MMR Blog

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Exhaust Headers

Posted on February 27, 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 third in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

The Pipes, the Pipes Are Calling: Exhaust Headers

As a kid, headers and cherry bombs or Thrush Mufflers were essential parts of every street rod. Other than Corvettes, sports cars of the sixties were mostly English and mostly small four or six cylinder engines with cast iron manifolds. These manifolds never wore out and they only broke if you dropped them. “Headers”, as we now know them, were initially home made from exhaust tubing. They were popular because they were lighter and allowed the engine exhaust to be taken away more quickly and easily, making the engine more efficient. When I first laid eyes on my Ferrari engine, like any old hot-rodder, I looked for places where I might make improvements easily and inexpensively. One look at the stock exhaust and I realized that the low hanging fruit had been picked at the factory. While you might improve on parts of the ignition system, and possibly the mufflers, there really was nothing hanging off the engine that could easily be improved. After all, it did put out 250 HP from about 180 cubic inches. That’s pretty efficient.

308 GTS exhaust manifold

About a year into ownership of WASRED, the exhaust manifold at the back of the engine cracked where the four individual pipes from the head meet. I was informed that this is not uncommon. Faithful John Tirrell, at IFS, ordered a new one ($750 in ’96) and took the front one off also. Scott and Bob at N.E. Industrial Coatings Inc., in Worcester MA, had once powder coated some wheels for me. They understand coatings and performance products and they had a process of Flow Coating both the interior and exterior of the headers. Described as a ceramic sealant, it strengthened the header and allowed exhaust to flow more freely. They also seem quieter. Whatever this cost, it seems like a very small investment for improved performance and durability. There was a choice of shades of grey from silver to dark and I chose a dark grey which might turn a lighter color when warm.

They have now been on the car since April of 1996 and we have never had a spot of trouble with them.

The MMR Goods and Services Directory lists 18 companies that do some form of coating or plating. Choose the one nearest you and don’t forget our motto: No One Ever Regretted Buying Quality. And don’t forget to tell them that MMR sent you.

Next week we will deal with the second half of the system, mufflers.

Sandy on Assignment:
Retromobile in Paris

Posted on February 20, 2013 Comments (1)

Where Everyone speaks “Auto”

by Sandy Cotterman

On the smorgasbord of motorsports adventures, Retromobile in Paris is definitely on the list. Paris in February—well, that’s a tough sell, but for me it was ideal. I was on my way to Nairobi to visit my daughter, who, like her mother, is all about the adventure. A layover in Paris, why not! Little did I know this adventure would follow me to the heart of Kenya.

If you want to do Retromobile, I’ve worked out the logistics. Most red eyes from the States get you to Paris in time to catch a full day of planes, trains, and automobiles. My suggestion is to start with opening day, Wednesday, when you can virtually walk right in. Keith Carlson, from our Jaguar Association of New England, joined me on Thursday, thinking day two would be light. Not so.There were thousands in line, making Keith’s online ticket purchase worthwhile. It’s very inexpensive to walk through the doors of Retromobile, 14 euros.  Once inside, the coat and baggage check is another bargain at 2-3 euros. With a two-day Metro pass for 17 euros, I could come and go as I pleased on the line to Mairie d’Issy, getting off at the Porte de Versailles and following the crowds to the Par des Expositions, Retromobile. Hop back on in reverse, with a transfer at Concord, and you’re one stop to the Champs Elysees Clemenceau and the Grand Palais for the Bonham preview and auction. Of course, the bargains stop here. You’re in Paris!

I had no clue what to expect from Retromobile. Celebrating “38 years of passion and dreams”, I would say it’s a giant international luxury motorsports flea market. Armed with a huge schematic floor planfoldout, the Guide de Visite, you’re pretty much on your own to map out a plan of attack. The booths and displays are eclectic. The atmosphere is frenetic. I’ve never seen so many men get so excited over boxes of car parts, miniature model vintage cars, and rusted advertising sign … and this is only the shopping section, located in Pavillion 2.2! Thinking of going to the Goodwood Revival? This is the place to get outfitted with tweed blazers, knickers, goggles, gloves, and hats! My antennae were up for anything Bugatti, and sure enough, I spied a book on the marque, one of the few in English.

Who would have guessed men love to shop?

Something for everyone

The people are just as outrageous as the cars.

The press release said there were 400 exhibitors, including 100 multi-marque car clubs and associations, both very popular in Europe, and over 500 cars on display. Pavilion 3, where most are located, is transformed into a gentleman’s playground.  If you’re a rallyist, or a wannabe, like me, this is the place to scope out exotic adventures with price tags to match! Looking for that rare classic car to add to your private collection or museum? Companies to help are on hand. Once you’ve found the perfect find, there is a plethora of European restorers to turn your barn find into a Concours winner.

If you want it there is a company to find it

If only I had the car to restore

The creme de la creme for Artcurial…this 1936 Talbot-Lago T150 topped sales coming in just under 2M dollars.

