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Why Magnum P.I.'s Signature Red Ferrari Is Still All the Rage

Despite differences between the 308 GTS Quattrovalvole and the 488 Spider, Ferrari still makes a car desired by many — including Thomas Magnum himself.

By Jax Miller
Does the New Magnum P.I. Ever Reference the Original Show? | Magnum P.I. | NBC

There’s no question that Magnum, P.I. made significant cultural contributions to the 1980s. Take, for instance, the timeless aloha shirt. The aviators. The ‘stache. But let’s not forget Thomas Magnum’s red-hot wheels, something that makes this character one of the coolest men alive, even still.

How to Watch

Watch Magnum P.I. on NBC and Peacock.    

With the reboot of Magnum P.I. Season 5 underway, fans can’t get enough of the iconic Ferrari, made famous in the original series, which ran from 1980 to 1988. Fans will remember Tom Selleck’s portrayal in the O.G. series drove a Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole (and who didn’t want one for themselves back then?).

What Ferrari Car Model Does Magnum Drive in the Reboot?

This time, Jay Hernandez drives a Ferrari 488 Spider, a sleek and modern advancement of the luxury Italian brand.

Discussing Magnum’s signature Ferrari in a previous interview with CNET Cars, Hernandez noted the original series brought the coveted sports car “into the American consciousness.”

Why the Magnum P.I. Ferrari Is So Iconic

Magnum’s whip first appeared on the small screen in the 1980s, against the backdrop of the Cold War and when materialism emerged opposite the counter-cultural movements of the ‘60s and ‘70s. With more in the east looking this way and tuning to American TV shows, seeing Magnum P.I. in all his glory — Ferrari included — made Magnum a staple of luxury, despite the character’s majorly down-to-earth persona.

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It seemed everyone wanted in on the action and Ferrari’s prancing horse.

“Kids had posters of that red Ferrari on their wall for decades,” said Hernandez. “It’s become such an iconic thing … you can’t have Magnum without the red Ferrari.”

What Ferraris Did Thomas Magnum Drive in the Original Series?

The 308 GTS Quattrovalvole wasn’t the only Ferrari used in the 1980s series, with Magnum upgrading 308s every few seasons. Alterations were fitted to accommodate Selleck’s six-foot-four frame, according to Autoweek.

The original 308 could go from zero to 60 m.p.h. in an impressive 6.7 seconds and reached speeds up to 156 m.p.h., thanks to its v8 engine with a five-speed manual transmission. But compared to today’s 488 Spider, it lacked power steering and had a more resistant clutch, making it a tried-and-true muscle car of its day.

Today, the smoother 488 can go from zero to 62 m.p.h in just three seconds and reach speeds up to 203 m.p.h., according to the Ferrari website.

The 488 is one to be reckoned with. While it’s said to deliver “classic Ferrari power,” it boasts “blistering performance combined with high revs, razor-sharp responsiveness, powerful acceleration at all speeds, and an exhilarating soundtrack."

“The Ferrari 488 Spider is the latest chapter in Maranello’s ongoing history of open-top v8 sports cars, a story that started with the targa-top version of the 308 GTB – the immortal GTS – and which ultimately resulted in the full convertible spider architecture," the website reads.

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Maranello is the town in northern Italy known for being Ferrari's home after Enzo Ferrari moved his business from Modena in the 1940s, a place that ultimately gave birth to the Formula One racing team. It remains Ferrari’s headquarters today.

Having driven both the 308 and the 488 since accepting the role of Thomas Magnum, Hernandez told CNET Cars’ Antuan Goodwin that driving the sports cars was a matter of “night and day.”

“It’s one of those things where you actually have to be careful with the power because if you don’t know what you’re doing and you just slam that gas down, it will go,” Hernandez said of the newer 488.

Starting prices for the Ferrari 488 spider are around $300,000, while the 308 maintains a loyal fanbase and remains a mainstay in car shows worldwide.

“Everybody who gets behind the wheel of this car … it does something to you,” Hernandez said of the 488. He added there was something “timeless about the beauty of the 308” and its “sexy design.”

Our favorite private investigator continues to drive the 488 around Hawaii when not at his Robin’s Nest estate in Oahu. To see more of where the road takes him, watch Magnum P.I. Sundays on NBC at 9/8c and the following day on Peacock.

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