Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Brakes

February 7, 2013 Comments (0)

In 1995 I bought a 1978 308 GTS Euro spec Ferrari with a rebuilt engine and 13K miles on the long non-functioning odometer. It had had a serious accident on the right front corner. This is the first in a series of short articles about how we repaired it and updated it.

The goal is simple: Improved performance and reliability, at a reasonable cost.


The original Ferrari brakes are fine. For simply driving on the street, I never would touch the brakes. When I bought the car, my friends were doing FCA club track days and I joined them. I came to realize that the newer model cars were quicker on the straights but not necessarily quicker through the turns. The only way to keep from being run over under braking was to upgrade the brake system.

The easiest option was to install a new brake system of larger calipers and rotors on the front of the car. Brembo offers such a system and at the time it was priced between $2500 and $3000. But my rotors were fine and I didn’t want to spend that kind of money. John Tirrell, owner of Independent Ferrari Service (IFS) in Easton MA, was tracking a very quick 308 GT4. He discovered that the Ferrari Club members in England were using ATE front calipers, standard on Audi S4s of the eighties that bolted right up.

We bought a set of newly rebuilt calipers and performance pads. John attached really neat Porsche air ducts and tubing to the lower A arms, put in new brake lines and, for far less than $500 in parts, we eliminated brake fade and improved braking performance dramatically.

Below are images of the original pads and the replacements, and the S4’s ATE Girling calipers. You can see that the brake swept area is almost double. After 15 years, because they were the lowest part on the car, the wear and tear on the Porsche 911 air duct pickups and tubing necessitated I remove them. If I was to do track again, I would put on another set.

Brake Pads


This is not meant to imply that this system is the equivalent of the Brembo or anyone else’s product; but, at the time, it satisfied a need at a reasonable price and, although I still have the original parts in a box somewhere, I would never put them back on. NB: The 1978 Ferrari doesn’t have an anti-lock brake system. It is possible to lock up the wheels, particularly under panic braking or in the wet. But I got used to a sensitive pedal and in over ten years of use, I have never had an issue.


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