The Magnum PI Ferrari is possibly one of the coolest Ferrari models ever made. It’s not the most expensive. It’s not the fastest. But it was driven by one of the coolest characters to ever star in a T.V. series.
For nearly eight years, Tom Selleck, as the private investigator Thomas Magnum, sped through Hawaii driving the Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole.
He was fighting crime and doing it in remarkable style.
The T.V. show Magnum P.I. ran from 1980 to 1988 and was consistently one of the top twenty television programs in the U.S. Tom Selleck played a private investigator living in the guest house of a beachfront estate called ‘Robin’s Nest.’
Of course, any Hawaiian beachfront estate must have a Ferrari in the garage somewhere, and Thomas Magnum was sure to drive the car wherever his crime-fighting took him.
The Magnum PI Ferrari – The Star of the Show
The car just happened to be a huge part of the show. You could even make an argument that the bright red Ferrari was as prominent a figure on the show as the iconic Tom Selleck himself.
Ferrari had just released the newly designed Ferrari 308 GTB a few years earlier in 1975, replacing the Dino 246 GT from the early 70s.
Designed by Pininfarina’s Leonardo Fioravanti, the 308 featured fresh angles contrasting the Dino it replaced. Early models were built with fiberglass bodies, but Ferrari switched to steel after the first 700 units rolled off the line.
Production numbers totaled roughly 12,000 308s produced over the nine years from 1976 to 1985. With a top speed of 156 MPH, the Magnum P.I. Ferrari was not just a prop. This car was plenty fast and had serious power output.
The GTS models also had removable roof panels that could be stored behind the seats, making it the perfect car for a crime-fighting, Hawaiian shirt-wearing, private investigator on the island of Oahu.
The Magnum PI Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole
Fans of the show will never forget the opening credits. The music to the opening theme was an enormous hit.
A more extended version of the Magnum P.I. theme music was created by popular demand, and it actually peaked at No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1982. Something unheard of for a T.V. show theme song.
What made the opening credits especially memorable was the Ferrari 308 GTS as a preeminent symbol in many of the scenes.
Would Magnum P.I. have run for eight seasons and become a massive hit if actor Tom Selleck was chasing down criminals by jumping into a Pontiac Sunbird?
Show creators used as many as five manual transmission Ferrari 308s for each season while producing Magnum PI.
A few of the exact Ferrari models used in the filming of the show have been sold at auction, commanding nearly double the price tag of an identical model. A 1984 Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole went for $181,500 at a Bonhams auction a few years ago.
One little-known fact about the Magnum P.I. Ferrari is that it was nearly a Magnum P.I. Porsche that would star in the show. Show creators originally wanted Tom Selleck’s character to drive a Porsche 928, but that car was too small for Selleck and his six-foot-four-inch body.
Porsche wasn’t interested in altering its 928 model for the show, so Ferrari wisely swooped in and volunteered the 308 GTS. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Magnum PI Ferrari Bonhams Sale
Auction house Bonhams offered a stunning example of the Ferrari 308 and said, “One could argue that this particular Ferrari 308 GTS QV is one of the most famous and iconic Ferraris of all time.”
Although there are so many great Ferrari models out there, personally, I have a hard time arguing with that statement.
Bonhams continued, “Accompanying the vehicle is a wonderful history file which documents the car’s history, contains a letter from Ferrari North America certifying that this car was actually driven by Tom Selleck in the 1984-1985 shooting season of Magnum P.I., the warranty book and service receipts dating back to 1986.”
The Bonhams car has a few paint blemishes and also included an aftermarket Tubi exhaust system.
The car’s history was well documented; in exceptional shape, and in immaculate condition. Body panel gaps that looked Ferrari factory perfect with low mileage.
As the car hit the auction block, Bonhams remarked, “In addition to the history file, present with the car are its original tools, spare belts, and even the magnetic trouble light in its original bag.
Do not miss what very well could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to acquire one of the world’s most loved Ferraris.”
Many of the original vintage Ferrari 308s driven in Magnum P.I. have traded hands over the years.
One little-known fact is the existence of a Ferrari “kit car” which was used in the most extreme car chases. These models were made of fiberglass and built on a Pontiac Fiero chassis.
Magnum PI Ferrari Values
As iconic as the Ferrari 308 GTSi may be, its recent prices do not reflect its popularity.
