MMR Blog

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Mirrors

Posted on July 18, 2013 Comments (3)

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

The Car Designer’s Curse

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS Mirrors

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS Mirrors

Though the process was at times humiliating, I still remember the amazing sense of wellbeing that always accompanied the wearing of my first tailor made suit.

The salesman said I had a perfect body. It would complement the fabric, he said. The tailor’s notes indicated my back was hunched, one shoulder was higher than the other, same with the hip on the opposite side, and my knees were bowed (three fingers). Almost perfect.

Though far better, few automobiles today are a custom fit. In 1978, owners were expected to fit Ferraris. Ferraris were not made to fit owners. Elsewhere on the site I have discussed the minor adjustments made to steering wheel and pedals to better accommodate my body and driving style, now let’s talk about mirrors.

Other than the need to identify creeping constabulary, good drivers are constantly checking rearview mirrors to know what else might soon be a part of their immediacy. This is generally done with the centered rearview cabin mirror. The WASRED 308 center mirror is perfectly proportioned and positioned. The daytime/nighttime detent feature is controlled by pressing the mirror across a plastic strip containing a small ridge. One side of the ridge holds the mirror to deflect nighttime headlight glare, the other gives you a daytime image of everything behind you. With time the plastic detent strip wears or breaks and leaves you with only the daytime position. You cannot replace the strip. You must replace the mirror and you must then make a Ferrari ownership decision involving cost and value. A single position is fine on the WASRED 308.

The outside mirrors are where the custom suit analogy applies and since these mirrors are affixed at the factory, it doesn’t. The model for the 308 driver is 5 ft. 8 inches tall, has a 24 inch inseam, a 34 incharm length and weighs 150 pounds. An adult chimp would do fine. He can sit comfortably below the removable Targa roof and also see the two side mirrors reasonably well through the quarter windows. I am 6 feet tall with a 30 inch inseam and 31 inch sleeve length and I weigh 175 pounds. Other than the aforementioned deformities, I am reasonably well proportioned. The seat cushion has been depressed with age and use and I now have ample head room. BTW, the seats are amazingly comfortable for me. My problem is that the position of the side mirrors requires me to lean forward and down in order to use the mirrors and even then, the rear quarter outward view is very limited.

European mirrors offer a split rear view, with a partially convex portion of the mirror, allowing a view of vehicles that may be slightly behind and away from the view offered by a simple flat mirror. For some reason that is not allowed in North America.

I initially replaced the original mirrors with Vitaloni mirrors that I liked better. That was an improvement. Later, with the help of The Garage Valet, Jim Miga, we drilled new holes in the door and repositioned the mirrors lower.

It aint Pretty

Still dissatisfied, I added a small convex mirror that I purchased from Griot’s Garage to give me a hint of the action that may be taking place in an area I could otherwise not see. Perhaps, I should add another to the passenger side.

Driver’s view

Purists shudder. Then again purists don’t have 150K+ miles on their speedos either.