A sense of occasion

One of the things I like most about driving the 308 is something not apparent to the observer. It is a private thing between me and the car. Something I find completely absent from my newer cars. I can best describe it as simply, a sense of occasion.


It starts with unlocking the door with an old, worn key. Feeling the physical tension of the spring  pushing against the key. The interplay of the components in the lock cylinder is tangible; as is the wear of the last 36 years. It turns deliberately. It turns mechanically. The door handle seems like an abstract experiment in obtuse design. The heavily contoured door swings open to reveal a wide sill leading to a newly restored interior. The smell of new leather still apparent .The chrome switch gear highlighting the dim interior like jewellery.

Entry is not straightforward. The car is low by modern standards: only 43 inches high. Getting in requires a bottom in, duck your head, slide down, pull your legs in and swivel procedure. The seats are thin, steeply reclined buckets but immediately comfortable. You sit low, as you would expect, legs straight out. It takes time to become accustomed, comfortable, oriented in this small cozy, cosseting place. An extension of the legs is required on entry to register pedal placement – offset severely to the right compared with a modern car. Motor memory soon kicks in to place clutch, brake and throttle. Checking the car is in neutral rewards you with the clack-clack-clack of the gear lever sliding across the gate.


Ignition on. Wait. This is no fuel-injected modern machine, ready to go. Starting the 308 takes time and thought. The fuel pump which started with the ignition needs to fill the carburetor bowls. You have time to think about where you are going, how you will drive, what it will feel like, how will your heel-toe technique be like, did you wear the right shoes? Time to savour the expectation. With carbs full the car will catch quickly but immediatey demands some driver skill in return to keep the revs up. A ongoing interchange begins between your foot and a wonderfully mechanical and complex throttle pedel. A push of the pedal pulls a cable which pulls a linkage to four Weber carburetors and drives the revs up quickly. As with entry, the interplay of mechanical components is gloriously tangible through the sole of your shoe. As usual there will be some hesitation and stickiness at 3000 rpm due to the tune going off a little. The car will demand some skill from your foot to manage that situation until the Webers clear their throats and come back on song. This is no drive by (computer) wire throttle.


The clutch is heavy. The gear change is heavy. The brakes are heavy and with them, another aspect of the car reveals itself. Effort will be required to pilot this mistress. The suspension is firm and alive with the cracks and bumps of the road. Oil pressure is good. The engine signals its presence behind your back with both noise and vibration. This is no refined German tourer. Later that engine will scream the wail of a banshee all the way to redline, urging another gear, another gear. For now you wait for the car’s temps to come up and the anticipation builds further. Time to ignore where you are going and simply appreciate how you are getting there.

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3 Responses

  1. adam says:

    Beautifully summed up! Having just bought a 77 308 GTB i cant wait to drive it again and again… as well as pour through your posts and restour it! Thanks

  1. May 24, 2016

    […] offer the following as possible encouragement as an insight into my relationship with my car: A sense of occasion I wrote that about my 308 (and a carb one at that), which I know is not a 328, so maybe the […]

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