MMR Blog

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Ignition

Posted on May 30, 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 fifteenth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

Leaving Well Enough Alone… Almost


According to my 1978 Ferrari 308 Instruction Book (Owner’s Manual) 308s came with either a standard point set ignition system or ignition with magnetic impulses. Both by Magneti Marelli.

Fortunately for me, we have the single distributor electronic system and it has been flawless. As mentioned elsewhere, I’m sure, I bought the car in the dark in Chicago and drove it home to Boston. When I first brought the car to John Tirell at IFS I asked John for a quick assessment and he told me several important and distressing things. First the car had been hit on the right front and left rear and the engine had been rebuilt. The only thing that had been upgraded was the stereo system. So he went through it, changed all the fluids, put new tires on it, checked every important component and updated what he could. I thought the car ran well when I bought it but it felt bulletproof when he was through. We used factory parts where we had no choice but we used an aftermarket oil filter and John made up a set of wires using Taylor Spiro PRO 8MM Silicone and the Ferrari resistors. Except for a few resistor failures along the way, some of which I caused through careless engine washing, the system has performed perfectly… for well over 100K miles!

308 ignition

308 ignition

At the same time John was doing all this for my car, he was also upgrading his personal GT4 for track use. Among the many things he did to improve that car, he also installed a high performance Electromotive ignition system. That car was strong and is legendary in the Northeast among Ferrari owners who did track at the time. If you are looking for someone to hotrod your 308 for street or track, he’s your guy.

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Lights

Posted on May 23, 2013 Comments (2)

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

Let there be lights!

While driving in F1 for Lotus, Ronnie Peterson was famous for being able to take a car straight off the trailer and go fast. Upon returning to the pits the engineers would ask what they needed to do to make the car faster. He would reply: nothing, it’s fine the way it is. His teammate Mario Andretti was the opposite, his background in dirt cars and ovals made him a master at tuning suspension systems to get the most out of his cars. And he did. But he was not perceptibly quicker than Peterson. Peterson was just plain quick and he adapted his driving to whatever the car would do.

To a far lesser extent, many of us are the same. As our vehicles age and wear, they change. And we change right along with them. I remember sharing a car in a 4-hour endurance race once. We set a target time and as brake and clutch problems beset the car, we would slow down and then after a number of laps, we would be turning the target times again. We adjusted and drove differently to achieve our goal.

I bought the WASRED 308 in Chicago and drove it to Boston. When I first turned on the headlights, I thought the low beams were horrible. So I drove on the high beams and since no one asked me to dim I just always drove it that way. Once home, I tried to adjust them, but to little avail.

I have mentioned elsewhere that the car had once suffered a serious front end accident and was rather ham handedly repaired. This past winter I decided that I would upgrade my forward lighting and add auxiliary lighting. The MMR Goods and Services Directory lists a number of suppliers and in my pilgrimage to good lighting I interacted with many of them.

I began with Daniel Stern. He emailed a long and detailed response to my query and was quite familiar with my issues. I had Hella lights and Osram 100/80 watt. He supplied me a well written treatise on the subject of auxiliary lighting specifically for my car. He recommended Cibie headlamps with Narva 100/90 bulbs and suggested that since the original bulbs were 60/55s, upgrades in the wiring and relays were recommended to protect the switchgear. Communication between us was interrupted for a while and I was then helped by Dave Heupchen, an old rally driver who races Volvos. I think I got to him through Dimebank Garage. Finally, Gunther Hansele of Aardvark International was the most helpful and reliable resource. Like many other pockets of specialty vintage parts, the masters of it are slightly off the beaten track and one needs to adjust to their way or little is accomplished.

When it came to auxiliary driving lamps, I chose the Cibie Airport series 35 (H2 – 55 watt bulb) rectangular lamps. These have a clear white lens and they most resembled those fitted to the Ferrari 288 GTO.

