A late-night session of surfing the Web sparked a one-year test of the 1984 Ferrari 308 GTSi Quattrovalvole. We accumulated almost 8,000 miles on this '80s exotic and turned a profit on its sale. Maintenance costs weren't so kind to our wallet.
True, this isn't the usual kind of long-term test, but we had a chance to live the dream, so we seized it with both hands. Call us crazy, but we can say that we've owned a Ferrari.
Why We Bought It
We bought a 1984 Ferrari 308 GTSi Quattrovalvole for no particular reason and for every reason imaginable. It's a Ferrari. Who wouldn't buy a Ferrari if they had the means? In case the accounting department asks, we also bought the GTSi because chicks dig Ferraris. OK, so the ladies like Tom Selleck and Magnum drove a 308. Close enough. Did we mention it costs the same as a Toyota Camry?
Our reasons for purchasing a 308 GTSi were actually legit. We had to know if owning a $28,000 Ferrari was worth it. After all, it was 23 years old and Ferraris aren't exactly known for their inexpensive maintenance. Would the cost of ownership satisfy our itch to own a classic or did we jump into a money pit? Or should we have settled for the Toyota?
How the Ferrari drove is a matter of whom you ask. We found ourselves divided into two distinct groups. The "yes, pleases" and the "never agains."
"Yes, please. I'd like to take the Ferrari home tonight." Members of this camp found the iconic appeal of the 308 sufficient to outweigh the intrinsic quirks of a car built more than 20 years ago. This group revels in the undiluted communication of the Ferrari's controls, the kind of mechanical purity that just doesn't exist in many modern cars. There is no talk of the cost-benefit analysis. To them it's about how the car makes them feel.
Senior Road Test Editor Josh Jacquot expressed this perspective while gazing at the 308 in his driveway, "This is a normal neighborhood with normal houses. Normal people live here. They drive Ford Explorers , Scion xBs and Dodge Magnums. Every car on the block costs $17K to $30K — including mine. But right there, right in my driveway, was the Ferrari.
Jacquot continues, "I walked around the 308 for 10 minutes soaking up its lines and color. Then I fired it up just to hear the starter whine followed by the perfect pitch of the small-displacement V8. Once it was warm, I revved it up. It was still cold outside, and as the warm vapor of the exhaust disappeared into the morning light I could imagine old Enzo appreciating the car for all the reasons I do. It's not fast or expensive. But it is staggeringly beautiful and sounds right. Even my neighbors, people who use cars like appliances, have that part figured out."
But there are two sides to every story.
"Never again. I drove the Ferrari and it's not for me." Those editors with this reaction felt the 308 deserved to be left behind in the 1980s along with Aqua Net and Jazzercise. Aesthetic qualities were appreciated and operational hang-ups despised. This group is practical. A look at the Ferrari reminds them of its hit-or-miss ignition, overheating problems, coolant and oil leaks and that time it stopped dead in the middle of traffic. The list goes on.
Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds noted in the long-term blog pages, "I've been trying really hard to 'get' the Ferrari. I've been warned not to be too logical and consider the year it was made. Why? We're trying to experience what owning a used 308 would be like, using today's money for the purchase and maintenance. With that in mind, my two-day stint in the 308 tells me that a used Ferrari ain't what it's cracked up to be."
Edmunds adds, "In the morning, you really do have to warm up this sled. The smell of fuel is all-encompassing. A Toyota Inbred Clown Car could (cough, wheeze) run off of the fumes in the cockpit. On my way to work today, I nearly got beat by a minivan. From a red light, I barely beat an Odyssey in a 200-yard dash to a freeway on-ramp. After one evening spent parked in my driveway, the car left behind a trail of coolant. This is the first car I've seen 'overheat' by sitting in a driveway for 10 hours."
Inside the cabin, the 308 GTSi offers nothing that can be compared to a vehicle of today's standards. As one editor said, "They just don't build 'em like they used to. If they did, Ferrari would be out of business." We'll admit the seats are uncomfortable and headroom is inadequate for 6-footers. The location of the pedal box is offset awkwardly far to the right to clear the left front wheel. All secondary controls — and many primary ones — are poorly located. And the logic of their operation (push the switch up to lower the window) is confounding. But we didn't buy the Ferrari for ergonomics.
