How I Ended Up Owning an Early Fiberglass Ferrari 308 GTB

I wrote this a number of years ago when we bought our 1st Ferrari 308 GTB.  We owned it for about 2 years.  As I am seriously considering getting another early 308, I went looking information from my first go around to refresh my memory.


I should have known better. Having had the privilege of owning multiple Ferraris over the years, there are several golden rules I try to follow when approaching any potential acquisition:

  • Decide on the model and preferred years well in advance
  • Never let emotion enter into the purchase decision
  • Always have a Pre purchase inspection done by a 3rd party
  • Set your budget up front and hold to it
  • Read everything possible on the model and talk to current owners
  • See and test drive several different cars
  • Stay away from modified cars

And yet I broke almost all of the above and ended up purchasing a modified Ferrari 308 GTB a number of years ago that I ran across on a trip to Berlin.  At the time I was not looking for a 308 and had no intention of buying another 8 cylinder that did not have “F40” embossed on the rear wing or 288 GTO on its haunches.

How did it happen?  Emotion coupled with some outstanding man-math driven rationalization.  On the former, in my humble opinion, it was a great looking 308 GTB.  Yes,it was not original, yes it had been modified, no I do not normally like modified Ferraris, but in this case, it worked.  The modifications made it a bit of a mutt in the Ferrari world of purity, but this one is a love-able mutt. Net net, SN 18729 and I bonded the first time I saw it. Sorry, but at the core, it is probably that shallow and simple. The basic emotional bond between man and machine having been established, a full frontal assault of “man need” rationalization was needed before the purchase could be completed. The rational part of the brain now needed to be at least neutralized if this was going to go anywhere as there was no way I could have justify buying it.

Fortunately SN 18729 provided plenty of material on which I built a solid case:

  • SN 18729 was a very early Fiberglass 308, of all the 308 versions, the early glass carb cars are my clear favorites
  • From the limited amount of historical information
I was able to find, it looks like that SN was the 4th 308 GTB produced and the 1st which was delivered directly to a customer (the 1st three were prototypes and used as show cars)
  • Mechanically the car seemed in great shape, on the dyno it recorded 235 bhp
  • The last owner spared no expense, the invoices provided covering the last 5 years exceeded the final purchase price (i.e. always try to buy someone else’s restoration project)
  • As a potential track car, SN 18729 already has everything one could want, BBS Wheels, uprated Bremo brakes, aerokit, not to mention being a light weight fiberglass 308.
  • The modifications were all done by Zender, a reputable German tuner. All the work done was aimed at improving performance, and while it does give SN 18729 a more aggressive appearance, everything is functional.
  • I was able to acquire a set of original 308 seats door panels so at least a partial restoration of SN 18729 to original condition could be done at any time.
  • It was very well priced at Euro 25,000 (which should date this article)
  • I built up a good rapport and trusted the seller

With the rational side of the brain now at least partially satisfied, the emotional side took back over.  The appeal to the emotional side began.  Arguments included that as an early 308 GTB it was fairly rare, a 308 would be an interesting new ownership experience and after an extended test drive, that it really was a blast to drive with go cart like handling. The last point certainly got my attention as the balance between steering, rpms/gearing, brakes, and chassis are very different in a 308 than the larger 12 cylinder Ferraris of similar vintage of which I had already owned several.  While lacking in ultimate grunt vs. the 12 cylinder cars, the 308 certainly was a lot nimbler and more resposnsive.  All the points detailed above then spent the next month bouncing around the inner recesses of my skull. The fact that the 308 did not go away clearly indicated that had me on an emotional hook.  By this point the rationale side of the brain was looking for a good reason to kill off any further intentions of making the purchase.  About sixty emails worth of questions went back and forth with the owner.  Much to the chagrin of the rationale side, not a single thing emerged in all this correspondence which could be used as a deal killer.  So an offer was made, a counter proposed, and an agreement reached.

With the purchase finalized all that needed to be done was collecting the car and driving it back across half of Europe.  On face value, collecting a 30 year old car car which was classified as an antique, which I wasn’t really familiar with, and then counting on it to get me back halfway across Europe, seems a bit daft.  Having done it a couple of times, I have found that this the best way possible of really learning and bonding with a car quickly.  Drive a thousand miles and you will hit all types of weather, traffic conditions, and road types. By the end of the trip, you will have developed a real feel and appreciation (or intense dislike) for the car.

After a 1000 or so miles, I understood why so many 308 owners are so passionate about these Ferraris. It is a blast to drive and not at all punishing. The steering is light, precise, and the 308 goes right to where you aim it. The engine has a real sense of urgency and once you get it up in the power band, provides plenty of forward thrust. The clutchis light and the gear shift is short, allowing for quick changes.  Once mastered this works well for keeping the revs up in the sweet spot of the torque curve. While not blazing quick by today’s standards, it still moves into the “night in jail” area of the speedometer with plenty left to give.  With the 308’s agility and power, it is clear why they are still a favorite for track use.

Sometime you can break the rules and it works out just fine.

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April 2018

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One Thought on Ferrari 308 GTB – Vetroresina
    My Ferrari History: Part 1, F355GTS - F40 - Karenable
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    […] Ferrari #5, an early fiberglass 308 GTB, SN 18729, started my year of the three Ferraris in 2006. The 308 GTB was my most modest acquisition to date and 2006 would end with by far my most extreme. SN 18729 was an impulse purchase during a visit to Classic Remise in Berlin. I had no intention of purchasing a car that day, but it looked so good sitting there and at Euro 23,000 was quite an easy man math equation to solve. A good test drive, the selling dealer’s reassurance on the condition, and a superficial look through the car convinced me to go ahead. This turned out to be a Euro 12,000 mistake as within a year the engine needed to be rebuilt and major rust in the door frames needed to be addressed. The 308 GTB did survive the drive from Berlin to Madrid and a couple of round trips between Madrid and Lisbon before the rebuild though. The 308 GTB handled beautifully and was a joy to run up and down the Portuguese coast. I kept the 308 GTB for about a year before selling it to a friend who then sold it onto another friend a few years later. The full story on the 308 GTB: […]


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