Hagerty values a top-rated model in excellent condition right around $100,000. Doing a search, you can find a variety of early 1980 Ferrari 308s for $60 – $80 grand.
How many car chase scenes do you need to watch on the big screen before you consider buying your own Ferrari 308?
$60,000 for an iconic Ferrari might be the best deal you will find anywhere. Collector car values have declined slightly over the last few years after a massive run-up in prices from 2011 – 2016.
If you’re thinking about buying an iconic Ferrari without the giant price tag of earlier models, a 308 GTS could possibly offer a great value.
If it was good enough for the best private investigator in the world, it should be good enough for you.
Estimated Values for the 1975 – 1985 Ferrari 308
Estimated Values for the Hagerty Ferrari Price Index
After experiencing its largest drop ever in May 2020, the Hagerty Ferrari Price Index has steadily increased over the last few years.
Hagerty tracks the values of the 13 most sought-after Italian Ferraris of the 1950s – 1970s and attempts to chart changes in values on a month-to-month basis.
Find the entire list of all 13 Ferrari models tracked and a complete summary with expert analysis at Hagerty.com.
The United States version of the Ferrari 308 was equipped with 240 horsepower, but European versions kicked out 15 more horsepower at 255.
The 2.9-liter V8 engine backed by a 5-speed manual transmission hooked car lovers immediately.
After a couple of years of watching Magnum P.I., the red sports car was not only well on its way to iconic tv show status, but flying up the charts as Ferrari’s most influential classic car model.
Not all the Targa-topped Ferrari 308s driven by the show’s star Tom Selleck included the Rosso Corsa – racing red paint job.
In the sixth season of the CBS Network show, a green 1984 Ferrari 308 GTSi Quattrovalvole made an appearance.
The supercar was also owned by Robin Masters, who was the multi-millionaire owner of the “Robin’s Nest” estate where Thomas Magnum lived.
The Magnum P.I. Ferrari License Plate
You might be wondering, if the Ferrari 308 was constantly driven by Tom Selleck’s character, Thomas Magnum, then how did he afford such an epic car? Well, we have a few clues from the show, luckily.
The first Magnum P.I. episode aired on December 11th, 1980, and featured a Ferrari 308 with ‘56E-478’ on the license plate. By the very next episode, the license plate was changed to ‘Robin 1.’
Robin is the name of the Ferrari owner, Robin Masters.
It’s confirmed that the rich and mysterious novelist Robin Masters allowed Magnum to use his house and Ferrari sports car, but the two characters never met face-to-face.
The Epic Magnum P.I. Ferrari 308
When Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. starred in the 1981 action-comedy movie, Jimmy the Greek’s car was a 1979 Ferrari 308 GTS. Christie Brinkley pulled up next to Chevy Chase on the freeway in the 1983 hit movie, ‘Vacation.’ All featuring the Ferrari 308.
There’s an unbelievable website called Internet Movie Cars Database that documents over 150 appearances of the Ferrari 308 in movies and TV shows. It’s an epic list of very prominent, and sometimes obscure sightings of the retro Ferrari on-screen.
The Ferrari 308 didn’t stop its guest-starring roles in detective shows only, such as Magnum P.I. and Beverly Hills Cop.
It was also in Rocky V, 21 Jump Street, Knight Rider, Superman III, T.J. Hooker, and even the 2006 Will Smith movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness.”
Magnum was re-booted, this time with Jay Hernandez playing the role of Thomas Magnum, and instead of driving the 308, the modern show featured the Ferrari 488 Spider in its place.
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History and Legacy of the Ferrari 308 Cultural Icon
Designed by Daylen Sattler from Pininfarina, and assembled in Maranello, Italy, the Ferrari 308 was destined for greatness.
After its introduction at the Paris Auto Show in 1975, it was clear the car was a noble replacement for the Ferrari Dino.
During the very last episode of the Magnum P.I. television series on May 5th, 1988, titled ‘Resolutions’ the final scene features Thomas Magnum walking along the beach with his daughter Lily.
But we all know how the Magnum P.I. finale should have concluded. It should have been Tom Selleck’s character hopping into that Ferrari 308 Quattrovalvole, stomping on the gas pedal, and tearing down the highway, into the Hawaiian sunset.
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