That decided, we began our work. My mentor on this project was once again Spencer Guder of Spencer Restoration in Canterbury, CT. I felt the headlamps needed changing because the outside surfaces were pitted. Spencer suggested that the interior surfaces might also be dirty, as these were not sealed beams. When I ran a clean cloth around the interiors I was surprised at how much dirt came off. Before disassembling the old units, we made indications on the back of the garage door showing where the existing Hellas had been focused. The passenger side light, the corner of the car that had been damaged, shone across into the oncoming lane. That explained why oncoming traffic was at times annoyed. Before he could install the new lights he had to straighten out the brackets holding the light assembly and without taking the whole front end apart he was limited in what he could accomplish. But he is patient, resourceful, and diligent and he managed to get it straightened out so it would work properly.

The Airport Series 35s were fitted with a harness and relays which Spencer made up. A control switch which illuminated when the lights were in use was fitted under the dash on the driver’s side. Not an ideal location as it turns out. At some point they were briefly on and, (I think I have mentioned that I am not particularly observant) I never noticed. The lights melted the clever black/silver Cibie covers. I promptly made them completely black with the use of a Sharpie.

The important point here is that once we had the whole set-up completed, adjusted the headlights properly, and measured them against the previous markings on the wall, it was time for a test. Unfortunately it was late and I was leaving the next day for the 17 States in 20 Days and One Pair of Underwear Tour so testing was postponed.

On the first day of the tour I left Philadelphia after dinner enroute to Pittsburgh via the Turnpike. An ideal opportunity to test the lights. First I was thrilled by how well the standard light worked. “Brilliant” was the right word. The moment of truth for the auxiliary lights came on a long stretch of straight road. While more than adequate, the difference between them and my high beams was marginal. At the next stop I adjusted them to aim a little higher. By doing this, I gained a fuller view and a gain in distance.





High Auxiliary

High Auxiliary

High Auxiliary Higher

High Auxiliary Higher

Here is what I draw from this. I was upgrading a 1978 system which had already been upgraded at least 18 years earlier and poorly adjusted. Forward lighting has made quantum leaps since the car was initially built and dramatically more in the intervening years since it had been upgraded. The original car would have benefitted greatly from the addition of the 55W Airport lights. Today’s equipment doesn’t need that help. When weighed, the inconvenience of having to remove the auxiliary light covers before use vs. an actual need for the lighting they rendered diminished them to a form of entertainment. Another toy with a switch. But they do look cool, in a 1960s way.

Dark in the dark

He’s Fast, He’s Funny & He’s Almost Fifty!

Posted on May 23, 2013 Comments (4)

#93 in the program, #1 in our hearts.

On May 8th we wrote the following to Tommy (TK) Kendall, the 46 year old American driver who will be part of the SRT Viper Team at Le Mans:

Hi Tommy, is a Goods and Services Directory and a weekly MMR Newsletter which has 4000 subscribers. We are mostly men and women of a certain age and we follow current sports car, F1, and Moto GP racing. 

Your participation at Le Mans this year, with your permission, will provide us with someone for whom to cheer. We chose you because you are accomplished, articulate, funny and just slightly closer in age to us than many of the other serious drivers both on your team and in the race. We want to root for you! 

While we don’t view this, or much else, with reverence; we are respectful… generally.

I hope you will take this in the fun spirit in which it is intended.


TK replied!

Hi Peter!

I meant to respond quickly with a quick, "#*@& off" in keeping with the spirit of your introduction, but with my tardy reply the chances of that being taken wrong have multiplied!!!

Thanks for bestowing the honor of your support upon me! I am most grateful!!

Enjoying the newsletter too!

Now, leave me alone!!


Great! So now we have someone to root for at Le Mans. Someone who is fast, funny and #*@&ing cranky! Maybe Milk of Magnesia would help. He can’t be out there racing against those Froggies for hours with an upset tummy and an attitude. What do you think? How can we help our pal and the SRT team?

From Beth Paretta – SRT Director of Marketing and Operations:

Please keep the disruptions to our thoroughbred to a minimum. We have someone brushing his mane as we speak.



