Technically, the Ferrari 288 GTO is a homologated version of the 308 GTB. Sit the two vehicles side-by-side, however, and it quickly becomes apparent that Ferrari left little of the original car untouched as they transformed the Berlinetta into a world-class racer. Intended to compete in the Group B Circuit races, a series whose time was up before the 288 ever saw the light of day, the 288 GTO has become one of those legendary models that will forever be remembered as one of the greatest Ferraris ever. Because there was no race series for the GTO to compete in, all 272 examples of the 288 GTO would forever remain road cars.
So, how did Ferrari go about turning the handsome-yet-relatively tame 308 GTB into the mighty 288 GTO? First, the engine was turned 90 degrees in the engine bay, eliminating the 308’s trunk space but necessary to allow space for the two turbochargers that allowed the small, 2.9-litre V8 to develop an amazing 400 bhp. Even more impressive than the horsepower, however, was the mental 366 lb-ft of torque produced with the help of those two turbos. This rather unconventional engine arrangement was chosen for its compliance with the Group B specifications. The wheelbase was stretched by over 100 millimetres and the track was widened to fit larger tires. Add in the track-spec suspension, and you have one of the most hardcore road-going Ferraris ever produced. The resulting performance was nothing short of incredible: 0 to 62 in 5 seconds flat, with a top speed of 186 mph, or 300 km/h, making it the first road-legal car to reach that prestigious mark.
As an indication of how proud Enzo was of his new GTO, he offered several examples to F1 drivers, including Niki Lauda and Keke Rosberg. Ferrari’s high estimation of the 288 GTO would eventually be accepted by the motoring world at large: this model has been consistently ranked as one of the greatest sports cars of the 1980s, if not all time. After all, epic good looks combined with unprecedented performance figures are a hard combination to resist.