to competitors such as Porsche, Maserati, Lamborghini and Lotus. It was also quicker and easier to make moulds for fiberglass construction than dies for metal pressings, and Lotus had been successfully reducing the weight of their production sports cars using fiberglass bodies for many years.
Once production of the steel cars started in 1977 the fiberglass models were considered "inferior" for many years, and this was not helped by the fact that the bodies were considerably more difficult and expensive to repair. But inevitably the low production numbers (refer table below) and combination of carburettor engine, lighter body and reduced corrosion areas, have made the glass models the most desirable of the 3x8 range.
Why dry sump?
The rarest of all the fiberglass road cars are those with the dry sump engine of which were only available to some markets, and appoximately only 100 in right hand drive. It is not clear why Ferrari went to the expense of developing a dry sump engine for the 308 but the most likely reason is they were planning to build a racing version using the lighter fibreglass body. Whilst the dry sump motor has minimal (if any) increase in power over the equivalent spec wet sump, it does have a significant advantage on a race track where oil surging during tight cornering can cause oil starvation in the wet sump motor. Ultimately it was left to Michelotto to develop a handful of ex-factory fiberglass race cars which are highly prized and sought after today. Click here to view the register listing of all dry sump cars.