Common lore says the Ferrari 288 GTO, officially named just “GTO,” was developed in the 1980s to race in the World Rally Championship, which had recently announced the acceptance of the FIA’s Group B category of cars. But according to Ferrari engineer and father of the 288 GTO, Nicola Materazzi, the project predated Group B regulations. The GTO, he said, was born out of Enzo Ferrari’s concern that his road cars had lost their edge so much so that cars which were “fractions of Ferraris” could beat them.
The GTO moniker, short for the Italian phrase “Gran Turismo Omologato”—grand touring homologation in English—had only been bestowed on one other car in Ferrari’s history up to this point: the legendary 250 GTO of the mid 1960s. The title didn’t come easily.
But no one would accuse the GTO of being soft. A 2.8-liter twin-turbo V-8 sent 400 hp to the rear wheels, and the whole car only weighed a skosh over 2500 pounds. It was quick, even by modern standards; a 1984 Road & Track road test showed that 0-60 mph took just five seconds, and the quarter-mile was over in 14.1 seconds, crossing the line at 113 mph.
Despite its passing resemblance to a Ferrari 308, the GTO was longer and wider—a different car, almost entirely. The Pininfarina-designed body was formed by old-school methods; designers took their preliminary sketches straight to the workshop, dispensing with then-nascent computer aided design. Flared fenders, spoilers, and multiple air intakes front and rear gave the car a much more aggressive stance.
When the GTO debuted in February at the 1984 Geneva Auto Show, the frenetic response from media, gawkers, and hopeful buyers clearly signaled one thing: Ferrari was back. Originally, just 200 examples were to be built in accordance with FIA Group B homologation rules. One potential buyer wanted a GTO so badly that he paid 20,000 Swiss francs for a document attesting that he would buy number 201 if it was built.
He was in luck. Ultimately, Ferrari turned out a total of 272 GTOs. Still, dealerships would get no more than one example—and would have to handpick a customer to be approved by Ferrari. Most went for well over their asking price. Today, that’d be a bargain, as the 288 GTO, just like its 1960s predecessor, is now prized on the collector market.