Ferrari's V8: Dino 308 GT4

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The first Ferrari production V8 model wasn't even allowed to wear a Ferrari badge.

We begin the story of Ferrari's first production V8 with what is probably the most confusingly named model in the history of the prancing horse. This was not the only car called Dino, not the only one called 308 and not the only one called GT4. Most of the other cars to bear these names were more famous as well (the GT4 is debatable) and the Dino 308 GT4 is often overlooked as part of Ferrari history. There might have been more significant Ferraris, but the GT4 shouldn't be ignored.

The GT4 was a 2+2 which first debuted in 1973 to be sold alongside the Dino 246, which at the time was Ferrari's entry-level sports car. This would later be replaced by the V8-powered 308 GTB, which used the same engine as the GT4. The other Dino-badged cars to come before it had used V6 engines, but for the bigger GT4, it was decided that it would be better to move up to a V8. Thus we have the first production Ferrari with a V8, as well as Ferrari's first mid-engine 2+2. The setup, it has to be said, is slightly weird. Thing was, old man Enzo hated mid-engine cars.

Because the setup is even more unusual in a 2+2 than it had been in previous Dino models, one would think this would be the sort of thing which wouldn't have gotten past him. But the GT4 was built at a time just after Fiat had bought a significant portion of Ferrari, and it is suspected by many that the Dino 308 GT4 was the result of Fiat exercising its influence. Though the GT4 was mechanically related to the earlier Dino 246 and Dino 206, this isn't immediately obvious from looking at it. The curvaceous Pininfarina bodywork on the two-seat models was replaced by a Bertone design, and the GT4 was the first Ferrari to be designed by the firm.

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The angular look of the design was a more Seventies style, and when Lamborghini replaced the Miura with the Countach the following year, it was obvious that Bertone had anticipated the trend correctly. The design was stretched to accommodate the small back seats. Since this seems like it has to have been done in the same of creating a better seller, this too is assumed to have been a Fiat move, since Enzo didn't really care much about sales of road cars. The 3.0-liter V8 in the GT4 was an all-alloy design with dual overhead cams. There were four Weber 40 DCNF carburetors, and the engine produced 250 horsepower.

This was really quite a good specific output for the time. In 1975, Ferrari introduced the Dino 208 GT4, basically the same car but with a 2.0-liter V8 in place of the 3.0-liter unit. This was one of the smallest V8s ever put into a production car, and it produced 180 horsepower. This was actually primarily for the Italian domestic market, where engines that displaced 2 liters or less got a break on insurance. This was another concession in the name of sales which seems odd and out of place when talking about an automaker like Ferrari.

Of course, these were the days when Ferrari believed that Dino-badged cars weren't thought of as Ferraris, but history has clearly proven otherwise. It has been rumored, although never proven, that the GT4 was originally designed by Bertone for Lamborghini, and was only given to Ferrari after being rejected by the bull. Whatever its origins, the GT4 would stay in production until 1980, when it was replaced by the Mondial 8. Ferrari would sell more than 2,800 units of the car during its lifetime, this wasn't a huge number, especially when compared to the 308 GTB, introduced in 1975.

But the GT4 wasn't expected to sell any more than that, and it was certainly successful enough that Ferrari decided to bring out another mid-engine V8 2+2 after it. The car still gets some flack today, and an appearance on Top Gear where a GT4 driven by Richard Hammond suffered multiple breakdowns over a relatively short period of time certainly didn't help the car's reputation. But for all its breaks with Ferrari tradition, the GT4 wasn't a bad car. It was perhaps a completely unnecessary car, but there is no doubt there were more than a few highly pleased GT4 owners in their day.

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