The Ferrari 288 GTO was introduced at the 1984 Geneva Motor Show. The official model designation was solely Ferrari GTO, although most people refer to it as the Ferrari 288 GTO to differentiate it from the legendary 250 GTO from the early sixties, which is often referred to as the GTO. The 288 appellation refers to the total cubic capacity of the engine and number of cylinders, 2.8 litres with 8 cylinders. The GTO captured the buyer’s imagination, although visually it was nothing startlingly different from the mainstream Ferrari eight cylinder models of the period, looking like a 308 that had been on a course of steroids, with more bulbous wheel arches, a lower stance and bigger spoilers. However, the revisions gave it a more aggressive appearance, and under the skin there was muscle enough to pack a powerful punch, complimenting the brawny exterior.
Ferrari 288 GTO had a mid mounted V8 engine fitted longitudinally. To optimise the weight distribution, the forward end of the engine was so close to the cabin bulkhead that a service hatch was provided in the bulkhead for maintenance. This was the first longitudinally mounted V8 engine fitted in a Ferrari production road car, and also the first to be fitted with twin turbochargers. The total cubic capacity was 2855cc. The engine had four valves per cylinder, twin overhead camshafts per bank, each with its own toothed drive belt, dry sump lubrication, Weber-Marelli IAW combined ignition/fuel injection system, Behr intercoolers and two IHI turbochargers. The engine’s power output was 400 bhp at 7000rpm. The differential assembly was mounted on the back of the engine in unit with the rear mounted five speed synchromesh gearbox, with its removable end cover for ease of ratio changes, a throwback to its original competition intent.
Even though they were visually similar both inside and out, and both were powered by a V8 engine, that was the extent of the similarities between the GTO and the 308 series. Although based on the 308 series silhouette, the GTO shared very few common components, the wheelbase was longer, the mid mounted engine was placed longitudinally in the chassis, and the majority of body panels were constructed from composite materials or resin mouldings. There were more bulbous front and rear wings, and the trailing edges of the rear wings had triple vertical exhaust air slots (a reference point to the front wings of the sixties 250 GTO).The front valance spoiler was deeper, housing paired rectangular driving lights in the radiator grille extremities, the tail had a pronounced lip spoiler, and the door mirrors stood on tall stalks. Also the multi slotted engine lid was hinged at the trailing edge, rather than being forward hinged in unit with the sail panels on the 308 models.
The bodies were mounted on a 2450mm wheelbase chassis, which was 110mm greater than that of the 308 models, but the overall length was 5mm less, due to a reduced rear overhang. The chassis had factory reference numbers F 114 AB 100, with the construction following the Ferrari principle of a tubular steel chassis frame with cross bracing, and sub structures, to support the engine, suspension, and ancillary equipment, incorporating a safety roll over hoop in the cabin section. The wheels were unique to this model, five spoke “star” pattern magnesium alloy Speedline split rims 16″ x 8J and 16″ x 10J at the front and rear respectively, each with a single central retaining nut on a Rudge hub. They covered large ventilated disc brakes with twin hydraulic circuits, and servo assistance. Independent suspension via tubular steel wishbones, coil springs, and hydraulic shock absorbers was provided, together with front and rear anti roll bars.
The Ferrari 288 GTO was built as an exclusive, low volume production series. The options list was very short. Red was the only exterior colour available and for the interior the buyer had the choice of all black leather seats or alternatively orange cloth centre cushions. There were also the options of electric windows, air conditioning, and a radio. Originally Ferrari 288 GTO was designed just to satisfy the two hundred unit build number for homologation purposes as a Group “B” competition car. However, the regulations changed so here was a competition orientated car with nowhere to compete. However, the marketing department had no need to worry, as the car had created such a sensation at the Geneva Motor Show that the planned production run was soon sold out. In fact there were more buyers than cars available, and eventually the total production run became 272 examples. The Ferrari 288 GTO was built between 1984 and 1986, in the odd number series chassis number range 52465 to 58345.
The Ferrari 288 GTO was the real starting point for the “Supercar Syndrome”, showing that there was a market for a low volume production, extreme performance sports car, at almost any cost! Before people had even taken delivery of their GTO the contract had been sold on, sometimes more than once, and with each change of hands came a healthy profit for the vendor. New models were introduced by various manufacturers to capture a slice of the action, and soon virtually the whole classic and sports car market was caught up in a whirlwind of spiralling prices, that eventually had nowhere to go but down. When they did, it was suddenly and with a bang, leaving many speculators with assets of massively negative collateral.