With only two days to see it all, I was especially grateful to SCM for hosting a wonderful first day gathering within Retromobile at the Café Jambon a la Broche for its magazine subscribers. It gave me a chance to stop, relax, and chat with fellow English speaking enthusiasts, many from the States.

I wouldn’t say I was overwhelmed; I was just intrigued by Retromobile.  There were enough displays of the unusual to hold my interest, since old car parts and memorabilia really aren’t my thing. In fact, the Artcurial Motorcars and Bonhams auction catalogues were my prized souvenirs.

Speaking of unusual, have you ever heard of a Helica? Designed a century ago by Marcel Leyat, only 23 of the half-plane, half-car hybrids were built, and I’m betting those remaining were at Retromobile!

Five Helicas on display

There were special tributes this year, one being the 50th anniversary of the 911 Porsche, my dream car, so I thought it was rather fitting that I was in attendance. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first crossing of the Mediterranean by air, tributes to Roland Garros were prominent. On exhibit was the type H-plane, “Morane”, along with the famed 5-liter “Roland Garros” Bugatti. I was familiar with the Roland Garros tennis stadium, but didn’t realize Garros had nothing to do with tennis, but rather was a pilot and motorcar enthusiast.


The FFVA supports vintage car clubs and museums throughout France.

The car to drive in the 1908 French Grand Prix - a Benz.

One in the pair - the Prince Heinrich race car.

One of the Prince Heinrich racing cars was the highlight. Apparently two were discovered a few years ago, tucked away in storerooms of the Mercedes-Benz Museum and the Louwman Museum, all intact except for the bodywork. The idea of restoring them emerged, and the two museums collaborated on the project. Although most of the Benz archives were destroyed during WWII, photos, drawings, and original plans were found that identified the two cars!  On June 10, 1910, no fewer than 10 Benz cars took part in a 1900-kilometer race across Germany and part of France, named after sportsman Prince Heinrich, the brother of Kaiser Wilhelm II. In view of road conditions at the time, I thought it was pretty impressive that they drove at top speeds of 130kph over that distance.

France’s love affair with the Citroen was evident over this Paris weekend, with special honor to the Citroen DS, which made its debut at the Salon de Paris in 1955, receiving a hefty 80,000 orders to fill. Already at 17 varied models on display, Artcurial Motorsports brought an additional 11 Citroens and Bonhams added another three. It looked like aliens beamed down for Citroen mania.

Everyone is working a deal during Retromobile.

The 1931 Bugatti Type 54 is very famous and very pricey, commanding a 2M euro Bonhams hammer price and 12 page catalogue spread.

Speaking of Bonhams and Artcuria auctions, previewing both and stepping back in time for the Bonhams auction held at the Grand Palais on Thursday evening was the highlight of my layover in Paris. The moment the hammer went down on the actual aircraft made available to Universal Pictures for the filming of Out of Africa, the 1929 metal-framed De Havilland Gipsy Moth, I had no idea I would be living its memories almost 24 hours later. Sipping coffee on the veranda of the Karen von Blixen Coffee Garden just outside Nairobi the next day, I heard a plane overhead. I looked up and saw a small plane flying … probably on its way to safari over the Ngnog Hills. It was magical!

Filmed in Out of Africa, the Gipsy Moth sparked my next adventure to Kenya.

Bonhams at the Grand Palais

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Engine Lubrication System

Posted on February 20, 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 second in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

Auxiliary Oil Accumulator System

Two weeks after I had taken possession of the WASRED 308, I had coffee with a veteran 308 owner. I mentioned that I thought the wiper system was rather weak. “Wasn’t really designed for use in the rain” he replied in a manner that implied my expectations were rather high. Pressing on, I mentioned that the oil light comes on when I drive around a sharp corner. Don’t worry about it, he said, they all do that.

But I do worry about flashing red lights above the word “Olio” on my dashboard. John Tirrell, of Independent Ferrari Service in Easton, MA, again came to my rescue. The problem is indeed common to all older 308s and peace of mind comes from the installation of an additional three quart oil container from a company called Accusump.

The Accusump Company of North Brantford, CT, manufactures pressurized oil accumulators for performance engines. Accusumps are oil reservoirs that connect to the engine's oiling system. They are designed to collect pressurized oil from your engine and store it so it may be discharged when oil pressure is low. Accusump Oil Accumulators deliver oil before starting, to eliminate dry start scuffing (pre-oiling), and discharge oil during low oil pressure surges.

WASRED oil lines

This is not an installation I could do myself so John had the hoses made up and fitted the Accusump to the trunk compartment of my car. A single hose goes from the accumulator to the base of the oil filter mount. It is a fairly clear path from a couple of angles. There really is no excellent location for the unit and the trunk is as good as any. I have seen pumps fitted to the wall of the trunk area above the headers and I have considered that change.

WASRED accusump

So, as you can see from the pictures it is a clean fit but it does have drawbacks. For one thing, the heat generated by carrying along an extra three quarts of hot engine oil means things get toasty in the luggage compartment. Then again, with a set of headers abutting it and an exhaust system under it, it was never intended to store milk and butter.

In Chapter #3 we will talk about exhaust headers and sound.

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Brakes

Posted on 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.