A LaFerrari might not be able to run on electric power alone, but this can. Meet the all-electric Ferrari 308 (with video)
‘When you buy a Ferrari you buy the engine and get the rest of the car for free’. Like so many wonderfully quotable lines, this may have been said by Enzo Ferrari or it may not. It has certainly been said by others of the cars he made though. It’s a brave man therefore, that would choose to turn a Ferrari of all cars into an EV, but that’s just what Eric Hutchison has done.
The very neat installation
Eric is a thoroughly likeable chap, so you feel a certain amount of goodwill towards this project from the moment you meet him. There is also a tangible sense of relief when you discover that this was not some concours example of the breed that he cherry-picked for Frankenstein-like experimentation. Look inside the header rail and you will see the tell-tale bubbling that signifies a serious amount of heat on the rubber, because this car was a write-off after a small fuel leak resulted in the V8 being toasted like a marshmallow on the flames of a camp fire. This was, therefore, the perfect donor car and other any parts that Eric didn’t want or need from the original he sold back into the Ferrari community so that they might prolong the lives of other 308s.
Look under the rear deck now and you’ll discover an installation that looks like a tidier version of Doc Brown’s DeLorean. On top there is a black, billet aluminium contactor box that looks a bit like a cam cover, while underneath are three red cylinders set in a 'V' formation (very appropriate) and these are the AC-51 HPEVS motors. Behind all that, and linked by a wonderful orange snake pit of cables, are triple Curtis controllers. The batteries are located either side of the motors and there are few more in the front. Huge credit must go to Michael Bream at EV West, Eric's collaborator on the project, for the neatness of it all.
The figures from this little lot are 308bhp and 330lb ft, as compared to the 205bhp and 181lb ft in a 308 with an original a carb-fed V8. Perhaps even more impressively the weight has only increased by around 70kg over the original to about 1520kg. Eric says that the claimed 0-60mph time is now down to 5.6sec, lopping around 1.5 seconds off the time of the original. The range is currently between 70 and 100 miles (which partly explains why the video below isn’t more extensive) but this, like all the other numbers, will increase with the next round of batteries, which should see a 20 percent leap from 1500amps to 1800amps.
Standing under the palm trees and sunshine in a suburb of San Diego it looks picture perfect. Other than the wheels and a lack of exhausts a passing glance wouldn’t clock it as anything especially unusual and I like that. Look more closely however and you’ll see the lovely touches that discreetly proclaim what’s under the skin. The number plate is rather obvious but the 308 GTE badge next to it could be mistaken for a factory item, while the small ‘Electric GT’ badges in front of the rear wheels (where Pininfarina badges normally reside) are extremely subtle. To this end, I rather wish that the wheels had been kept closer to standard, but Eric wanted grip to increase in line with the extra power so he fitted these 18-inch BBS items from a 360. They have at least allowed the braking to be improved too with a set of Wilwood discs and calipers.
Dropping into the driver’s seat you can’t help but be impressed by the re-trimming of the interior with the new orange-on-black Speedhut dials (complete with Electric GT inscriptions), sitting very nicely in the binnacle. There are a series of silver buttons between the seats where the sliding heater controls would normally be. Eric tells me that I don’t need to worry about any bar two. The first is to activate the re-gen, the second is the parking brake.
Pulling away for the first time, things are pleasingly old school in many ways as you twist a key in the ignition barrel, then depress a clutch and select second gear (there’s more than enough instant torque to forego first) with a manual lever. The gearbox is actually a Porsche G50 unit and although Eric would dearly love to have kept the open gate of the original car, the shift pattern didn’t match. Anyway, pulling away in silence still amuses me, particularly in a car that should be making a decent bit of brouhaha. The electric motors do actually make quite a bit of noise when they’re spinning at high revs, but otherwise the only noises are the creaks, rattles and squeaks from the chassis, suspension and bodywork. On a bumpy road it turns out that the stuff Ferrari sold you for free makes nearly as much noise as the engine.
However, cruising relatively quietly alongside the Pacific does feel rather good. Admittedly I might not feel quite so enamoured of the 308 GTE if I was listening to rain drops drumming on the targa top rather than feeling the sun warming my skin, but California is something of a home for the EV and surely this is cooler than a Tesla? The 308 doesn't quite have the pace of a P90D but Eric assures me that things were a little more spritely when the batteries were fresh and indeed you can find footage on the internet of a fairly serious burnout (poor choice of words perhaps, given this car’s history, but this is the tyre-smoking kind) at his hands and he has also put in some fast laps at Willow Springs. Eric also tells me that things will come alive even more when the new batteries are installed in 2017. We’ll have to come back and try it again…
Best looking EV yet?
For now, would I have one over an original? No, of course not. A large part of a Ferrari’s charm really is the engine and while the absence of sound is intriguing, it’s no substitute for a the aural assault of eight cylinders sucking, squeezing, banging and blowing. However, I love that the 308 GTE exists. I love the look of it and I really love the dedication and engineering that Eric and Michael have put into making it. There is definitely something appealing about the idea of teaching an old horse new tricks. So how about a two 308 garage? One for popping to the shops and seeing the surf just down the road and another for the days in the hills or popping up to San Fran along the PCH.