Gotta run brushing session is complete, but I have a Grey Poupon facial followed by a Perrier bath to get acclimated.


We used to brush… hair and teeth… Don’t forget to bring your own American Depends. You can’t get the same sizes in France.


Duly noted! :-)

 Tommy Kendall

Tommy "TK" Kendall

308 Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale

Posted on May 16, 2013 Comments (3)

This week’s story is not so much about an upgrade, as it is a cautionary tale.

Early in the very late stages of the past century, my wife and I drove the WASRED 308 to Cavallino, an annual Ferrari fest held every January in West Palm Beach, Florida. We used the front tire well and rear trunk for luggage and even took along a set of golf clubs.

We stayed at the Colony Hotel in downtown West Palm Beach. “West Palm” is what we habitués call it. The Colony was, and probably still is, a well kept monument to the glory days of West Palm and nearby, still swishy, Worth Avenue. A number of its occupants are permanent residents whose presence reminds other patrons, and possibly themselves, of grander days.

Other than an ice storm in northern Virginia that forced us off Interstate 95 for a few hours, the trip was uneventful. Getting back on the highway in downtown Richmond we quickly discovered that while the sun had melted the roadway, the underpasses, where the water had been carried, remained glare ice. So the trick was to settle the car upon entry, pray the road didn’t bend and try to keep the front wheels pointed to where you wanted to go if you once again gained traction. Though slightly harrowing at first, it did add a measure of excitement to what is otherwise a thoroughly boring drive. It didn’t last forever but it was quite exciting while it did. At least for me.

Upon arrival at our hotel, I opened the rear boot (trunk) for the bellman to remove the luggage and when I came back it was closed and I parked the car. The next morning I opened the rear hatch to find that the mechanism which allows the lid to remain open had been disconnected and was broken. The doorman, not understanding the proper procedure had simply taken it apart and in the process broken it. The hotel was, as you might expect, mortified, but was immediately forthcoming and offered to pay all repair costs. This was, after all, a Ferrari. I don’t recall the exact costs but it will surprise no one that it was well north of $1,000. I learned a valuable lesson about leaving rear hatch operations to strangers.

Fast Forward fifteen years and some of you may have noticed in earlier pictures that the hatch lid is being supported by a yellow broom handle and may be wondering why. The rear hatch on a 1978 308 is steel. Later models appear to be much lighter and are probably made of aluminum. Later models are also supported by hydraulic struts on either side. My model has a rather ingenious mechanism that supports the hatch in a fixed upright position, the opening height is limited by the length of the supporting rod. The top of the rod is affixed to the hatch by a tough plastic knuckle, or universal joint, which allows the top of the rod to bend and fold down lengthways when the hatch is being closed. Ingenious but unnecessarily complex. The positive side is that it is strong and, being mechanical, not hydraulic, it should never need replacement. Uninformed hotel doormen aside, the only problem with the design is that upon reaching the top of its arc, the momentum of this heavy hatch being lifted is stopped, often suddenly, by it having reached the end of its travel. This sudden stop puts a shock on that little knuckle and it sometimes breaks. This is not uncommon.

Not surprising, Ferrari’s solution is to replace the whole unit.

Enter the MMR Goods and Services Directory and under the heading of Ferrari Parts is listed a small company called Unobtainium Supply Co. Verell Boaen is a retired electronic engineer who has a passion for Ferraris and has dedicated his talents to providing the no longer available (NLA) parts that classic and vintage Ferrari owners might require at reasonable prices.

The plastic cover for one of my seat belt housings is broken; Unobtainium Supply Co. has them. Unscratchable switch plate sets? Unobtainium Supply Co. has them. The part I want is the “latch housing” for the “boot.” Considering the fact that someone had to cast the part and the cost of its original alternative, $97 is a fair price and I have ordered one. It is companies such as Unobtainium Supply Co. that keep the ownership of vintage cars like the 308 fun and affordable and MMR urges you to visit their site and others in the MMR Goods and Services Directory, to purchase their products and to support their efforts. That is what MMR is all about!

