Dream Garage: Ferrari 288 GTO
The Ferrari 288 GTO, along with the Porsche 959 (which will absolutely make an appearance in a future Dream Garage feature), is one of the greatest cars produced in the 1980s, and is a true supercar in its own right. That decade is really the first time auto manufacturers began experimenting with turbochargers as an effective substitute for high-displacement engines, and cars that pulled it off successfully have commanded premium prices in the decades that followed (see Buick Regal GNX, Audi Quattro, and really any homologated sports car from the era).
The 288 was a heavily modified 308 GTB/GTS, the company’s entry level V8 offering made famous for its role in the television show Magnum, P.I. The 308 GTB/GTS and its stablemate GT4 were the first cars to use the mid-engined V8 configuration that Ferrari still reserves for its balanced, track-destroying monsters today. Being a product on the ’80s was a challenge, however, as manufacturers around the world were still reeling from the Oil Crisis of 1973 and the subsequent emissions regulations that it bore. As such, the 3.0L initially produced 240-255hp (and is one reason why a Ferrari can be had for about $30,000).
In the early ’80s, the FIA unveiled the new Group B regulations that would govern the majority of motorsports, and a primary requirement for competing in the class was that all cars had to be based on production models, with a minimum number of cars made and sold to the general public. Ferrari wanted to get into the game, so they de-bored the V-8 from the 308 GTB/GTS and slapped a couple of turbochargers onto it, boosting the power output to 400hp; this raised the top speed of the 288 to 189mph, a record for roadgoing cars at the time (it would be bested two years later by the aforementioned Porsche 959, another Group B contender, which clocked in at 195mph).
The 288 was not destined for competition, however, as Group B dissolved just a couple years after being introduced. Joaquim Santos lost control of his Ford RS200 at the Rallye de Portugal in March of 1986, killing three and injuring 31. During the Tour de Course in France, Henri Toivonen flew off the track in his Lancia Delta, an accident that killed Toivonen and his co-driver, Sergio Cresto. These incidents directly led to the death of Group B as well, as it was disbanded at the end of the ’86 season.
Although official Group B regulations required only 200 cars to be homologated for road use for a manufacturer to qualify, Ferrari had produced 272 cars, and were sold to the general public. Five more were created as Evoluzione models, with horsepower figures lying somewhere between 600-650.
Ferrari 288 GTO Evoluzione. From mad4wheels.com
The legacy of the 288 GTO cannot be understated. It was a direct link between the legendary 250 GTO of the early 1960s and the monster F40 supercar of the late ’80s. The F40’s engine is an enlarged version of the 288 GTO’s, and also features a twin-turbo V-8 making 470hp. For its time, the the 288 GTO was one of the fastest production cars on Earth, and was the first time Ferrari explored alternatives to large displacement engines as the source of their power (the F40 marked the last time turbocharged engines were used, although the upcoming F70 hypercar is expected to use a hybrid V-12 mated to a KERS system like the one used in Formula 1). The 288 GTO and Porsche’s 959 marked the peak of the horsepower wars of the 1980s, one that was admittedly fought by only a handful of auto companies in the wake of the worldwide oil shortage.
The rarity of the 288 GTO and its significant place in Ferrari’s history make it quite a costly purchase. Solid price points are hard to nail down, but anecdotal evidence posted on Ferrari owner’s forums suggest a price between $500,000 and $1,000,000; only variants of the 250 and very limited special edition Ferraris will be more expensive. It is an investment-quality vehicle, however, and the 0-60 time of 4 seconds ensures that not only was it magnificent for its time, but it also matches expectations of modern supercars.