MMR Blog

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Cooling System Part 4

Posted on May 2, 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 eleventh in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

Improved Cooling – Fans

If there has been a consistent theme to this series, other than the fact that with skilled help even the inept can succeed, it is that each part we changed was an appreciable upgrade.

If the shiny aluminum radiator was a visual and technical improvement over the 35 year old lump it replaced, the fan change was absolutely essential. State of the art in 1978 was twin fans hanging from a structural support above and aimed at the upper part of the radiator. Probably an inspired design at the time, but, 35 years later, with all the advances we have seen in cooling systems, this just looks inept.

Old fan mounted sans radiator

The two metal fan motors, even with plastic props, weigh three pounds each. The single plastic fan weighs less than a pound and bolts directly to the air conditioning condenser which is bolted directly to the radiator. I can’t find a number on the original fan motors that gives the amperage draw but they are fused at 20 Amps and if they were 15 Amps draw new they have certainly changed with age. The replacement unit has a draw of 11 Amps. Less weight, less draw equals win-win.

We looked at a website The Fanman and reviewed our options, one fan or two, shrouded fans or not, and blocking the sides of the fans to the fenders to channel more air to the fan were all considered. In the end, we felt that simply mounting a 14” fan to the AC condenser/radiator unit would be more than the original delivered and more than enough for our needs. The fan was less than $120.

Assembly seen through grill

The fan is triggered by a sensor, once the temperature of the coolant reaches 183 degrees. As mentioned in the hose story, hot engine coolant travels from the right side of the engine through aluminum tubing beneath the floor on the center-left side beside the driver’s right leg to the top of the radiator on the driver’s left. That’s what keeps the driver’s side a little cozier than the passenger’s side. When the fan is working, you can feel its cooling influence all the way down to the lower right of the rad where coolant moves out and back to the engine to begin the process again.

On the road less hood

Spencer Guder of Spencer Restorations in Canterbury, CT, did all of the work and I basically asked questions, ran for parts and tools, and otherwise stayed out of the way. He once again worked in my garage. He brought with him a Dremel to cut and shape metal, and all the tools such as crimpers, heat gun, and parts to make up or adjust a wiring harness. Because the car had once been damaged on the right front he had to do repairs to the existing framework for the radiator/AC condenser/fan unit and reshape parts of the incoming unit to fit the new shape. This is not something a simple amateur can do. But a simple amateur would try.

I believed that attaching a new fan to a new condenser with four bolts and a harness would be the easiest part of this whole operation. What I learned from Spencer is this: the 1978 Ferrari is not a production line car like we see today and there were probably small adjustments made at the factory that allowed this whole unit to come together. Thirty-five years later, and at least one repair in the area, we are trying to fit parts together that were never designed for this car, have different specs that must mate with remaining original parts, make wiring harnesses come together and it simply is not simple. Even if the car were perfect, getting these non-factory parts to come together takes experience, ingenuity, special tools and skill. The final four attaching bolts? I can do that. Maybe!

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Cooling System Part 3

Posted on April 25, 2013 Comments (2)

Improved Cooling – Hoses & Fans

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

A Hose! A Hose! My Kingdom for a Hose!

When last we left you we had installed a new radiator at the front of our WASRED 308 and a new water pump at the back. Now to connect them.

There are 10 hoses and six formed aluminum tubes carrying coolant between the radiator and the engine. Only two hoses are easily visible and, other than the top radiator hose, none are easily accessible. I should point out here that a very long (24”) blade screwdriver is indispensible. My engine was rebuilt by IFS 11 years ago and at the time the best coolant hose available was a Gates Green Stripe. Coolant hoses are sold in either preformed bent shapes of single or multiple bends, flexible hoses of varying lengths, or straight stiff hoses in various lengths called “sticks”. All ten hoses but one, the 90 degree hose from the top of the radiator, are straight and short. Most auto parts stores have their hoses hanging from a rack on the wall. I took my old hose, which was fine, and found a hose on the wall that was the right length after the bend, paid about $12 cut it to size and also bought a stick of Gates Green Stripe for not much more. I was set. Getting to the hoses was something else.

