Ferrari 208 Turbo vs. 308 GBS Quattrovalvole – Which Wedge Is Right For You?

In the May 16, 1983 issue of Autoweek, we took a closer look at two Ferraris that – to a casual observer at least – are almost indistinguishable: the Ferrari 308 GBS Quattrovalvole and the 208 Turbo.

In fact, the two models share much of the design and many of their mechanical components, and were designed with the same primary purpose: to provide the best possible street car performance while adhering to the rules and regulations of the times. In other words, the goal here for both cars was to give the 308 the power it needed to support its killer look.

But since the two cars were intended for different markets, and each presents different regulatory hurdles that must be cleared, it means pursuing this purpose in two different ways. The Quattrovalvole was designed to give the 308 true performance in the US market despite its fuel economy and emissions regulations, achieving 240 horsepower in part through the four valves per cylinder (hence the name).

The 208 Turbo, which produced 220 hp, sought to keep displacement low in order to avoid Italy’s punitive duties on cars with larger engines. In fact, we described the 1,991 cc, turbocharged, fuel-injected 208 (!) as “Ferrari’s way of dealing with the Italian tax system.”

There’s a lot of significance hidden in that little sentence – it could only have been written in an era when turbines were hot and not familiar, and fuel injection, while not necessarily new, is still distinctive enough to be identified, and when we referred to Ferrari we meant Actually Enzo As far as we meant the company that bears his name.

Anyway, our review put the two cars against each other on the California back roads in order to see which one came out on top. Spoiler alert: Both are very good, although there are enough differences in each person’s core personality to make it difficult to pick an easy winner. Perhaps a little more sitting time, and a few hundred extra miles in each one, would make the decision easier.

For anyone we’d like to own today, we’re part of the Quattrovalvole, in part because the model name is fun to say, but there’s something insanely cool about the 208 Turbo’s sub-2 liter V8. Yes, they get 0-60 mph easily being outdone by today’s cheap economy cars. But the performance specs were only part of what made it great at the time, and it has nothing to do with how hot it is today.

Which one do you choose?

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