MMR Blog

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Cooling System Part 2

Posted on April 25, 2013 Comments (0)

Improved Cooling – Water Pump

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 ninth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

308 Water Pump. A Lovely Thing.

The water pump on the right, with the gold vanes, is the original pump in the WASRED 308. On good authority, I am advised that this was a pump originally used in the 1950s. You can see the major design differences with the one on the left.

Ferrari 308 water pumps

Our last article was about changing the original radiator for a new aluminum radiator from Nicks Forza Ferrari. Since we were updating the 35 year old radiator, we decided to look at the remainder of the system and see what else was available. Pump, hoses, radiator and fan are the whole kit.

A visit to Nick’s site showed that he also offers a new water pump of his own design. It has a lightweight pulley and a 20% higher output. Nick explained that pump output is limited by something called cavitation. That’s a fluid dynamics term that basically means the pump impellers can cause bubbles in the cooling liquid which actually inhibit cooling and can cause hot spots and wear. We will talk about this again when we discuss coolant choices.

Since we were already taking apart the back end of the car for the new AC system, why not change the water pump? I felt it was a worthwhile $800 investment. Once you have jacked up the car, drained the anti-freeze, pulled out the passenger side wheel liner, then removed the two piece air cleaner pick-up hose, removing the water pump itself can be done in a matter of minutes. No fancy tools are required. An idiot could do it. I am perfectly qualified, so I did it.

Applying Napa Aviation Form-a-Gasket Sealant liquid to the pump housing allowed me screw with it a bit before tightening it down. (I’m a sucker for any product that has the word “aviation” on the package.)

For some reason I had to take it off the next day and it was still gooey. I bought new belts from Geoff Ohland at ferrariparts.com and I was all set. So now we had the new radiator in front and the new pump in place at the back and all we needed was to update the parts in between.

Next week: Hoses and Fans


Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Cooling System Part 1

Posted on April 2, 2013 Comments (0)

Improved Cooling—Auto and Personal

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 eighth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

The WASRED 308 has never been a hot running car. In traffic the water temperature gauge would sometimes indicate as high as 105 degrees Centigrade. But regular highway running was generally just under the 90 degree mark. That changed last spring when I arrived to 110 degree Fahrenheit weather in Phoenix. The car was running very hot in traffic. Over 110 C. I asked my host, Bud Bourassa (no relation), all around good guy, vintage car owner, and racer and he led me to Alex Traverso’s Ferrari repair shop.

Alex is an old school Italian mechanic and very much at home with older Ferraris. He quickly diagnosed that the bottom of the radiator was plugged, one cooling fan was not working and that effective cooling was limited. I planned to leave the next day, and since I was moving to cooler temperatures, I decided to risk running it home and making repairs there. So I did and I did.

Fans and radiator removed

Fans and radiator removed

Removing the rad was not that difficult and once I had a look at it I knew there were three choices. The first was to re-core the existing unit, the second was to replace it with a new factory unit and the third was to purchase an aluminum aftermarket upgrade. The new Ferrari unit was roughly two and one half times the cost of the aftermarket all aluminum upgrade at $1200 and that unit was about twice the price of re-coring the old unit. My original 1978 unit looked pretty rough.

Old and new radiators

Old and new radiators

I spoke with Nick at Nick's Forza Ferrari and was impressed with his story about the units he designs. The radiator is larger, 3.10 inches versus 2.75 inches wide. The core tubing is oval and that allows for more efficient cooling and a greater capacity. Part of the stated purpose of changing parts on this car is to upgrade individual parts whenever possible. I had to believe that radiator technology had advanced in the 35 years since my radiator was built. Plus dealing with Nick’s Forza was a treat.

Nick knows 308s. He taught me a lot about what I was getting into and what else I should do to the cooling system, fans and A/C units to bring the whole package up to date. While his company benefitted from selling me some of the components, he also spent a great deal of time helping me understand what I was looking at from other suppliers. Nick’s site has a plethora of upgrades for 308s.

