Ferrari 308 Challenges

I try my best to specialize on Vintage V-12 Ferraris. It’s what I know and enjoy working on, but occasionally I will take a different car that belongs to a customer, or is a friend of someone. I warn them that it is not what I normally do, and there are plenty of more qualified shops that do this kind of work all the time, and yet they persist!

Every car has its own challenges, and it takes time to learn about their quirks and common problems, and with experience, you slowly become an expert. I am very lucky to be able to fill my work week repairing and restoring only Vintage V-12 Ferraris, and they’re challenging enough with finding parts, fixing worn out parts, and keeping these cars running, but there are some things that are different on a Ferrari 308 that can cause catastrophic damage if you don’t know about them. One of them is the air cleaner spacers on the carburetor studs. These steel spacers are captured by the rubber gasket that seals the velocity stacks and carburetor.

The spacer prevents someone from over tightening the rubber gasket and deforming the seal.

The problem comes when removing these spacers when the air cleaner comes off. Clear access to the top of a carburetor 308 is partially obstructed by the rear hatch, so removing the air cleaner assembly is not straight up and out, so these spacers can either stay attached to the carburetor, or come out captured by the rubber gasket. Before anything gets moved, I inspect the gasket and count the spacers. If another shop lost one and didn’t replace the missing spacer when putting everything back together, you will never know if you don’t count them before moving anything. I often take a tool and push all 16 spacers down off the rubber gasket as I pull the air cleaner up, letting them stay in place on the long carb studs. The most important thing is not to allow any of these spacers to fall down the throat of the carb. Not only is falling down a carburetor a dangerous thing that will cause catastrophic engine problems, the camshaft timing belt is exposed from the back side of the covers, so an errant spacer can also fall between the cogs and jam a timing belt!

I also found four spacers were replaced with non magnetic stainless steel pieces. The original spacers were gold cadmium plated steel pieces that are magnetic. This little detail is not important for concours but when one of these spacers fall down in the nether regions of the engine (and trust me, they will) you can retrieve them with a magnet. Having replacement spacers made in stainless has absolutely no benefit at all, and perhaps is more of a liability!

Once I got the air cleaner off, I began to work on the ignition and carburetors. This particular car had electronic ignition, so there wasn’t much to check besides timing so the next part was the carburetors, but in the middle of tuning, the car started running rough and stalled. I could not figure out what was wrong, and yet, when I restarted the car, it started right up and ran like nothing was wrong! Cars don’t fix themselves, but there is nothing worse than an intermittent problem with no idea to recreating the problem. I spent many hours trying to find this problem wondering if it was inside the black boxes of the ignition system. Diagnosing electronics is hard because they either work, or they don’t, so I spent a few days in between working on V-12 cars trying to figure out the problem with this V-8 car.

Running out of options, I decided to go back and look closer at the ignition system, and as I reset the timing on one of the distributors, I got shocked! If you work on cars long enough, you will eventually experience the shock of an ignition system, but it’s never pleasant. I took the distributor cap off to take a closer look and found the top off the rotor looked a little deformed.

After removing the rotor, I looked underneath and found the culprit! What looked like a manufacturing defect, the brass contact was exposed at the bottom of the rotor where it had the potential to ground out the ignition instead of being distributed by the cap. This issue wouldn’t happen all the time because when things were cold, the current would follow the normal path, but as the engine warmed up, resistance would rise, and the current would find a easier path to ground and arc through the defective rotor to the distributor body. I was lucky (or unlucky) to have it happen when I touched the distributor at the right time. With substandard ignition parts, I ordered a set of replacement parts and continued tuning this car, wondering if I should accept the next 308 that comes knocking on my door!

Here’s a video showing some of the pitfalls and traps working on a Ferrari 308. I’ve been trying to post a new video to Youtube at least every couple of week since the beginning of this year, so the content is adding up. Click the link below to see them all. While you’re there, don’t forget to subscribe and like the content. This let’s me know you’re watching and inspires me to keep doing posting videos! Thanks.

Don’t forget to check out the other videos on YouTube.