The “hot” one, carrying coolant from the engine back to the top left of the radiator runs nearest the driver. The hoses are routed under the center of the car between the floor pan and the floor of the cabin. That accounts for the cozy cabin temperatures in the winter and the sauna like temperatures in the summer. I raised the car about eighteen inches off the floor in the front and a little higher in the back so that the engine coolant would drain and got to it. Most of the hoses are accessible, though not easily, but the few that aren’t… simply are not and take longer.

I used the same gasket sealant I used on the water pump and it served as a lubricant to ease the hoses over flared tubing ends. It wasn’t easy, but it was finally done when I learned about the Gates “Gold Stripe” hose! A new, higher quality hose. It really bothered me that the car was sitting there with second level hoses. It didn’t bother me for long. I ordered a fresh stick of Gates “Gold Stripe” and took the system apart before the gasket goo had even set. I didn’t change the 90 degree hose from the top of the radiator. I got it all finished and felt much better.

Then I learned that racers were using silicone hoses.

Upper Rad hose

Once again, I was bothered that a more reliable product was available and since I had the time, I ordered a stick of the silicone hose and a 90 degree hose and started all over again. The images shown here are of the silicon hose installed. The Ford Engine Blue color doesn’t go with my car but it matches the floor of my garage. The whole package cost about $100 from Racer Parts Wholesale.

Rad hoses

A couple of other things to share. First, the original hose clamps are what are called “Norma” style clamps. They are elegant (3/8 inch wide) and I am certain that they are also excellent. In my ham handed exuberance, I stripped two of them and then switched to the beefier Tridon unit (9/16” inch wide) from the local NAPA store. Once you have put these things on three times, “pretty” loses its appeal.

Norma on right

Second, the two formed aluminum coolant tubes from the radiator converge in the center of the car. Access to the hoses that connect these tubes to the straight tubes that run the length of the car is through a panel secured to the underside by four bolts. The two hoses are about four inches long and not particularly difficult to change. Left to their own devices, these tubes may rattle about down there, or, worse still, rub against each other and create a problem which would be difficult to solve on a roadside. Your challenge is the same one faced by the man who designed the Maidenform bra. You must somehow firmly secure and separate the two entities. I chose that word carefully. And the answer to the unasked question is: through the judicious use of two tiewraps or zip-ties or cable-ties. The first circles both tubes and brings them comfortably, but not tightly, close together. The second goes around the first tiewrap only, between the tubes and parallel to them. By tightening down the second tiewrap you tighten the first and at the same time separate the two tubes. Ingenious!

Third, tools. Conventional rad hoses can be cut with a saw. Silicone responds better to a knife. Sears offers a hose cutting scissor knife, for short money that works wonderfully. I have enclosed an image of the sealant I used. Great stuff, just don’t get it on your clothes.

Magic Goo

After all this, the question has to be, did he cheat? And the answer is, absolutely! The hose behind the thermostat housing goes between the carburetors in the intake manifold and you must take the housing off to get at it. Even then it is a bitch to do. Having done it twice, I wasn’t going to do it again. Besides, it is hidden. There is a lesson in all this somewhere.


A week after completing this task, I was working on the Goods and Services Directory when I ran across Scuderia Rampante of Boulder Co. The owner/operator, Dave Helms, specializes in the repairs and restoration of Ferraris and is an online Ferrari Guru. For purists, SR offers black 100% silicone hoses in various lengths up to 12 feet. Scuderia Rampante offers a complete kit for 308s that includes clamps.


As I was finishing this story I received an answer to an enquiry I sent Dave Helms about his products.


I designed both our silicone coolant and silicone fuel hoses from scratch with the help of a team of defense contractor design engineers... nothing better has ever been built on either hose application. On the fuel hose (supply hose) we designed for 2.5 PSI and they quit testing when 100 PSI was exceeded, no finer can be found, Period. We have International Patents pending as it is an entirely new design.

All of our hoses are made specifically for Ferrari applications, not some SAE hose stretched to fit. I wanted it done right, done once and never have to do it again. The engineers thought I had snapped with no resale expectation but... I hate hoses and only did this because there are NO other legitimate alternatives.


Dave Helms represents what the MMR Goods and Services Directory is really all about. People who, in the vernacular of another time, “get it”. They understand that good enough isn’t good enough and the best requires extra effort but is worth it.

I’m certain we will be following up on this in the coming issues.

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 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.