Ferrari 288 GTO: The Ferrari That Started Supercar Syndrome

In 1984 Ferrari brought out a rather special car in order to comply with Group B regulations – the Ferrari 288 GTO.  And, according to Ferrari, it started “Supercar Syndrome .” The Driving Life takes a look back at this impressive vehicle.

Group B was a classification for ultra-powerful rally cars.  If you’re a gearhead, you probably already know this, so I won’t bother with further explanation.  But you may not know that the Group B regulations also covered sports cars.

Group B came into effect in 1983, and in 1984 Ferrari showed the GTO (although informally the car is known as the 288 GTO in order to differentiate it from the 250 GTO) at the 1984 Geneva Motor Show.  Ferrari had plans to build 200 units in order to satisfy Group B homologation, but then Group B was cancelled.

However, the fervor caused in Geneva was such that Ferrari opted to build all 200 cars.  In fact, between 1984 and 1986, the company built and sold 272 examples of the GTO.

The 288 GTO cost $112,000 and was styled by Pininfarina, albeit based on the 308 body shape.  The engine was a 2.8-liter, twin turbo, 90 degree, V-8 that produced 400 bhp.  Bodypanels were composite materials or resin moldings, and the mid-mounted engine was mounted longitudinally in the chassis.  The body was shorter than a 308 but the wheelbase longer. After all, the 288 GTO was designed for racing.

The GTO weighed 2690 lbs., had a top speed of 190mph, with 0-60 mph acceleration in 4.9 seconds.

The forward end of the engine was so close to the cabin bulkhead, in order to optimize weight distribution, that a service hatch was provided in the bulkhead for maintenance. This was the first longitudinally mounted V-8 engine fitted in a Ferrari production road car.  It was also the first to be fitted with twin turbochargers.

When it was on sale Ferrari told prospective customers, “You can have it in any color you like as long, as you like red!

Today, Ferrari says that the 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.”

But the 288 story didn’t end there.

Between 1985 and 1986 Ferrari produced five very special versions, called the GTO Evoluzione.  Power was uprated to 650 bhp, weight was reduced to 2,072 lbs. and the theoretical top speed was 225mph.

The Evoluzione, as you can see in the image below, was a direct influence on the much more famous F40, which followed in 1987.  All five Evoluziones are still believed to be on the road today.  Ferrari themselves own one and keep it on display at the engine plant in Maranello.

1986 Ferrari 288 GTO Evoluzione