Grinding and shaping

Grinding and shaping

While getting the old radiator out was not difficult, putting the new one in was a chore. As previously mentioned, the car had been crashed in the front right corner in a previous life and the original repair left several radiator supports less than level with each other or anything else. While it worked fine, it was definitely ugly. Just as the previous radiator had been “fitted” this one also required support bracket adjustments and shimming to bring it closer to the original. Probably not perfect, but pretty damned close.

The doctor is in.

The doctor is in.

Once again, I had to call on Spencer Guder of Spencer Restorations in Canterbury, CT, for help. Spencer is originally from the Boston area and he still has a large customer base here. He is often picking up or delivering cars in the area and between my general tools and his specialty stuff, he can do almost anything of this nature in my garage. So he stops by and works on the car once I either have completed the grunt work or I am stymied.

In case you think, after reading this, that it is something anyone could do, forget it. Despite what you are reading, I am neither talented nor sufficiently competent to believe that once I have put something together it will actually work. Spencer double checks everything I have touched, tells me what I missed, then finishes the job.

I work on the car at night. Generally after 9:00 PM. This works out well for me because I love to do the work. I am not in a hurry, and I save a few bucks in the process. Spencer and I also worked out an arrangement whereby I can call him when I need information and he bills me the telephone time at shop rates. That way my calls for help can be a profitable annoyance for him rather than just an annoyance. Win-Win.

Neatly tucked in.

Neatly tucked in.

So at this point the radiator is sitting easily, properly positioned in its cradle, and no hoses have been hooked up and no accessories have been bolted to it. We have plans for the A/C system and the original fans. So stay tuned.


Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS:
No Spare

Posted on April 1, 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 seventh in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

We Don’t Carry a Spare!

I bought the car in Chicago from a baseball player who was on strike at the time. The car came with the airless spare sitting in the passenger seat because the front spare compartment was filled with stereo equipment. I drove the car home, removed the stereo system, but never replaced it with the spare tire. I use the front compartment for luggage.

I have had one flat tire in the past 20 years. We have AAA Road Assistance. I carry pressurized cans in my safety kit. Maybe I’m lucky.

Working with Spencer Guder of Spencer Restorations in Canterbury, CT (no website), we cut the spare tire mount off the floor platform, ground down the rough edges and then sprayed the whole compartment with NAPA Stone Guard Black #4004. This stuff hides a lot of sins; it is very tough and abrasion resistant. It comes in black or white.

The empty wheel well

The empty wheel well

The missing piece

The missing piece

Whereas the heat from the engine and exhaust manifold insures nothing freezes in the rear luggage compartment, the front tub’s proximity to the radiator does the same thing up front. Later Model 308s have a vented area on the hood lid that allows heat to escape upwards. Presently, on this hood, heated air is routed around the tub and down under the car on each side. Some owners of later 308s and 328s complain that air coming out of the aforementioned vents washes over the hood and windshield and into the passenger compartment when the Targa top is off. The vents make sense and they are a factory development, but the plain hood does look clean. I am torn.


Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS:
Vinyl Top Begone!

Posted on March 19, 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 sixth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

This isn’t really an update. This is more like a cosmetic facelift.

I confess, despite owning a 308 GTS, the GTB is really my favorite 308. I think the line is better unbroken by the black vinyl square in the middle of the Targa top. But the black vinyl top does go well with slatted rear quarter windows. Of course, it isn’t quite as noticeable on a black car, but it is still there. And it is only there to protect the top from being scratched when it is stowed behind the seats.

308 with clear coat panel

Eight years ago when we repainted the car, I recalled seeing a black 308 in Montreal with a roof panel that was denuded of its vinyl and I really liked it. So we stripped off the vinyl, filled in the surface to the best of our ability and voila. Is it wavy? Yes. Is it prone to scratching? Yes. Does it look better? I think so. Now if I can just get a set of GTB rear quarter window setups, I’ll have the best of both worlds; the clean look of the GTB and a removable Targa top. Have whoever does the work ladle on the clear because you will be buffing it out often.

GTB top with GTS rear quarters


Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS:
Driver Ergonomics

Posted on 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.