William Shakespeare pondered the meaning of a name in Romeo and Juliet when Juliet spoke, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Those words may have reflected Will’s thinking in 1595, but had he been a Ferrari fan in the mid-1970s, Juliet might have said, “That which we call a Ferrari, by any other name, is not nearly as desirable.” As history now tells us, the first Dino 308 GT4s, sporting only “DINO” badging, languished in Ferrari dealerships. From 1976 to 1979, wearing a “FERRARI” emblem, the 308 GT4 became one of Ferrari’s best sellers.
A New Direction for Ferrari
For Ferrari, the 308 GT4 was a departure from tradition in concept, styling, and power. It was a 2+2 with a rear seat, not a typical Ferrari two-seat Berlinetta or Spyder; it featured angular wedge-shaped styling popularized by designer Marcello Gandini at the Bertone Group, not the voluptuous curves favored by long-time Ferrari designer Pininfarina; and it was powered by a V8 engine, not Ferrari’s favorite V12. Ferrari shook up the Italian design world when they selected the Bertone Group for the 308 GT4, after twenty years of exclusive collaboration with Pininfarina. Fiat recommended Bertone to Enzo Ferrari. Piero Ferrari says, “My father gave the 308 GT4 project to Bertone because they had done the Fiat Dino 2+2.”
Marcello Gandini was a leading proponent of the angular, wedge-shape school of design in the seventies, so it was not surprising that the 308 GT4 adopted the characteristic wedge profile. It was a controversial design for a Ferrari and many were critical of the styling, feeling that it did not suit the character of a Ferrari. Bertone had done much design work for Lamborghini and some Ferrari fans saw too much of a Lamborghini influence in the 308 GT4, although Enzo Ferrari himself was an active participant in the design, especially the interior. Bertone’s Gandini said, “We prepared a mockup with pedals, seats, and an engine. It could be made longer or shorter using a hydraulic pump so Ferrari himself could decide on the pedals’ positions and the interior space.”
What Is a “Dino”?
Enzo Ferrari was often quoted as saying, “A Ferrari is a twelve-cylinder car.” When it came time to expand Ferrari’s market with lesser-priced cars without twelve-cylinder engines, Enzo did not wish to use the Ferrari name on such cars. Instead, he paid tribute to his first son Alfredo Ferrari by calling the cars Dinos. Born in 1932, Alfredo, known as Alfredino or Dino, studied engineering and took an active role after joining his father’s business. His life was cut short when, after being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, he passed away in June of 1956 at the age of 24.
The mid-engine Dino 308 GT4 was powered by a transversely mounted three-liter V8 with double overhead cams and using four twin-choke Weber carburetors to mix the air and fuel. A five-speed manual transmission supplied the power to the independently-sprung rear wheels. Initially, the engine delivered 255 horsepower in European trim, which was reduced to 240 horsepower for the U.S. market. The engines were detuned to 230 horsepower in Europe and 205 in the U.S. in 1978 to meet the emission standards of the day. Like a lot of us, the 308 GT4 put on weight as it aged. The 1974 model weighed in at 2,930 pounds, while later models had to carry around about 3,500 pounds, which of course impacted the performance of the 308. The 1974 European 308 GT4 had a 0 to 60 mph time of 6.4 seconds and could cover the quarter-mile in 14.6 seconds with a terminal speed of 91.5 mph. The heavier 1979 U.S. model had a 0 to 60 time of 7.8 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 16 seconds with a speed of 89 mph. All times were recorded by Road & Track magazine road tests.
The Dino Becomes a Ferrari
Introduced at the Paris Auto Show in November of 1973 as a 1974 model, the Dino 308 GT4 received mixed reviews thanks to its then-controversial styling and languished in Ferrari dealer showrooms. Compounding the problem for Ferrari in 1975, the Dino 308 GT4 was the only car homologated by the Ferrari factory for sale in the United States. Thus, the only new car that could legally be sold by U.S. Ferrari dealers in 1975 wasn’t even named Ferrari – it was a Dino.
Ferrari took note of the slow sales and the name issue and sent out a cosmetic update kit to dealers in 1975. The kit included the Ferrari name and ‘Prancing Horse’ badging to replace the Dino badges on the hood, wheels, rear panel, and steering wheel. When all the badging was installed, the dealers could at least sell a Ferrari. The factory solved the problem permanently in 1976 by officially changing the name of all 308 GT4s to ‘Ferrari’.
