Ferrari 308 GTSiClick to enlarge picture

Ferrari is one of the most recognized names in the world, and the 308 series is one of the most popular Ferraris ever produced.

The name Ferrari may bring to mind current production cars such as the 360 Modena, which sells for $136,000 and up—or recent production cars such as the exclusive F50, which sells for as much as $700,000 today. Or Ferrari may evoke the Italian classics from the '50s and '60s—cars that sell for tens of millions of dollars when they change hands at collector car auctions and private sales around the world.

With prices like these, not to mention recent U.S. economic turbulence, many may feel the dream of owning a Ferrari will always remain just that: a fantasy. But would you believe that for the price of a loaded Honda Accord, or a nice midsize SUV, you can experience the mystique and joy of owning and driving a Ferrari?

As a matter of fact, there are quality Ferraris selling for less than $40,000—and even as low as $20,000—that can be driven with confidence and enjoyed for many years.

MSN Autos spoke with Ferrari experts around the U.S. for suggestions on what models to look for—and look out for—when making the Ferrari dream a reality.

Affordable Ferrari Models
The 308 series of V8-powered, mid-engine two-seaters is certainly one of the most recognized of all Ferrari models. Ferrari introduced the 308 GTB in 1975 and added the 308 GTS with a removable roof panel in 1978. The Ferrari 308 GTS became well known to most Americans as the car driven by Tom Selleck in the popular '80s TV series, Magnum PI. The 308 GTB and GTS were produced through 1985 and replaced in 1986 with the revised 328 GTB/GTS.

More of the Ferrari 308 series were produced than any other Ferrari model, and most of this series will sell for less than $40,000 today. With some diligent research and patience, a buyer should be able to find 308s in good condition for less than $30,000 and maybe even closer to $20,000.

But a pre-owned Ferrari is not just another used car. A buyer must be very careful about the car being bought, or thousands of dollars of service work may be needed before the car is roadworthy and in proper form.

"To find a Ferrari in the $30,000 to 35,000 price range, as a buyer you will be looking at a car that is 15 to 20 years old, and it is a hand-built Italian sports car that can be temperamental and doesn't age well in the wrong hands," explained Carl Cannefax, director of sales at MotorCars International in Springfield, Missouri. MotorCars International sells more than 100 Ferraris each year, and Cannefax has been with the dealership for 12 years.

"Evaluating a Ferrari 308 is not something that the average person on the street can do effectively," Cannefax cautions. "A buyer needs to hook up with someone trustworthy who has experience with these cars to find a crisp, clean car with a good history."

Tino Perrina, vice president of Ferrari of Seattle, told MSN Autos, "Once a buyer finds a car worth considering, they need to find a trustworthy technician or dealership and take the car there for a buyer's inspection."

"I emphasize finding someone you trust, because you're dealing with cars that are 15 to 20 years old, so you have to have faith in that technician, because I can tell you today that your water pump is not leaking, and in a week that water pump can start leaking," Perrina pointed out.

Mechanical and Cosmetic
The mechanical service history of a Ferrari is one of the most important factors when evaluating a car before purchase, but it is equally important to evaluate how the car looks, both inside and out.

"Mechanically a car can usually be brought back into perfect condition, but it can be much more difficult to put it back into perfect condition cosmetically" cautions Andy Meyer, a Ferrari specialist at Park Place Ltd. in Bellevue, Washington.

"If a Ferrari 308 GTB/GTS needs to be painted, you are looking at $5,000 minimum, and if the leather seat covers need to be replaced—or the carpet or the dash cover—you are also looking at spending thousands and thousands of dollars to fix it correctly," Meyer explained.

"We are not as concerned with how many owners a car has had as we are with the service history," Cannefax noted. "A Ferrari without complete service history records is very difficult to sell, and the question that everyone needs to ask with a 308 GTB/GTS is whether the major service has been done."

Cannefax put maintenance in perspective: "A major service is the equivalent to an "annual" maintenance on an airplane, and Ferrari requires a major service every 15,000 miles or five years on a 308 GTB/GTS. He noted that the most important element of this service is changing the timing belts, because if a belt breaks in a 308 engine it will cause thousands of dollars of damage.

And when it's a Ferrari, where the service was performed is just as important as what was performed, according to Steven Eckhoff, sales manager of Ferrari of Atlanta. "If you are not buying a car from an authorized Ferrari dealer, you need to have an independent third party evaluate the car, because if you get the wrong car the potential expense is significant. A major service on a 308 GTSi will cost $4,000," Eckhoff explained.

Ferrari of Seattle's Perrina told MSN Autos, " . . . even a 308, if you buy the wrong car, it can cost you $5,000 or $10,000 dollars [in additional service and repairs]. As with anything, you need to be an educated buyer. Take the time to do some research yourself and to make sure that this is the right car for you."

Other Ferraris to Consider
Prior to the introduction of the 308 GTB in 1975, Ferrari produced the 308 GT4, a mid-engine four-seat car that uses the same drivetrain as the 308 GTB. Produced for only three years, the 308 GT4 does not have as sleek a body as the 308 GTB, but the driving experience is very similar.

A nice 308 GT4 can be a good value in an inexpensive, fun-to-drive Ferrari. MSN Autos saw one example of a 1973 308 GT4 with only 13,000 original miles that would sell for less than $30,000. With higher mileage, a GT4 would probably sell close to $20,000, or even less.

The Ferrari Mondial is also a mid-engine four-seater that shares the drivetrain with the 308 GTB and GTS. The Mondial was introduced in 1980 and the Mondial Cabriolet in 1982, and most of the early examples should be in the $30,000 - 40,000 range.

Perrina told MSN Autos, "You can get a lot of Mondial for the same money compared to a 308. The Mondial has a different look and has not been valued as highly. For $40,000 you can get a wonderful driving car with a 3.2-liter engine and somewhat of a back seat."

Time to Enjoy
Once a new owner has verified that the major servicing has been done, or has personally had it completed, the end result is a car that can be enjoyed for years to come.

A Ferrari is typically not a car to drive on a daily basis, but it certainly can be driven often, giving the owner a sense of pride and a taste of the Ferrari mystique.

"Ferrari is one of the world's most recognized names. You say Ferrari and people get that look in their eyes—there are very few people who don't recognize the name," Perrina reflected.

"There is a passion behind the car, there is a culture. It's art, not to discount the performance characteristics of the car. It's just an absolutely awesome time when you are behind the wheel," Perrina revealed.

Putting it all in perspective, the cost of a car is no one's business but the owner's. No one needs to know your Ferrari isn't a brand-new machine, and most people simply won't know—but nearly everyone will share your enthusiasm for the car.

"I drive a Ferrari because I absolutely love the drive. You know, it's flattering to get the 'Hey, nice car,' but that is not a big deal," concluded Perrina. "When you drive that car and you're shifting gears, and the engine is making music, and you are one with that piece of machinery, it's pretty awesome."

Where to Start
If you are ready to start your search for a Ferrari, you may want to check the current listings on eBay Motors, or begin with the Ferrari North America Web site.

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