“Will you sell me your Duetto?”

It was really a two-part question. It started with, “I’m looking to buy my first Italian sports car,” and ended with, “and I wondered if you would sell me your Duetto?”

There was more, of course. My friend has always owned Porsches, and recently sold his air-cooled Carrera 4S. He’s no stranger to older cars, as he owns a Jaguar E-type V12 S3 roadster. He participates in a variety of club rallies and multi-day tours.

“My wife does like her comforts, so I would prefer it be a classic that was easy to live with. I’d like to spend around $75,000.”

While I would be glad to take that much for our 1967 Duetto, it’s really only worth $60k on the best day of its life. And my family is still enjoying it. But there are other reasons I won’t sell him the car.

First, for someone used to the Jag, the Duetto is not going to cut it in terms of overall performance or comfort.

The E-type, with its 272-horsepower, 5.3-liter engine, just lopes along at 70 mph. The Duetto, with its 109-hp, 1,600-cc engine is no slouch, but is simply in a different, less-powerful league. Further, there is no A/C and the cabin is Spartan, with a focus on sportiness rather than comfort.

But this got me thinking: What would be a good first Italian sports car in the $75k-$100k price range?

I prefer to stay with analog cars. When set up right, they tend to stay right. There’s no chance of the dreaded, “Your engine computer is dead and there are no replacements.”

I’ve decided to recommend he look for a 1983-85 Ferrari 308 GTS QV. As he is over six feet tall, he simply won’t fit in the GTB.

I sold 328s at Ron Tonkin Ferrari when they were new and have owned a few 308s over the years.

They have enough performance, still look good, and offer reasonable comfort for touring. The right magician can even get the A/C to work well enough — at least for our milder Pacific Northwest summers.

These cars were in the $30k-$40k range forever but have shot up in the last few years. You can get into one in the $60k-$70k range, and the best cars are now twice that. A 328 will be quite a bit more while the slower, two-valve injected 308s sell for less. I’ve always thought the four-valve “quattrovalvole” cars were the sweet spot.

With a total production for all 308 variants of over 12,000, there are always a few for sale. There is simply no reason to chase after a car that doesn’t have a documented history and is in tip-top shape.

I think for under $100k, he should be able to find a car with no stories and belts freshly done, ready to be driven on tours and enjoyed.

So that’s what I am going to recommend. Would you agree?


  1. I can’t argue the logic. The 308 is a proven platform, the engines are really quite durable. Parts are available and they appear to be rather easy to work on for the DIY type and there are quite a few video’s on YouTube that will help guide you along.

    They also seem to hold their value, mileage won’t effect them. Drive and enjoy!!

  2. Why not? All your points are valid. Maybe one of the easier ones to live with too, over time. I ran into a fellow at a little local car show in San Diego a couple weeks ago with a slightly tatty example, 165000+ miles on it, his daily driver. (He has other Ferraris also) He does about 90% of his own maintenance (yes, belts too) in his average garage. Inspiring.

  3. Hm … not sure if I would go the Ferrari route for your friend. Good cars but … I think there can be more creative choices, pending what he likes. while I might not rule out the awesome 4 cyl Alfas (Your friend should drive a good Duetto or GT Veloce to see if this type of car is to his liking), if your friend really prefers more comfortable cars, why not a Lancia Flavia, preferably a Pininfarina coupe? Stylish, easier maintenance that can be done by any Italian expert and a fantastic ride with easy controls. Your friend appears to cherish “youngtimers” a bit more and is looking for comfort features, so I might go the Ferrari 456 route instead or, if he wants to truly stand out and prefers a unique design, an Alfa Romeo SZ ES-30.

    Other classics form the golden age to consider in this price range are the Maserati Mistral coupe, Maserati Sebring, Lancia Flaminia Touring or PF Coupes and a few others. those might require more specialized support but, overall, are not more expensive to maintain than a 308 and very reliable once set up. Granted, they are not as easy to find compared to an ubiquitous 308, but at least to me, the hunt for something a little more special is half the fun.

  4. Any Magnum PI fan would agree. I have noticed that, I tend to gravitate to what I call poster cars as of late. I have the beliefs that if it was on a poster hanging on my wall, a tv/movie that I liked or a model kit I put together seem to out weigh other factors like speed, comfort or even power windows.
    To support this I will be starting to finishing of my 77 Y82 (Bandit Car), which my performance friends fought with me on that purchase, I just finished my 69 Corvette a bit like those driven by the Apollo teams, I have spent the last year refinishing a 1992 MBZ 300CE like the ones seen in Rap Videos/LP covers of the 80/90’s and last my 1989 Corvette is like the one the faceman drove on the A-team (a nickname of mine in my Frat days).
    So, for me the 308 will always be in style and will always make a statement regardless of where you are seen in it

  5. How about a 308 GT4? Right in your friend’s price range for a clean driver, twice the room of a GTB or GTS for both driver and passengers (and/or dog), and highway quiet and smooth for extended trips. And best of all, no Magnum PI jokes at the local cars and coffee!

  6. Leslie A Roberts

    I think that’ll be just fine. But then again, I just paid money to drive a 2CV for a full day, so my opinion may be suspect.

    • Hilarious ! reminded me of a recent rental of Fiat Cinque Centos for the day. My GF got the performance model ( 18HP ) while I enjoyed the standard ( 15 HP ) version roaming the hills around Florence. Never stop driving.

  7. 911.

  8. Apparently he’s already had 911s. And I think Keith was specifically referring to Italian cars.

    I agree on the 308, but with the proviso that he find either an early carbureted car, which may cost more than $100K, or a QV. The two-valve FI cars are anemic in performance by comparison.

    3×8 Ferraris are the last user-serviceable cars, and as you point out, no computers to collapse and drive you nuts. They do have their foibles, but at this point there is a big community of owners and many indee shops to work on them. Parts are fairly reasonable, considering they are for a Ferrari, AND there are a slew of aftermarket upgrades such as fuse panels which make the car safer, more reliable, and more fun to drive.

    And, most significantly, the old adage about “when you buy something, always think about the next owner after you” applies in spades, here. Since it’s a Ferrari, when you’re done with it, someone else WILL want it.

  9. If your friend is much over 6 feet he is going to be pretty cramped in a 308. At 6′ 8″ I bought a Mondial 3.2 cab in 2002 and still love it ( I talked to you about it and parked next to Kermit at Concourso Italiano that year). I know they are normally ridiculed by those that don’t own them but the top goes all the way down for a real open car experience; they sound, feel and drive great and are fairly roomy with top up or down.

  10. From the analog point of view, the 1973 de Tomaso Pantera would fit the bill and you don’t have to speak Italian to get it serviced. I drove one from Las Vegas to Portland, Oregon many years ago. Shaped like a wing and likes to fly.

  11. Wasn’t the 308 the “Magnum P.I.” car?? Or, as my wife calls it “Magnum P.U. (she was no fan of the show!)