This 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO sold for $594,000 at RM’s Maranello, Italy, auction on May 20, 2007.
If you were over twelve in 1984, you’ve probably lusted after a Ferrari 288 GTO. They were the fastest, most beautiful and baddest ride you could buy at the time and they still are a standout in the exotic car world. You probably already know the story of the 288 GTO and its origin as a homologation special designed for Ferrari’s entry into Group B competition.
You also probably know that the series was abruptly canceled after the deaths of several competitors and spectators. What you may not realize is that first-glance appearance to the contrary, the 288 is not just a warmed-over 308, and you probably aren’t aware of the important part the 288 GTO played in Ferrari’s history.
The early 1980s was a low point in Ferrari history. Ferrari’s U.S. offerings consisted of the underpowered 308 GTBi and 308 GTSi models and their underwhelming four-seater sibling, the Mondial 8. Jimmy Carter’s economic follies had temporally raised interest rates so high that even if you wanted to buy a new Ferrari, it was crazy to borrow money to buy one and even crazier to take money out of the bank to buy one.
In Europe, the Boxer was over half a decade old and the 400 series was only a small step evolved from its 1972 origins. There wasn’t any excitement in the brand and the dealers were suffering. The 1983 introduction of the 308 Quattrovalvole added some sizzle to the steak, but Ferrari needed more than a couple of extra valves to put itself back on magazine covers and dorm room walls.
The 288 was front page news
In Europe, some of the savviest automobile manufactures had discovered a way to get more free press than they could have dreamed of. The World Rally Championship, an always-popular European series, was notching up the excitement with the creation of the Group B class. The manufacturers found the mere announcement of their intention to build a Group B car would guarantee press coverage, and the introduction of an actual car would often get them a cover story. Ferrari’s decision to build a supercar for Group B racing was front-page news, and when the actual car came out, the magazines couldn’t say enough about it. The 288 drew people to Ferrari showrooms like nothing before it. The excitement was back and so was Ferrari.
The 288 is often blown off as a 308 on steroids, but its silhouette is where any real comparison stops. The chassis, body, suspension, gearbox, and brakes are all unique parts. Windows, interior, wheels and as much as 90% of the car is made from parts that fit no car before or since. Parts for the 288 are not just unique, they are premium. Since the 288 was designed for competition, its assemblies are lighter and stronger than Ferrari’s normal street car parts. Despite the high performance nature of the 288 GTO, it has proven itself to be extremely well engineered and reliable.
It was the supercar of its time, and a Road & Track test found it took just 5.0 seconds to get to 60 mph, faster than a heavily modified Ruf Porsche. The quarter mile results were the same. Of course, today the GTO would be severely trounced by any of the new Ferrari models and embarrassed by the likes of a four-passenger Bentley GT, or even the 4-cylinder Lotus Exige.
It was no surprise to me this 1985 288 GTO brought $594,000. There are puddles of red-hot activity in the Ferrari market, and the 288 is a prime target to throw money at. If people buy what they lusted after when they were young, then the 288 is the right age to attract some strong demographics. Rarity in itself does not make value, but when a car is rare, significant, and desirable, then market value has to follow. Neither performance nor beauty by themselves make a car important, but as a combination they are hard to beat.
Fast, beautiful, historically significant, and at 272 units, the smallest production of any contemporary street Ferrari, the only important criterion missing from the 288’s pedigree is a narrowly missed competition history. The 288 GTO is the price leader in 8-cylinder Ferrari street cars, and the only way prices are going is up.