When Ferrari announced in 1983 that it was to build a modern day GTO it sent the hearts of red-blooded Ferraristi into dangerous flutter, while others blindly reached for their checkbooks without a second thought. The name GTO, after all, recalls what many regard as the ultimate Ferrari and the promise was that the new 288GTO would be no different; Maranello had already been quoted as saying that it would be the fastest and quickest accelerating Ferrari ever built, one insider later describing the homologation special as ‘an act of faith to the racing world;’ neither Ferrari nor its customers were to be disappointed.
It was the 308GTB that Ferrari chose as the base for the GTO, a car, like Porsche’s contemporary 959, designed for international Group B racing and for which a minimum of 200 examples had to be built; indeed the metamorphosis from 308GTB to 288GTO was to be no different than that from 250GT SWB to 250GTO two decades earlier. But although visually fairly similar to the 308, the left-hand drive only 288 was to differ radically under the skin.
Not only was there an immensely strong steel tubular chassis, against the 308’s semi-monocoque structure, but also the engine was moved from a transverse to an in-line layout, necessitating a 4.5-inch increase in wheelbase.
The engine was basically the 32-valve 308/Mondial V8 but strengthened in many areas with improved lubrication and cooling. It also had twin IHI turbochargers and twin intercoolers, separate Weber/Marelli ignition and fuel injection systems for each cylinder bank and a 1mm smaller bore to give 2,855 cc – important given the FIA/s 1.4 turbocharger equivalency factor which multiplies capacity to 3,997 cc, within Group Bs 4.0-liter limit. And potent the V8 certainly was, producing a highly impressive 400bhp at 7,000 rpm and a huge 366 lb.ft. at 3,800 rpm; allied to a five-speed, magnesium cased gearbox, it provided a staggering performance – 189 mph, 0-60 in 4.9 seconds and 0-125 mph in a stunning 15.2 seconds!
Notably, much of the GTO’s design came from then Ferrari F1 designer Harvey Postlethwaite and it came as no surprise to find extensive use of Kevlar, carbon fiber and other high tech composites for the stress-bearing areas of the GTO’s beautiful, Pininfarina styled, fiberglass (but steel-doored) body. The latter, against the 308, was widened behind the rear side windows into engine air scoops while the rear used an elegant, integrated spoiler; a particularly nice touch was the three brake cooling slots in the rear wings, imitating one of the 250GTO’s famous trademarks. Wings front and rear were also radically flared to accommodate an almost 4.0″ increase in front and rear track and huge 225/55 front, 265/50 rear tires on 10″x16″ composite alloy racing rims. Behind them were large Ferrari/Brembo ventilated disc brakes, while wishbone/coil spring suspension and an anti-roll bar were fitted front and rear. All of which made the 288GTO one of the most desirable Ferraris ever built, not merely a purposeful and effective machine, but one that was also a statement of Ferrari’s classic love and commitment to racing. Just 278 examples of the GTO were built (including track versions) compared to over 1,300 of the later F40.
In the same family ownership from new, and first registered in June 1985, the GTO pictured here comes from a substantial private collection and has covered just 8,700 miles. Finished, as all 288GTOs, in red with black leather interior, and with optional electric windows and air conditioning, it is thus offered in immaculate condition complete with original invoice, handbook, tool-roll and service history.
The 288, splendid though it may be mechanically, suffers from the same fate as the Alfa GTA and the Corvette ZR-1. The 288 LOOKS like a 308 on steroids. And while Coys may delight in comparing the 288 to the original GTO, in fact the 250GTO looked radically different than the 250SWB, and in addition had a superb competition history.
Most 288s have spent their lives as hangar queens, venturing out to the occasional Ferrari get-together where the owners explain at length how truly special their cars are.