1985 Ferrari 288GTOCoachwork by Pininfarina
“After the pause the GTO explodes up the road almost unimaginably quickly, as if tugged to the horizon by a huge elastic band. This isn’t merely fast- it’s electrifying.” Classic & Sportscar, July 1995.
Probably the three most evocative words in automotive history are Gran Turismo Omologato, GTO. The original Ferrari 250GTO was developed to win the fiercely competitive FIA GT Championship in the early Sixties and took the title for Ferrari in 1962, 1963 and 1964 against stiff opposition. For decades it’s been the most prized Ferrari of them all and one of the most valuable cars in the world. Any latter day revival of the name by Ferrari would only be allowed for something very special indeed. It was.
Thirty years ago, at the 1984 Geneva Motor Show, Ferraristi clamoured to get a glimpse of the company’s first ‘homologation special’ supercar: the new 288GTO. It was fast- the fastest road car the company had ever put into production. It was also beautiful, styled by Pininfarina and a muscular, exquisitely detailed evolution of the classic 308 silhouette which had debuted almost a decade earlier. And it was rare: so rare, infact, that despite also boasting the most expensive price tag ever attached to a Ferrari road car, all were sold before production had begun. It’s been the same story ever since.
Just 200 were initially planned and they were intended to compete in the legendary Group B racing class. In the end the series was banned at the peak of its popular appeal- the cars were simply too fast- but Ferrari forged ahead and the 288GTO was born instead destined for a life on the road instead of the track. Basic elements were derived from the company’s contemporary 308GTB Quattrovalvole, but beneath the skin the GTO differed radically, mounting its V8 longitudinally in a new chassis with a longer wheelbase. Twin IHI turbochargers boosted power to a mighty 400bhp at 7,000rpm, providing 0-100km acceleration in a blistering 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 306km/h. Nothing else came close in its day.
Such power and speed necessitated equally dramatic bodywork, the GTOs benefitting from contemporary F1 technology with fibreglass panels combined with lightweight composites such as Kevlar and carbonfibre. The shape was refined in the wind tunnel, and was characterised by flared wheel arches, distinctive front and rear spoilers, four additional grille-mounted driving lights and what has become one of the cars trademark design features, its prominent stalk mounted side mirrors. Warm air was evacuated from the engine compartment by- what else- three angled vertical slats inspired by those gracing the flanks of the car’s illustrious predecessor, the 250GTO.
In the end a mere 278 examples of the 288GTO were built, 1984-1985, making it not only the first ‘instant collectible’ Ferrari flagship, but the rarest. Barely five years after production had ended, the original $84,000 launch price had increased tenfold, and nowadays the best examples are likely to be found only in significant collections given the cars stratospheric value. It is arguably the most prized Ferrari of the past four decades, its modern day habitat basking under spotlights rather than lighting its own path down a challenging Tuscan road or Californian highway.
Although the 288GTO was not offered officially by Ferrari in the US market, a small number were sold there originally, American VIPs usually collecting them directly at the Ferrari factory. This example was picked up there in May 1985 having been specified with optional air conditioning, electric windows and red seat inserts by its first owner, Herbert W Boyer of Burlingame, California. He showed the car at the Emilia Romagna concours d’elegance in San Francisco on 1st November 1987, and the car was featured soon thereafter in the venerable Automobile Quarterly series of books (Volume 26, Number 2 in 1988) under the title ‘Rosso Cina- The Color of Passion’ by Michael Jordan. On 23rd August 1988 the GTO passed its US EPA/DOT certification and by now was owned by the Boyer Trust.
It remained with the Trust until 2003 when sold to an East Coast dealer with just 6,000 miles recorded. The next owner, Mark Davies of Sands Point, Long Island, barely used the car and it passed to the current owner, still on the East Coast, in 2010. Since then it has remained pampered and virtually unused. The recorded mileage is now 6,722 and overall condition is commensurate with this, maintenance having been entrusted to Miller Motorcars of Greenwich (recent bills total $44,000). Accompanying the car are handbooks (the service book, not always issued to cars destined for the US, is a replacement), tools and spare (US type) front bumper and sports exhaust. Ferrari Classiche certification completed August 2014 (hence the refitting of the original European bumper and exhaust), and the car is US titled. We believe it is probably the best 288GTO available today.