Unobtainium Supply Co. created custom molds for, and supplied, these tail light lenses for the 1952 Ferrari 212 Pininfarina Cabriolet—one of the first two Ferraris built by Pininfarina. It is now being restored by Ferrari Classiche. If you watch closely you can see it at the back of the shop in this video.

You can download a catalog with contact information from the Unobtainium Supply web site.

Sandy on Assignment: Concours for a Cause

Posted on May 15, 2013 Comments (2)

By Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

I feel like I’ve come to a screeching halt! The Florida Concours season has basically ended, and the next onslaught of motorsports events hasn’t quite kicked into gear.

Before jumping into this summer’s adventures, I wanted to reflect on an event that has evolved into a top notch Concours and also raises a ton of money for charity. In only its seventh year, the Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance is a shining example of how to do it right. Many, if not all, Concours and even smaller car shows these days have a charity they support. The Boca event is the crown jewel of Concours for a Cause.

What makes this Concours stand out? Six million dollars and over 12,000 at-risk boys and girls. All-volunteer-driven, monies raised during this spectacular three-day weekend go directly to support the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County. When Rick Case, the inspiration and producer of the event, threw out the $6M figure, I had no clue if this was a lot of money in the world of motorsporting events. If a car can auction off for $13M, how do we put everything else in perspective? Look and listen next time you’re at a car event as to the amount raised for charity. Noteworthy, cumulative charitable giving by the Amelia Island Concours Foundation, entering its 18th year, was $2M, and Pebble Beach eased into its 62nd year with $15M in total giving. So $6M in seven years is astonishing, and part of the distinction for this “fastest growing and most charitable Concours in the world,” as it rightfully boasts.

The timeless 1960 Mercedes 300 SL Roadster.

The timeless 1960 Mercedes 300 SL Roadster.

Chairman’s Choice Award winner, Corrado Loprestos’ 1931 Alfa Romeo GS 6C 1750 Zagato/Aprile, was a 2012 Pebble Beach winner.

Chairman’s Choice Award winner, Corrado Loprestos’ 1931 Alfa Romeo GS 6C 1750 Zagato/Aprile, was a 2012 Pebble Beach winner.

The fun thing for us mere mortal enthusiasts is that Boca’s Concours is actually something we all can afford. The weekend-long event kicked off Friday with an inaugural first, the complimentary collector car seminar, which could net you a tremendous gain if you are in the market for a classic car! The Collector Car Market – the Past Five Years and the Five Years to Come was moderated by the Grand Marshal for the Concours, Keith Martin, with panelists Wayne Carini, Tom duPont, Dave Kinney, Bill Rothermel and Dr. Paul Sable. I felt like I was getting insider tips! Explosive was how they described the last five years. Television has brought more people into the automobile investment market, noted Wayne Carini. Barrett Jackson and Mecum have become household names!

So, why are classic car prices running up? The general consensus was that the wealthy have cash parked and are now unleashing it and truly enjoying the cars they buy. Getting into the classic car hobby? A word of advice from Tom duPont, “You should well vet your purchases.” Auctions are emotional, so do your homework ahead of time and hire consultants to help you evaluate a car before buying. Along with vetting your purchases, well-thought-out financial and estate planning will net you and your heirs higher returns in the long run.

Rupert Banner, Bonhams auctioneer, joins the panel to share trends in the collector car market.

Rupert Banner, Bonhams auctioneer, joins the panel to share trends in the collector car market.

Quirky and unique, Saharas are exceedingly rare with only about two dozen surviving.

Quirky and unique, Saharas are exceedingly rare with only about two dozen surviving.

A show stopper, the fully restored 1962 Jaguar XKE, Series 1 3.8 Liter fixed head coupe in opalescent bronze sold for $165,000.

