• The Ferrari 308 remains a 1980s icon, but few have the performance to match the looks.
• In the case of this car, currently up for auction on Bring a Trailer until July 26, a full in-period race-car conversion is backed up with a recent restoration and a tasteful Martini livery.
• Ownership history includes one of Germany’s leading Ferrari specialists.
Mention the words “Ferrari” and “Hawaii” in close succession, and a mental image forms quickly. A red 308, a Hawaiian shirt, and That Moustache. But in this case, the car is no Magnum P.I. prop. It’s far cooler. Currently located in Haiku on the island of Maui in Hawaii, this very special 308 is up for auction at Bring a Trailer, a part of Hearst Autos, as is Car and Driver. Bidding ends on Tuesday, July 26, and the expectation is that the car will fetch the kind of money that would just about get you a modern 296GTB.
In 1985, the 308 was ending a decade-long run as Ferrari’s V-8–powered sports car. It was a car found on countless bedroom posters, its languid curves calling back to the gorgeous Ferraris of the 1960s. Further, the 308 had provided the basis for the 288GTO, considered the first Ferrari supercar.
Enthusiasts can of course begin here to arm-wrestle over the pecking order between the 288GTO, the F40, and the F50. But in terms of more ordinary Ferraris, the 308 is the one that many a dreamer longed for, years before a driver’s license was a possibility. The only problem is that the juice isn’t really worth the squeeze; 308s are relatively expensive to maintain compared to a later 328, and with horsepower generally hovering around 250 horsepower, the looks aren’t backed up by the performance.
A Ferrari 308 is not a Porsche 911—it’s not likely that an owner is going to want to drive any great distances. So, if you’re going to spring for a Sunday-morning espresso, why not make it a doppio with a race car converted back to road specification? This 1985 308 was reportedly converted to a racing machine in the late 1980s, which included fiberglass panels for lightweighting, and the removal of all unnecessary comforts. The experience offered is just seat, gated shifter, and a Ferrari V-8.
But things get better. Originally delivered in Belgium, this 308 eventually passed into the hands of Uwe Meissner, a German Ferrari specialist. It was Meissner’s personal car, and why that is important should become clear with a short explanation.
Meissner founded Modena Motorsport in 1983, and this car still carries a windshield banner from the company. Specializing in vintage Ferraris, he soon moved into working on the F1 cars themselves. Long before Ferrari established its Clienti program, Meissner was making it possible for well-heeled drivers to experience the cars driven by Jacky Ickx, Nigel Mansell, and Michael Schumacher.
Meissner drove most F1 single-seaters in the 1990-to-2000 range himself and is said to have liked the 1991 Mansell car the best of them all. However, when his very rich clients were amusing themselves on the circuit, he wanted something interesting to drive himself. This is it.
The engine is a 3.2-liter V-8, rebuilt to rev to 9000 rpm. Power is a staggering 411 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque, backed up by a dyno test. The gearbox is a five-speed manual transaxle modified to handle the extra power. Brakes are AP Racing, and the 15-inch bronze-finish wheels wear Pirellis (naturally) of staggered widths, 225 mm up front and 285 mm in back.
This car will probably go for a lot of money, but just imagine it: the satisfying click-clack of the exposed shifter gate as you go from second to third. The shove in the back and the sound in your ears as the eight individual throttle bodies gulp air and the rpm rises. The horizon beckoning under the hot Hawaiian sun, the Pacific dark blue and flecked with surf. Magnum never had it so good.