Cars We Love: 1984-1986 Ferrari 288 GTO

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The Ferrari 288 GTO was the real deal – when introduced, it was considered to be the fastest production car in the world. To name a lesser car after the revered 250 GTO of the early sixties would have forever tarnished Ferrari’s reputation. To the uninitiated, the 288 GTO resembles the Ferrari 308 made famous in the “Magnum, P.I.” TV series, but the similarity stops there. All 288 GTOs were built as racing cars for a nascent circuit racing series that withered and died on the vine, but which required the cars to be fully street-legal. While owners didn’t have a place to race, they could legally drive the world’s fastest production car on the streets.

A street-legal race car

Ferrari only had to make 200 288 GTOs in order to be classified as a “production” car and be allowed to race in a new Group B circuit racing category proposed by the Federation Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA), but once the word got out among the Tifosi, Ferrari made a total of 272 288 GTOs plus five Evoluzione models between 1984 and 1986 to satisfy customer demand. At an original price of $83,400, all were sold before production began. FISA and the car manufacturers were unable to resolve their differences, and the foundering Group B race series was officially abolished in 1986.

ferrari in a race

Many sources infer that the Ferrari 288 GTO was made to be a Group B rally car, but this information is not accurate. The Group B rally series was highly successful in the eighties with some of the highest-performing cars on four wheels, and any mention of “Group B” leads some to believe that it refers to the rally series. But Group B regulations were also intended for a circuit racing series in which Ferrari wished to participate. At the time, Fiat controlled both Ferrari and Lancia, and to avoid internal competition, Ferrari was to focus on its strength, which was circuit racing, while Lancia developed successful Group B rally cars.

More than a 308 GTB on steroids

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The design of the 288 GTO began as a modified version of the popular 308/328 GTB to race in FISA’s Group B race series, and undoubtedly there is a visual resemblance to the earlier Ferraris. But when the 288 GTO design was finalized, there was little left of the 308/328. The 288 GTO had wider body panels with fender flares to accommodate wider racing tires; larger front and rear spoilers; larger “flag style”’ outside mirrors to see over the wider rear fenders; four large driving lights in the grille; and three slanted air vents in the fenders reminiscent of those of its namesake, the Ferrari 250 GTO.

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The changes to the 308 went far beyond exterior body panels. The 288 GTO had a tube frame with removable body panels replacing the monocoque construction of the 308/328. The new body panels included steel doors, a Kevlar hood, and a Kevlar and carbon fiber roof with the rest constructed of fiberglass to keep the 288’s weight down to a minimum. The 288 had a longitudinally-mounted V8 engine behind the cockpit, as opposed to the transversely-mounted engines of the 308/328. Mounting the engine longitudinally required the 288 wheelbase to be longer than the 308/328. The layout of the 288’s suspension was the same, but the components were made of tubular steel and used firmer shock absorbers and springs.

Ferrari’s first twin turbocharged car

ferrari lowered

Ferrari took a step into the future with the 288 GTO, making it the Italian marque’s first twin turbocharged car. An all-aluminum 2.85-liter V8 double overhead cam engine produced 400 horsepower at 7,000 rpm with the help of two IHI turbochargers and four valves per cylinder. For increased reliability, the engine had a forged billet crankshaft, an oil injection system from a dry sump with twin cooling circuits, and a wastegate to control the turbo pressure and minimize turbo lag on acceleration. The engine was positioned so close to the cabin bulkhead to optimize the weight distribution that an access panel was provided in the bulkhead for engine maintenance.


The 288 weighed in at less than 2,600 pounds and, with the 400 horsepower engine driving the rear wheels through a five-speed rear-mounted transmission, could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds, blast through the quarter mile in 14.1 seconds with a terminal velocity of 113 mph, and hit a top speed of 189 mph. Sixteen-inch diameter wheels helped keep the car on the road, and were eight inches wide at the front and ten inches wide at the back.  The chassis had ventilated disc brakes all around – 12.5 inches in front and 12.2 inches in the rear – to provide the stopping power, and rack and pinion steering to give it precise directional control. A rear subframe, on which the rear suspension and drivetrain were mounted, was attached to a central section of the chassis and could be dropped quickly for maintenance. Occupants were protected by a full roll hoop contained with the roof and B-pillars.

Ferrari 288 GTO values

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If a Ferrari 288 GTO appeals to you and you have room for it in your garage, you’d better double-check your bank account to make sure that it’s up to the challenge. With their supercar performance and their rarity, 288 GTOs aren’t for the faint of heart or the faint of wallet. Our friends at Hagerty estimate the average value of a 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO to be $2.1 million, ranging from $2.7 million for number one concours condition to $1.9 million for number four fair condition. In 2017, RM Sotheby’s auctioned a 1985 288 GTO with only 453 miles on the odometer for €3.263 million or $3,927,230.

250 GTO

Lest you think these figures are exorbitant, remember we’re dealing with extremely rare Ferraris that are essentially race cars that can be driven on the street. The 288 GTO’s elder sibling and namesake, the Ferrari 250 GTO, is the only previous Ferrari race/street car to which the 288 GTO can be compared. Only 39 250 GTOs were made between 1962 and 1964, and only 33 are thought to still exist. These have become so sought-after that they rarely come up for sale to the public. The only way to obtain one is to find an owner and make him an offer he can’t refuse. The last one to change hands in 2013, chassis number 5111GT, reportedly sold in a private sale for – are you sitting down? – $52 million. With this level of appreciation as an example, maybe the 288 GTO is not overpriced at today’s values.

We’d like to thank Ted Gushue and the fine folks at Petrolicious for allowing us to use their great video of a Ferrari 288 GTO in its natural habitat – screaming along a twisty road through the woods. For other great videos, please see their website.

Photos by: GTHO, Ed Callow, 350z33 (3, 4), Varin, edvvc, Mala Testa


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VIDEO: Credited to Petrolicious


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