We bought it for the experience. At just over 2,000 miles into our test, the first of our Ferrari adventures began when we paid our first visit to our local exotic specialty garage, FX Performance in West Los Angeles. Referred by a friend, we were told to ask for Antonio.
At this point we'd spent $50 for new wipers, a key fob and some oil. Our new friend Antonio added to this total, performing the first oil change. He also inspected our car and told us we bought a good running 308, although with some minor oil and coolant leaks. And then in his thick Italian accent (a real asset in the Ferrari business, we think), Antonio said, "Don't worry about it; they all do that." He handed us a bill for $650 and suggested we ditch Mobil 1 synthetic oil for Royal Purple synthetic.
Antonio saw our Ferrari again 1,500 miles later. We brought it in this time for an ignition problem. Shut off the car at operating temperature and it wouldn't restart. After a fuel system rebuild and $1,800 we hit the road. Our car visited Antonio again 1,000 miles later. On a tow truck. For no apparent reason, the car died in the middle of the street while idling at a stoplight. Another $2,300 bought us a rebuilt engine control module (rebuilding electronics isn't cheap) and our second oil change. Then there was a $165 bill from the tow truck to kick us while we were down.
We crossed our fingers for the remainder of the loan, and oddly enough nothing else went wrong. Minor issues such as tightening side mirror bolts and replacing blown fuses we resolved ourselves.
Total Body Repair Costs: $111.92 for a pair of front turn signal covers
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 12 months): $1,405 (includes oil and coolant)
Additional Maintenance Costs: $3,220.43
Warranty Repairs: None.
Non-Warranty Repairs: Fuel system and engine module rebuilds
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 1
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Days Out of Service: 25
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: 1
Performance and Fuel Economy
In its day the acceleration of a 308 GTSi was a force to be reckoned with. Fast-forward to the present day and a Camry full of kids can blow its doors off.
We were afraid of the expense if we burned the Ferrari's clutch, so our only performance testing came during our comparison test of the 308 GTSi and the Kia Sedona. Around the skid pad, the prancing horse generated an impressive 0.91g of lateral force. Its relatively short, narrow footprint helped it maneuver through the slalom at 68.6 mph.
Straight-line performance is a testament to just how far automobiles have progressed in 20 years. The Ferrari needed 7.3 seconds (with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) to accelerate from zero to 60 mph, and completed the quarter-mile in 15.4 seconds at 92.1 mph. Our V6 comparison test witnessed a Camry run zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds (with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) and nail the quarter-mile in 14.6 seconds at 97.3 mph.
This is a sign of the times, even if the Italian sports car had 45,000 more miles under its belt.
Best Fuel Economy: 19.8 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 9.0 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 13.8 mpg
According to Edmunds' TMV® calculator, our long-term 2007 Toyota Camry depreciated 26 percent during its test. We drove it more than 21,000 miles. By comparison our 308 GTSi appreciated 7 percent by the conclusion of its 8,000-mile test.
Our Ferrari value calculations are based purely on the laws of supply and demand. We bought it for $28K from Auto Trader and sold it for $30K on eBay.
True Market Value at service end: $30,000
Depreciation: None. Vehicle appreciated 7 percent of original paid price.
Final Odometer Reading: 53,986
The Cost of Looking Good
We bought a 1984 Ferrari 308 GTSi Quattrovalvole for $28,000. It wasn't a showroom piece, but it looked good and ran strong. With a grin on our face we racked up 8,000 miles in a year. Then we sold it for a profit to the first bidder on eBay to meet our $30,000 reserve.
In theory, we were paid $2,000 to drive a Ferrari all year. In reality, we burned up the profits on maintenance. We paid nearly $4,800 to keep our GTSi on the road, roughly $400 per month. It sounds excessive. But consider we drove the Ferrari 670 miles each month. Most owners are lucky to get their classics out of the garage on Sundays for a spin around the block. Weekend cruisers need years to accumulate the mileage we added in only 12 months.
In the beginning, we did our price/value calculus and figured out that we could live life as a Ferrari owner for the price of a Camry, and we conjured the emotional equation into an excuse to buy a Ferrari. Along the way we learned a surprising lesson in value and fun that could be applied to any old car.
Given the choice, we'd do it all over again.
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.