My Car Quest

October 22, 2021

One I Missed: The Ferrari 288 GTO

by Wallace Wyss –

Sometimes you see something and dismiss it only to regret decades later that you passed by something great. A case in point is the Ferrari 288 GTO. When I first saw it, at the Geneva Auto Salon in February 1984, I thought “hell, that’s nothing but a modified 308.”

True it superficially resembled the Pininfarina designed Ferrari 308 GTB but it was actually a whole different car. The way it came about was that Ferrari had had some success with a private team in France racing the fiberglass bodied 308 GTB in rallies. So they thought with this new class of Group B rally cars they would field a competitor.

So in order to qualify it as a homologation car for the FIA’s Group B rally class, they had to make a certain number. They were in a hurry so to save time and money they did use the Pininfarina-styled body, though they added carbon fiber and Kevlar-reinforced fiberglass panels. The name GTO purposely recalled their famous ‘60s racers and they even had such design cues as the triple body side vents and “ducktail” rear spoiler.

Ferrari 288 GTO

Ferrari chose to display a 288 GTO in their 70th anniversary car display at Pebble. Wyss painted this portrait afterward. Those interested in a print can reach him by clicking the ad on the side bar.

The engine was based on the engine used in the Lancia LC2 prototype racer, the GTO’s twin turbocharged-and-intercooled 2.9L/400 HP V-8 laid longitudinally in the all-new tube steel chassis along with a Formula 1-style 5-speed gearbox (in the old 308GTB the engine was transverse).

No one seemed to object that it had Japanese made turbos, they being very adept at that art.

The sophisticated chassis and Formula 1-based suspension and brakes provided phenomenal grip and agility to go along with the V-8’s plentiful power.

Now back in the Sixties few of the GTO cars were used on the street, being thinly disguised racers, but this time they laid on some comfort items comfortable leather seats and optional power windows, an AM/FM/cassette stereo and air conditioning. In short, the Ferrari 288 GTO was the most complete Ferrari in a generation, a Grand Touring machine with racing blood in its veins.

Ironically Group B rallying did not get very far. A couple of early fatalities alarmed the organizers to curtail the program and only a few of the Group B rally cars from various automakers made it out on the market. The 288GTO was never submitted to the U.S. thus if you owned one in the U.S. you had to get it legalized by an independent shop like Amerispec.

Ferrari 288 GTO

I don’t know how low the price ever got on used ones but when you consider that only 272 were produced, far less than the Daytona for instance, it is understandable they are now fetching between a million and two million at auction.

And so it goes. I see and I don’t see, educating myself on some models much too late to buy one for a song.

But I did see one at the 70th anniversary of Ferrari display at Pebble in August 2017. And this time I painted a portrait.


Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is a fine artist who paints automotive portraits on commission. For a list of available prints, text your e-mail address to (213)344 6438.





One I Missed: The Ferrari 288 GTO
Article Name
One I Missed: The Ferrari 288 GTO
The Ferrari 288 GTO superficially resembled the Pininfarina designed Ferrari 308 GTB but it was actually a whole different car.

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