Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS:
Driver Ergonomics

March 15, 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 fifth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

At a certain age, comfort in a car is a luxury. A little further down the road, it becomes a necessity. While hardly what passes today for a luxury car, a 308 is surprisingly comfortable. This is primarily due to the ride itself and the way the car handles bumps and other road surface irregularities. The current style of sports car chassis and suspension accent chassis rigidity and cornering performance over the softer suspension of years past.

Having said that, to be comfortable ergonomically, the designer assumes that the driver is 5'8" tall and has an offset spine that happily accommodates the six inch right offset of the clutch-brake-gas pedal cluster in the footwell. The seat and steering wheel are perfectly aligned with the chassis. In the driver’s seated position, hands on the wheel, the left side foot rest is exactly where you might expect the clutch pedal to be. The six inch shift to the right is necessitated by the intrusion of the left front wheel well into the driver’s foot well. One could assume that on long trips this could be a pain in the back and one would be correct.

Upgrading a Ferrari 308 GTS

That is an issue we cannot do a thing about. Taller drivers will be pleased to learn however that the seat pushes back far enough to comfortably accommodate the outstretched legs of a six footer. At that point however, ones arms are outstretched and the leverage to turn large tires at slow speed is severely compromised. Operation of the foot pedals is not an issue once you adapt to the offset.

What to do about the ”too far” steering wheel? One thing I noticed immediately is that while the wheel is too far away from my shoulders, it is also too close to the dash binnacle. John Tirrell, of Independent Ferrari Service in South Easton, MA installed a solution that benefitted both of us. By adding a two piece quick release hub between the steering wheel and the steering shaft platform you add about 1.5 inches. Unfortunately the horn wiring does not go through the style of hub I chose, so we installed a new horn button under the dash. The amazing thing is how often you remove the steering wheel to do even the simplest chores around the driver’s area.

There are several types of quick release systems available and l am using the Elliptical Quick Release unit by OMP. I tried the Snap Off system. I couldn’t get the steering wheel to line up properly when the wheel was at top dead center. It was only off 3/8 of an inch but it drove me nuts.

Pricing goes from $40 to $440 dollars so you will need to do your own due diligence on this part.

Below are images of the two parts: one on the shaft and the other that attached to the wheel. Also a side view of the complete unit installed that gives you some idea of the space between the top of the wheel and the gauge binnacle.

308 Steering wheel quick release component

308 Steering wheel quick release component

Steering hub

Steering hub

Attached hub component

Attached hub component

Installed quick release

Installed quick release

All race supply houses have these units. Suppliers may be found in our Goods and Services Directory under Parts and Accessories: Safety Equipment.

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