While covering the prodigious Targa Tasmania tarmac rally earlier in the month, I was also on the lookout for a few cars to give a little extra attention to. I was spoiled for choice when it came to potential spotlight feature candidates, but this made it all the more difficult to pick one car over another!
I do have a predisposition towards vintage European machinery, and on Day 2 of the event I was drawn to the wash bay by the lustrous Rosso Corsa of a Ferrari 308 that had thus far evaded my lens. As is my usual style, I snapped a few shots before disturbing the owner with my questions – all the better to capture some natural shots and in this case let them complete the job at hand.
“Your 308 is beautiful,” I volunteered. “The colour-scheme just looks so right – do you mind if I take some more photos?” The race-suited owner opened up immediately and before long we were immersed in what was more friendly conversation than interview, discussing the finer points of detail and how the car had been performing on the varied stages that Targa Tasmania had served up so far. The smiles from both driver and co-driver said just as much as their words, so let’s find out why two men who should have by all rights been exhausted had so much enthusiasm to share with a nosy photographer.
In the 308 the carbureted 2.9-litre V8 is mounted transversely (as opposed to longitudinally like in a 458) with the 5-speed transmission mounted low at the rear of the engine. Interestingly, from 1977 to 1981 the GTB actually featured a dry sump lubrication system. From the factory this engine produced 252hp, which while paling against today’s standards of performance only has to move an approximate 1,200kg curb weight. The spec list reads well otherwise: clutch-type limited-slip diff, double wishbone independent suspension as well as vented disc brakes front and rear. This particular car remains largely stock, aside from a few reliability upgrades and other modifications required for tarmac rallying.
Inside the soft Italian leather is long gone, replaced by fixed-back race seats, a full rollcage and rally instrumentation. Of course, the beautiful shifter and open gate remains and I doubt any other driver at Targa is as satisfied as David is when he snicks home a gear with a distinctive ‘clack’.
Targa regulations require competitors to carry a spare wheel and tyre, which in the 308 is tucked neatly into the stock location under the front hood. Thankfully it was unused at this point!
Amongst the mandatory decals and period-correct brand stickers, one was unrecognizable to me – this green and slightly mischievous looking feline keeping the prancing horse on the front guard company. David explained that his (at the time) infant daughter suggested that dad’s race car should have a cat on it. David’s inventiveness led him to discover that a favourite Maranello lunch spot of Enzo Ferrari was called Ristorante Gatto Verde – translating to the Green Cat Restaurant. This little character is emblazoned above the door of the restaurant and no doubt watched over many of Enzo’s important meetings and decisions.
Subtle details like the white lettering on the Dunlop semi slicks and aforementioned Magneti Marelli and Koni decals reinforce the ’70s tarmac rally vibe that starts with the Carello rally lights at the front and ends with the bare, upturned tail – no diffuser to be seen here. The 15-inch Compomotive wheels sing to the same tune as well.
While many of us associate the sportscar ‘wedge’ with the excess of the ’80s, the Pininfarina-penned design was actually first introduced to the world in 1975, when most manufacturers were still championing chrome bumpers and round headlamps as fashionable. Of course, the 288 GTO took this visual aggression even further when it beefed up the 308’s chassis for Group B rally duties.
But back to the present day: the duo of Gilliver and Shellshear finished 5th from a field of 30 in the Late Classic Handicap class in their own rally-special Ferrari – not a bad effort! 2015 was the 12th year that the car and driver had made the pilgrimage to Tassie for Targa and I daresay it won’t be the last. These two gentlemen demonstrate one of the most appealing aspects of vintage motorsport: a bond between man and machinery that can be explored and built upon over years, as opposed to discarded as soon as regulations or technical advances result in competitive redundancy.