Built for Speed: Inside the Ferrari 288 GTO

Launch Slideshow

Upon its introduction in 1984, the 288 GTO was only the second Ferrari to bear the legendary moniker “GTO,” or GT Omologato, the first being the famed 250 GTO. The 288 was constructed to compete in Group B, a largely unrestricted class of rally cars that were among the fastest and most powerful ever built. The incredible speed and competition led to a series of fatal crashes that ended the series 1986. As a result, the 288 GTO never saw a single Group B rally stage, and all that are left are the 272 street cars that were required to be built in order for Ferrari to compete. The 288 GTO is considered today to be Ferrari’s first proper supercar. With what is possibly the lowest mileage 288 GTO in existence heading to RM Sotheby’s Ferrari – Leggenda e Passione sale, click ahead to view the technological details that make this model so special. –Jake Auerbach 

Ferrari – Leggenda e Passione
9 September | Maranello

Built for Speed: Inside the Ferrari 288 GTO

  • 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO. Estimate €3,250,000–4,000,000. To be offered in Ferrari – Leggenda e Passione on 9 September in Maranello.
  • Turbochargers
    The 1980s saw the rise of the turbocharger as means to achieve increased performance on the small displacement engines that had come into fashion in response to early 1970s emissions regulations. Turbochargers were powered by recapturing exhaust gases, which would normally just escape via the tailpipe in order to spin a turbine on what was effectively an air pump. This air pump, or turbo charger, would force additional air into the engines combustion chamber, allowing for a proportionally increased amount of fuel and therefore more power. This allowed Ferrari’s modest 2.8-liter engine to produce as much as 650 HP, more than double what would be expected of an engine that size, without any of the additional weight.  

  • Intercoolers
    One of the major downsides of turbochargers, and the biggest hurdle for engineers, was what to do with all the additional heat created by routing the exhaust back through the engine compartment instead of straight out the tailpipe. As heat is the enemy of performance, intercoolers were the answer, effectively radiators to cool down the exhaust gases. The two massive intercoolers on the 288 GTO dominate the top view of the engine compartment but were one of Ferrari’s secrets to extracting maximum power from their turbocharged V8.  

  • Slanted Cooling Vents
    The 288 GTO body was basically just that of the 308/328 platform but with the dial turned up to eleven. The car was wider, longer, lower and more aggressive than the 8-cylinder road cars on which it was based. One of the most striking features of the 288 GTO are the slanted vents on the rear fender, borrowed almost directly from the 250 GTO, which were used to keep the cars wheels and brakes cool under extreme braking.  

  • Front and Rear Spoilers
    High speeds increase the air pressure underneath a car and can make them prone to “lift-off.” This is a problem when travelling at triple-digit speeds and expecting the front tires to have enough traction to corner. The 288 GTO features dramatically larger spoilers front and rear that help counter these effects. The front spoiler also diverts incoming air to more efficiently cool the brakes.  

  • Longitudinal Engine Positioning
    Unlike Ferrari’s previous V8 road cars, the 288 GTO had a longitudinally mounted engine (running front to back instead of side to side), which enabled them to move the engine forward and closer to the centre of the car. This not only allowed the necessary extra room for turbo chargers, but it also provided better overall weight-distribution.  

  • Speedline Wheels
    One need only glance at the massive Speedline wheels on the 288 GTO to realise this is a car that meant business. They were centre lock wheels, meaning they were secured by just one massive nut in the centre, rather than the more common five or six lug nuts, which allowed for on-the-fly wheel and tire changes. The tires were also wider, ensuring the largest possible contact patch between rubber and road. To help keep weight down without sacrificing structural strength, the wheel centres and outer rim were actually two separate pieces bolted together by twenty hexagonal nuts.  

  • Composite Body Materials
    Exotic materials (for the time) were used on every panel of the 288 GTO, except for the steel door skins. Everything else on the car, including bulkheads, was a mix of Kevlar, aluminum and fibreglass. Never had these materials been mixed in such an important structural capacity. The use of these composites lowered the 288's weight by a healthy 250 lbs compared to the 308. The car tipped the scales at just over 2,500 lbs, or 6.25 lbs per HP, better than most today’s performance cars.   


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