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1980-1988 Ferrari 308 GTS: Magnum P.I.’s Robin 1

If an ostentatiously wealthy friend invites you to be his security consultant and live in his beachfront estate in Hawaii, where you can come and go as you please, take odd part-time jobs when you are not occupied, and get to drive a red Ferrari for free, would you say no? We don’t think so.

That was the premise of the American CBS 1980’s hit TV series “Magnum P.I.”. The detective series, which ran from 1980 to 1988, centered on Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck), a private investigator (P.I.) living a Hawaiian dream life. He resides in the guest house of a posh beachfront estate, known as Robin’s Nest, in Oahu, Hawaii, at the invitation of Robin Masters (Orson Welles/Reid Crandell), a rich, celebrated-but-never-seen author of several dozen lurid novels. The show implied that this was Masters’ payment, quid pro quo, for Magnum’s security expertise.

With a luxurious life at Robin’s Nest and operating as a P.I. only on cases that suit him, the only thorn in the side of this seemingly perfect lifestyle is the estate’s majordomo, Jonathan Higgins (the late John Hillerman). Higgins’ stern, “by-the-book”, structured methods contrasts with Magnum’s laid-back, easy-going lifestyle. The relationship between Magnum and Higgins started as a “friendly nemesis” that developed into an unspoken respect and fondness of sorts, which proved popular with fans of the show.

As a humorous regular subplot, Magnum must always contend with Higgins and his two highly trained “lads” – two Doberman Pinschers named Zeus and Apollo – and bargain for use of the amenities, such as the tennis courts, wine cellar, high-tech cameras and other expensive items, in Robin’s Nest. However, Magnum has free reign in the use of the guest house and “Robin 1”, the red targa-top Ferrari 308 GTS that he uses to go around Hawaii on his cases.

During the first season of “Magnum P.I.”, Selleck drove a carbureted 1980 Ferrari 308GTS, which was replaced in Seasons 2 to 6 by a fuel-injected 308GTSi, and finally by a 4-valves-per-cylinder 1987 Ferrari 308GTSi Quattrovalvole in the final two seasons. It was said that the driver’s seats were all modified to fit the 6’4” actor.

Although the Ferrari 308GTS/GTB was often described as a car possessing “beauty that is its reason for being”, “Magnum P.I.” is often credited as the TV show that popularized the Ferrari 308GTS.

In 2018, the “Magnum P.I.” TV series has been rebooted with Jay Hernandez playing the lead role and a 2018 Ferrari 488 Spider playing the hero car. The rebooted show is now on it’s third season at Fox channel. Time will tell if it will have the same timelessness as the original series.

In the mean time, please allow me to indulge myself in fantasizing about the Ferrari 308 GTS that Tom Selleck drove in the original “Magnum P.I.” series.