Rare Rides: The 1984 Ferrari 288 GTO - Eighties Exotica and a Childhood Toy Story

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1984 ferrari 288 gto eighties exotica and a childhood toy story

Today’s Rare Ride is a seriously sporty evolution of Ferrari’s well-known 308 GTB. Built as a homologation special, the 288 GTO was one of the most exclusive vehicles Ferrari produced in the Eighties.

It’s a car which became relevant to me this past weekend, when a rusty example was unearthed in my parents’ backyard.

The 308, which preceded the 288 GTO, was introduced in 1975 as a successor to the unloved Dino 246 GT. The 246 was the end of sub-Ferrari brand Dino, which was an exercise designed to shift lower-cost sports cars without diluting Ferrari’s brand heritage. By the time the 308 debuted, Dino was one year away from extinction.

A few years into the 308’s run, a hot new racing series emerged: Group B rallying. Ferrari sent the 308 GTB into Group B and won several events across continental Europe. Enzo Ferrari wanted more racing action, however, and started dreaming up a race-focused successor to the 308. In order to take part with a Group B car, at least 200 homologated road cars had to be produced and sold to actual customers. The 288 was taking shape.

Ferrari used the 308 as the basis for the 288, with an eye on speed to development and cost savings. But changes to the 308 were so extensive that not much of the original car remained by the time the 288 entered production. That made it much more expensive, though wealthy clientele did not mind paying for extra Ferrari performance and a limited edition car.

Visual changes for the 288 GTO included larger front and rear spoilers, new mirrors, large flared fenders, and quad driving lights. There were also some cues that hearkened back to the 250 GTO of two decades prior: the copious number of body vents and the rear wing design. Though the 288 was wider than the 308 upon which it was based, it was still around 500 pounds lighter due to weight saving measures (totaling 2,555 lbs). Its hood was made of Kevlar, the roof a composition of Kevlar and carbon fiber, and the rest of the body was mostly fiberglass. Heavy steel was used only in the doors.

A new engine was made specially for the 288, one which took the base 2.9-liter V8 from the 308 and added two turbochargers. To comply with class regulation, the bore was reduced by one millimeter. Ferrari also added fuel injection, which, combined with the other changes, meant 395 horsepower — a figure made even more impressive considering the 308’s stock engine made 242 horses. 60 miles per hour arrived in five seconds, and top speed was 179 mph.

Road versions of the 288 GTO started production in 1984, with a total of 272 rolling off the line before production stopped in 1987; 271 were painted red, and one was painted black. Today’s Rare Ride has covered just 9,300 miles, and is priced on request. From other listing prices on these, it’s worth about $3,000,000.

Worth slightly fewer dollars is the 288 GTO pictured here. This past weekend I went to visit my parents, who lost the largest tree in their back yard earlier in the week. As I was checking out what remained of the tree debris, I noticed — placed off to the side — a red die cast car. One of mine from childhood. We played around that tree all summer as kids, and I imagine it had sat in the crook of it since circa 1992. I must’ve put the Ferrari up there and forgot about it, and there it remained for the next 28 years or so. Twitter tells me it was made by Majorette.

My barn-tree find car will stay with its dirt and debris as-is, and a case for it is on the way.

[Images: seller, Corey Lewis/TTAC]

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  • Inside Looking Out In June 1973, Leonid Brezhnev arrived in Washington for his second summit meeting with President Richard Nixon. Knowing of the Soviet leader’s fondness for luxury automobiles, Nixon gave him a shiny Lincoln Continental. Brezhnev was delighted with the present and insisted on taking a spin around Camp David, speeding through turns while the president nervously asked him to slow down. https://academic.oup.com/dh/article-abstract/42/4/548/5063004
  • Bobby D'Oppo Great sound and smooth power delivery in a heavier RWD or AWD vehicle is a nice blend, but current V8 pickup trucks deliver an unsophisticated driving experience. I think a modern full-size pickup could be very well suited to a manual transmission.In reality, old school, revvy atmo engines pair best with manual transmissions because it's so rewarding to keep them in the power band on a winding road. Modern turbo engines have flattened the torque curve and often make changing gears feel more like a chore.
  • Chuck Norton For those worried about a complex power train-What vehicle doesn't have one? I drive a twin turbo F-150 (3.5) Talk about complexity.. It seems reliability based on the number of F-150s sold is a non-issue. As with many other makes/models. I mean how many operations are handle by micro processors...in today's vehicles?
  • Ravenuer The Long Island Expressway.
  • Kwik_Shift A nice stretch of fairly remote road that would be great for test driving a car's potential, rally style, is Flinton Road off of Highway 41 in Ontario. Twists/turns/dips/rises. Just hope a deer doesn't jump out at you. Also Highway 60 through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. Great scenery with lots of hills.