Ferrari Dino Values
Production of the Ferrari Dino 308 GT4 lasted from late 1973, as a 1974 model, until 1980, as a 1979 model, and saw 2,826 cars roll out of the Ferrari factory. Once the car was officially badged as a Ferrari in 1976, sales improved and the 308 GT4 became one of Ferrari’s best-selling cars. Our friends at Hagerty indicate that the average value of a 1974 model 308 GT4 is $53,500, ranging between $95,000 for a 308 in number one concours condition and $39,000 for one in number four fair condition. As with most collector cars, the last model year of a production series is often the most valuable, and the 308 GT4 is no exception. The average value for a 1979 model is $62,000, varying from $110,000 for one in number one condition to $48,000 for a 308 in number four fair condition. If you’re still concerned about whether or not the 308 GT4 is a real Ferrari, noted European journalist Paul Frère said in Road & Track, “It only has eight cylinders, but by any other standard, it is a Ferrari.” And he should know – he drove a Ferrari to victory in the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans.
What’s it like to drive a 308 GT4? Well, we can’t provide cars for each of you to drive, but we can do the next best thing – let filmmaker Robbert Alblas take us for a ride on the narrow, twisting roads through the countryside near Lake Geneva, Switzerland, in a beautiful Ferrari 308 GT4. Pull-on your driving gloves, put your monitor on full screen, and turn up the volume. You’ll hear great Ferrari sounds, see spectacular scenery, and be awed by superb photography. During the video, there are a few quick shots of the driver wearing a slight grin. We don’t know how he can remain so reserved – the rest of us would be grinning from ear-to-ear before spontaneously bursting into an Italian aria. Andiamo!
Ferrari Dino 308 GT4: http://ferrari.jimperry.net/ferrari.html
Road & Track, 9/74: http://ferrari.jimperry.net/R&T74b.jpg; http://ferrari.jimperry.net/R&T74c.jpg; http://ferrari.jimperry.net/R&T74d.jpg
Road & Track, 11/79: http://ferrari.jimperry.net/RT1.jpg; http://ferrari.jimperry.net/RT2.jpg; http://ferrari.jimperry.net/RT3.jpg
How Stuff Works: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/ferrari-308-gt4.htm
Hagerty: 1974 values – https://www.hagerty.com/apps/valuationtools/1974-Ferrari-Dino_308_GT4
Hagerty: 1979 values – https://www.hagerty.com/apps/valuationtools/1979-Ferrari-Dino_308_GT4
Ate Up with Motor: http://ateupwithmotor.com/model-histories/ferrari-dino-308gt4/
Photos by: Robbert Alblas, Robertgarven, Mr.choppers, allen watkin, Thomas doerfer, KarleHorn
Video by: Robbert Alblas
Bruce Troxell Bio
“There’s no shortage today of enthusiast automotive writers and bloggers. Bruce Troxell, however, is unique. He writes with an understanding of what truly makes cars and car people tick. Bruce is a storyteller, not just a writer. Once you start reading his lead, you can’t stop.” Martyn Schorr – Editor, CarGuyChronicles.com
Bruce Troxell is a professional freelance writer who has been contributing articles on automotive and aviation topics to a variety of websites and print publications since 2009. Following careers as an engineer with a major automobile manufacturer and as a lawyer in private practice, Bruce discovered the joys of writing and has never looked back. He brings a unique perspective and an engaging conversational style to all his writings.
Bruce is a creative automotive storyteller always looking for the stories of the people behind the automobiles. His expertise in storytelling has been recognized by the Automotive Heritage Foundation in their annual journalism competition. In 2020, his story The Day Corvette Became a World Class Sports Car was awarded a Silver medal in the Best Heritage Motorsports Story category. In 2018, his blog Cars We Love came home with a Bronze Medal in the Best Blog or Column category.
An avid sports car fan since he saw his first professional race at Watkins Glen, New York, Bruce’s car interests have blossomed to include vintage cars, hot rods, and custom cars. He has participated in numerous vintage car rallies and is a concours veteran.
Born and raised in New Jersey, he and his wife Cindy now live in bucolic central Virginia with Max, a prescient stray cat who wandered into their lives several years ago and decided to stay.