A 308 Memory

When I was first getting into Ferraris in the mid 90s a friend of mine asked me to help him work on his 308GTS. Charlie’s car was a little rough around the edges, and although I had worked on a a bunch of old cars, this was my first V-8 Ferrari. The electric cooling fans were not working so we worked on the fuse panel to get the fans to work. After working into the evening, we finally got the car finished and took the Ferrari out for a test drive. We had the Targa top removed, and it was nice to hear the little V-8 rev in the warm summer night.

We needed fuel, so we pulled into a gas station and Charlie got out to fill up. As he was filling the tank, I was looking over my shoulder from the passenger seat towards the back of the car when I heard a loud WHOOPH! Immediately, the back of the car was in flames, Charlie jumped back to clear himself of the car, and I could feel the intense heat of the fire on the side of my face through the rear window of the car!

Assessing my situation I realized a few obvious problems. One, the car was on fire. Two, I was still in the car, and three I didn’t know where the door release was on a 308?! Since this was my first time in a 308, I never looked to see how to open the door from the inside (it’s under the armrest). There just wasn’t enough time to find out how to open the door, so I threw my head, shoulder, torso, hip and finally feet through the open window of the car. As I jumped/fell out of the car, Charlie managed to get his halon fire extinguisher out and started spraying the fire. I heard the extinguisher spray, SSSSSSSHHHHHHshhhhhhh-sss-ssss-s…s. and yet the fire was still burning! Just as we thought all was lost, the gas station attendant came over with a 20 pound dry chemical extinguisher and doused the fire out. The car was a black car, but in this picture it looks grey covered in baking soda!

What caused the fire? The rubber filler neck hose had dry rotted and while Charlie was filling up with gas, fuel was dripping out of the crack onto the hot exhaust manifold which caught on fire. Luckily, most of the fuel that was burning was on the ground and the fire was put out before it got out of control. Charlie ended up buying the car back from the insurance company, rebuilt the burnt parts, and I think this car is still around.

I took two things away from this experience. First, always know how to open a car door when you get into a strange car, and second, carry a large extinguisher because you never want that sinking feeling when your extinguisher runs out and the fire is still going!