The name “Dino” was retained until the end of 1976 when it was changed to Ferrari due to popular demand. The car remained in production until late 1980. The Dino 308 GT4 was introduced at the 1973 Paris Salon, as a 2+2 model to compliment the two-seater 246 GT/GTS in the Dino range, and like its sibling carried no Ferrari badges, as the intention of Dino being a marque in its own right continued.
The 308 GT4 models were given chassis numbers in the particular Dino even number series, which they maintained even when being produced alongside the true 246 GT/GTS replacement, the 308 GTB/GTS series, which had chassis numbers in the standard Ferrari road car odd-number sequence.
The production period lasted for seven years, until 1980, when it was superseded by the Mondial 8 model. Left and right-hand drive steering was available, with model specification differences for various markets, due to individual legislative requirements, which were becoming more prevalent.
Ferrari (Dino) obviously thought that compliance with varying legislations was worthwhile with this model, due to the relatively high production volumes compared to the 12-cylinder cars of the period, which were only sold in markets where compliance was a relatively easy task.
As with the 246 Dino, the numbers in the model title referred to the engine total cubic capacity, and number of cylinders, in this case 3 litres and 8 cylinders, with the figure 4 relating to the number of seats. The new car marked two firsts for Ferrari, albeit initially under the Dino name, it was their first mid-engined 2+2 model, and their first V8 engine production road car.
In 1975 an Italian market only model, the 208 GT4, was introduced with a 2-litre V8 engine, due to the country’s punitive taxes on cars over that capacity. There was also a USA market version, easily identified by heavy and somewhat ungainly bumper units, and side marker lights set in the front and rear wings.
During the construction period of the model, there was only one visual change of note to major European market models, and this was in the shape of the radiator grille, and location of driving lamps. These are generally unofficially referred to as series 1, and series 2 models, with series 1 cars having a narrower deeper rectangular grille, with the driving lights outboard of it, whilst Series 2 cars had a full width grille with the driving lights behind it at the extremities.
The Italian and USA market cars were not fitted with driving lights, and in the USA they generally refer to three series of cars, due to interim changes with the bumpers and badging.
Surprisingly, due to their long standing close relationship with Ferrari, it was not a design from Pininfarina that clothed the new model, but one from the Bertone studio. The design of the Fiat Dino coupé was from the pen of Bertone, and according to Bertone it was a suggestion from Fiat that led to them being given the design brief for the new model.
When the 246 GT/GTS models ceased production in 1974, the 308 GT4 was the only model left in the Dino range. It was also the only model that Ferrari dealers in the United States of America could offer clients, as the 365 GT4BB and 365 GT4 2+2 models were not homologated for that market.
Thus the only “Ferrari” that they had for sale didn’t even carry a Ferrari badge, and to aggravate matters, due to the emission control equipment, performance was somewhat stifled. This didn’t help sales, and led to the factory issuing a directive in mid 1975 to USA dealers, to retrofit Ferrari badges to existing stock, whilst subsequent cars left the factory carrying Ferrari badges, the name Dino only remaining in the boot lid script badge. Thus some USA market cars carry both Ferrari and Dino badges, and there were also bumper modifications in that market at the same time.
Thus the deep radiator grille USA models can be found with different badging, and different bumper arrangements, which led to the previously mentioned three series of models referred to in the USA.
During the production period a total of 2826 308 GT4 models were produced, and 840 examples of the 208 GT4 passed down the production line.Bertone did a very good design job within very tight dimensional boundaries, to produce a mid-engined 2+2 model on a 2550mm wheelbase, which was only 210mm more than that of the two-seater Dino 246 GT.
The 308 GT4 had a tubular chassis with factory type reference F 106 AL 100, whilst the 208 GT4 chassis carried type reference F 106 CL 100. Disc brakes, with independent suspension via wishbones, coil springs, and hydraulic shock absorbers, were provided all round, with front and rear anti-roll bars. Within the angular body shape there were some very nice design details, like the boomerang shaped air intakes on the sail panels that bordered the rear quarter glass, and the tunnel effect of the inner sail panels to the flat vertical rear screen.
The left side intake ducted cooling air to the oil radiator, and the right side one ducted air to the carburettor air filter. The overall shape was very tight and well balanced, and has stood the test of time very well, certainly better than some of its contemporaries. Despite the mid-engined configuration, the rear seats were useable, far more so than those of the 365 GTC4, although legroom was limited unless the front seats were well forward.
Although the rear seats were “cosy” for passengers they were also capable of providing plenty of additional luggage space. Normally adequate useable luggage space has been an inevitable problem on mid-engined cars.
The 308 GT4 had a separate sensibly-shaped boot to the rear of the engine, as on the 246 Dino, but like that car was affected by heat from the exhaust silencers below it, despite having an insulated floor. Additional luggage space was available under the front lid for soft items, particularly if a space saver spare wheel was used in place of the standard one.
The V8 engine was of 90-degree configuration, with belt-driven twin overhead camshafts per bank, having a total capacity of 2926cc, with a bore and stroke of 81mm x 71mm, bearing factory type reference F 106 AL 000. The bore and stroke was the same as the 365 series 12-cylinder engines of the period.
The Italian market engine was of virtually identical construction, but of 1991cc capacity, with the same bore, but with a shorter 66.8mm stroke, bearing factory type reference F106 C 000.
The engine was transversely mounted in unit with the all-synchromesh five-speed transmission, which was below and to the rear of the engine’s wet sump, following the principle established on the Dino 206 GT and 246 GT models. It was fitted with a bank of four twin-choke Weber 40 DCNF carburettors, mounted in the centre of the vee, the exact specification depended upon the market, and number of distributors fitted.
Early series I European cars, all USA and Australian market cars, had twin distributors driven off the left end of the inlet valve camshafts. Later second series European cars had a single distributor, driven off the forward inlet camshaft, with a revised distributor and electronic ignition system, from the beginning of 1978.
The stated power outputs varied from 255 hp for early European models, down to 205 hp for late series USA cars with catalytic converters, with 18 bhp claimed for the 2-litre Italian market model.