By on June 16, 2020

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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17 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1984 Ferrari 288 GTO – Eighties Exotica and a Childhood Toy Story...”

  • avatar

    Behold: my college dream car. Fast, gorgeous, and even somewhat luxurious. Pure lust.

    And if anyone’s still wondering if we’re NOT living in the golden age of performance, re-read this sentence: “60 miles per hour arrived in five seconds.” Fast, to be sure. But back in ’84, this car would have set you back about $83,000, which is well over two hundred grand in today’s money…and today, you can buy a $45,000 Kia that would give this car quite a run for its’ money.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m guessing the Stinger would win at a dragstrip and 0-100-0. It would probably also win a hot lap although I expect(?) the Ferrari could handle more consecutive laps.

      If any 288 owners would like to trade, let me know!

      • 0 avatar

        288 GTO for Stinger, straight up. Sounds like a deal.

        • 0 avatar

          Not many Stingers would go 179 mph, though, and fast acceleration from rest wasn’t the thing for Europeans in those days. The first Audi A8s were 7 second 0 to 60 cars, but would do 155 mph no problem. Now we have turbos with bottom end so all the proles can have a thrill in traffic. Let me know how the Stinger door seals work past 120mph in a slight crosswind, and how safe it feels at 150, will ya?

          • 0 avatar

            It can go at least 168 mph. Not sure what it can hit without a limiter.

            However, I will need someone to provide a Ferrari or D2 Audi for the high speed door seal comparison.

      • 0 avatar

        If the power and weight numbers are accurate, the GTO should be quicker than a Stinger on equivalent tires. It was certainly traction limited by its 1980’s tires. The GTO hit 113 mph in the quarter mile in R&T’s test, while the Stinger only hit 111, 110, and 108 in the three C&D tests I found.

        Beautiful car.

        I’ll add that gearing is a factor too. The GTO can hit its top speed of 189 mph in 4th. 5th is just for cruising! A shorter rear end would make a huge difference.

    • 0 avatar

      Stinger should eventually be getting the 3.5TTV6 w/ the greater output (around 420 ponies).

      That being said, one can only go so fast and the 288 GTO is my favorite Ferrari from that era (couldn’t stand the Testarossa design-wise).

  • avatar

    Nice piece.

  • avatar

    Always liked the sound of Ferrari V8s. It’s one of the things that makes those cars special.

  • avatar

    You should send the Tree Ferrari to one of those guys on Youtube who restores die-cast models and Matchbox cars.

  • avatar

    My all time favorite Ferrari! I remember when the 288 GTO debuted and it was instant attraction!.

    Fortunately I had a chance to visit the museum in Maranello and they had a 288 GTO on display on that day and at the sister museum in Modena they had the GTO Evoluzione which of course begat the F40

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I too was fortunate enough to see one of these at the Ferrari museum. I still have the crusty old photos of the GTO (pre digital cameras) As a teenager, my older brother and I begged my dad to veer of his planned route by more than an hour to see the museum.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Corey, when someone asks to see some of your best writing; include this story.

  • avatar

    You had me there!

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