Column Zeitsprünge | Ferrari 328 GTS – Two tracks in the snow

Ferrari 328 GTS

Not exactly the perfect car for winter, but unexpectedly suitable for everyday use even at this time of year. Even after ten years, the Ferrari 328 GTS is still as exciting as on the first day.

Whenever Helmut Mander answers the phone, you know that the managing director of the company “Autexpo” has news to tell about Ferrari – for example, that business is better than ever, after all, this Italian brand with the legendary reputation has been reporting steadily rising sales figures for years.

On the one hand, this is probably due to the fact that the production cars – if one can speak of “production” at all with about 3,400 cars built per year – have been brought to series maturity with FIAT money since 1969 (only the racing car department still reports directly to Enzo Ferrari), on the other hand, a well-equipped Porsche 911 Turbo or a BMW M 635 CSi is not much cheaper. And Ferrari still offers a little more flair.

Occasionally – every two or three years or so – Helmut Mander also offers the opportunity to drive one of these cars for four or five days. It’s never one of the legendary twelve-cylinder 412i or Testarossa models – which, with a production share of about 15 per cent, play a minor role – but even the eight-cylinder models are still capable of conveying plenty of driving pleasure.

When the call came at the beginning of October, he offered a Ferrari 328 GTS, the type designation of which is broken down as follows: 32 stands for 3.2 litres of displacement, 8 for the number of cylinders, GT means Gran Turismo and the S indicates that this is the Spider variant, with the roof removable. So it’s actually a Targa – but GTT wouldn’t have sounded so good.

In the autumn of that year, both variations of the 328 (it is also available as the 328 GTB with a fixed roof) had to undergo important model maintenance measures – which were intended to make it more attractive again.

THE ENGINE OF THE FERRARI 328 GTS

The engine now has a displacement of 3.2 litres – to be precise, it grew from 2,927 cc to 3,185 cc, and with it the power output also increased from 240 to 270 hp. Besides this 12.5 percent increase in power, however, the 17 percent increase in maximum torque 26.5 mkg to 31 mkg seems significant – because it made this engine even more “comfortable”. And indeed, it is always the engines that make the specific appeal of these exotics: All the know-how of a company that has been successfully developing racing cars for 37 years now has been brought in.

Everything that is good and expensive provides 270 hp: eight cylinders, four overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and an electronic injection and ignition system.

The result – which could hardly have been realised in this perfection without FIAT’s millions – convinces with spontaneous starting even at temperatures below freezing, with an impressive power delivery up to the rev limiter at 7,700 rpm and with an everyday usability never expected.

For this purpose, the front and rear sections were modified, visually adapted to the Testarossa – this is also associated with an improvement of the Cw value, which contributes its part to the increase and the maximum speed to over 280 km/h. The speed limit of 100 km/h, which is valid on German country roads, is reached after 6.4 seconds – all in all, values that suit the house with the prancing horse very well.

And the interior of the Ferrari 328 GTS has also been revised: A new dashboard, a new centre console, a lot of leather, a lot of chrome and a lot of buttons that first require the owner to spend some time with the owner’s manual – which is now also printed in German.

FERRARI 328 GTS – The RIGHT CAR AT THE WRONG TIME

When we called in October, everything was clear: the Ferrari 328 GTS was available from 17 November. Now, the weather forecasters on the news are wrong more often than the weather satellites should allow – how could we have known in October that Munich would be covered in snow in November?

So a red Ferrari – what other colour could it have been? – And the fact that these qualities were demonstrated in other areas than a frustrated Ferrari driver had imagined for five days was really not the fault of this car.

First of all, the automotive environment shows more consideration and compassion (pity?) than one might expect – this may be partly due to the fact that the drivers of this brand nowadays rarely belong to a professional category that makes one fear for the honour and innocence of possibly growing daughters (this profession has meanwhile switched to a brand from Swabia, which will soon be celebrating a round anniversary). Nowadays, these are often quite normal Porsche drivers for whom the Porsche is no longer “normal” enough.

Secondly, it can get to your heart when a Ferrari with Pirelli P7 tyres of 225/50 VR 15 calibre struggles to find a foothold in front of you – a helping hand can quickly be found when you need to get over a wall of snow. And a mound of snow can be as much as 10 or 20 centimetres high, after all, the spoiler is already bending towards the road at this height.

And thirdly, everyone has to see what the car could do if a stable high-pressure situation were to allow it – and so one enjoys the
the sight of the Pininfarina-styled bodywork, which has lost none of its charm in exactly ten years. After all, it rarely rolls alongside you this slowly.

Now everyone knows that there are decades of experience in building racing and high-performance sports cars in this car – all the test reports praise the roadholding, the steering, the brakes. They say that only a few drivers can really use all the reserves – that’s probably good for our roads and the owners, too.

THE FERRARI 328 GTS IN UNFAMILIAR TERRAIN

I was only able to ascertain a little of this – after all, it would be a shameful feeling to have wrecked the importer’s demonstration car and thus at the same time ensure that the next call from Mr Mander would certainly be several years in coming.

On the other hand, a few strengths and weaknesses were brought to light on a day that was riddled with cold and driving snow: Even when the car was covered with a two-centimetre-thick layer of ice overnight, the engine started at the first turn of the key and lapsed into a stable idle. The first and third gears were also immediately ready to take up everyday business – the second (Ferrari drivers have known this for decades) might not play along until it was warm enough. However, since this engine also received at 1,500 rpm without any problems, this does not bother in everyday use – and just shifts from first directly into third gear.

The heating is also better than its Italian home would suggest – the interior is quickly and powerfully warm, the windows quickly and safely clear. It is more problematic in the footwell, where even the owner’s manual could not provide any information on how the heat could be conducted into the depths – but perhaps only one of the many sliders was pushed incorrectly.

It was less the power development that caused excitement than the clearly limited lateral support of the Pirelli tyres, which demanded more attention from the driver at 20 km/h than the 328 GTS would otherwise do at 220 km/h. But this is not a weakness of this car. But this is not a weakness of this car, any car with 270 hp, a mid-engine and wide tyres would “do” that on snow and ice.

After five rather frustrating days, which earned me the sympathy of an astonishing number of people – “Can’t you afford a real car?” -, Helmut Mander then took delivery of the car with obvious reassurance. He indicated that he was happy – after all, he had just got 112,300 marks back in one piece -, we regretted together the bad luck with the weather and decided to try again together in the spring. When the weather was clear, the roads dry and the car cleaned of salt and dirt. I am waiting for your next call, Mr Mander.

This text first appeared in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on 28 December 1985.


Photos Hexagon Classics

Author: Jürgen Lewandowski

Jürgen Lewandowski schreibt seit mehr als 40 Jahren über Menschen und Autos - und hat mehr als 100 Bücher veröffentlicht. Traumklassiker: Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Touring Spider und Lancia Rally 037. Eigener Klassiker: Alfa Romeo R.Z. von 1993.

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