A show stopper, the fully restored 1962 Jaguar XKE, Series 1 3.8 Liter fixed head coupe in opalescent bronze sold for $165,000.

Also making its debut at Boca, Bonhams inaugural auction on Saturday was a chance for spectators to roam freely among the auction cars lining the entrance to the luxurious Boca Raton Resort and Club. Entry into the auction was a bargain—and great entertainment! Do I know how to pick them, or what? I must, because the photo snapped, the day before, was next to the 1962 Citroen 2CV Sahara 4X, which unleashed an uproar in bidding, between the audience and phone bidders.    

This Concours weekend also boasted high-end lifestyle events, including the duPont Registry Live! Hanger Party. And, yes, a pricey Gala drew in many East Coast high rollers. At the end of the day, what mattered most was that everyone attending had a blast and made a difference in a child’s life. By keeping the children in the forefront, even before the cars, guests were engaged in the Cause throughout the entire weekend. Gracious and constant appreciation for everyone’s support abounded.

I winked back at the stunning 1969 Lamborghini Miura S!

I winked back at the stunning 1969 Lamborghini Miura S!

Thanks to Dr. Paul Sable and his team of judges!

Thanks to Dr. Paul Sable and his team of judges!

20s Flappers pose with the 1929 Willys Knight 66B.

‘20s Flappers pose with the 1929 Willys Knight 66B.

So on to the Concours! This isn’t “just” a car show. I recognized cars from the Cavallino Sports Sunday at Mar-A-Lago which, by the way, has a $250 gate entry fee verses the Boca $50 general admission. Several cars were even on the fairway at Amelia two weeks later, so Boca is evolving as a great layover for top Florida Concours cars. There were upward of 200 cars and motorcycles representing over 24 classes ranging from 1924 Brass, Antique, and Vintage cars through every era of American and European classic and production cars, as well as foreign sports cars and special marque features: Bentley, Rolls Royce, and Lamborghini. Motorcycles had ten classes of their own.

The field was clearly laid out by a team of volunteers headed by the Director of Show Operations, Russell Glace, in the wee hours of the morning. You may not have given it much thought, but two strong factors in the success of a Concours are the judges and the Master of Ceremonies, both of whom are top notch at Boca. Dr. Paul Sable serves as Chief Judge, with a compliment of 21 lead judges, supported by an additional 24 show car judges. Bill Rothermel, another gem in the world of Concours Master of Ceremonies, joined Tom duPont in keeping the show moving, while offering an entertaining history lesson on each awardee. Besides seeing beautiful cars, you actually got to learn something!

Emerson Fittipaldi, F1 1972 Champion and Indianapolis 500 two time winner.

Emerson Fittipaldi, 1972 and 1974 F1 Champion and two time Indianapolis 500 winner.

My ears perked up when the Concours’ 2013 Automotive Lifetime Achievement Awardee and motorsports racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi stepped onto the awards stage on Sunday. His praise for the fundraising efforts of the Concours was quite touching.

Hagerty Youth Judges hover over the 1946 MG TC S-Type.

Hagerty Youth Judges hover over the 1946 MG TC S-Type.

Another aspect of this Concours, which I think was pretty special, was the cadre of Hagerty Youth Judges. Now in its seventh year, Operation Ignite, the Hagerty Insurance Youth Judging Program, brought its program to the Boca Concours for a second year. While nurturing future generations of classic car enthusiasts, the judging program actually gives these boys and girls a chance to learn how to judge a car based on design, interior, electrical, paint, and engine. Owners were only too happy to share the history and uniqueness of their cars. The Hagerty Youth Judges’ winning choice was a 1985 Lamborghini Countach 5000S, a classic for their generation!

Entertainment added to the festive Concours!

Entertainment added to the festive Concours!

Sandy’s favorite, the 1958 Porsche 356A Speedster.

Sandy’s favorite, the 1958 Porsche 356A Speedster.

If it’s February in Florida, Concours for a Cause, the Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance, is a great choice for your next year’s winter vacation.