At first glance, Davey G. Johnson and I are barely distinguishable. We both exist in the form of a blog called Jalopnik.com as thirtynothing writers with some degree (however forced) of literary savoir-faire. We're bearded, the same height, lovers of cigarettes, in agreement that Jawbreaker's 24-hour Revenge Therapy is one of the most
important awesome albums ever recorded and we not-so-secretly wish we were James May. But look a little closer and you'll see some major differences. Davey felt the Audi RS4 was lacking that certain something, while I remain convinced Audi's muscular madman is that certain something. He's the FAF to my DAF. I mention this because Davey once told me just how great he thinks Selleck's Ferrari's 308 is. I will have absolutely none of that; the 308 is hella lame. Instead, I am arguing in favor of this week's Fantasy Garage nominee, the sorta-related yet mind-bendingly fantastic Ferrari 288 GTO.
The worst thing you can say about the 288 GTO is that it looks like the 308 GTB (the "B" is for berlinetta, i.e. coupe. The GTS, "S" standing for spyder, is for the drophead). And as the 308 cribbed most of its best lines from the Dino 246, that's no bad thing. Some will argue that since the 288's body is an evolution of the 308, the GTO 1.) doesn't look special enough and 2.) proclaims loudly that the driver has Chlamydia. Balderdash, says I. As perverse as it sounds, looking almost exactly like the commonplace (and underpowered) 308 makes the 288 a legitimate sleeper. A Ferrari Q-car? It's as close as we'll ever get. Plus, from every angle there's a little sumpin ' more butch'n'sexy about the 288 compared to its weaker cousin. Especially those triplicate cooling vents on the flanks. Also, you can't beat the quad driving lamps stuck under the front bumper, as they confuse function and form in the best of ways and would no doubt prove super-potentially useful for moonless afterhours hooning.
A little history. Back in 1962 Ferrari started producing a supercar variant of the painfully hot 250, which they badged the GTO. The "O" stood for Omologata which is risotto-speak for Homologation. Enzo built and sold thirty-nine 250 GTOs to those he considered worthy. Today, 250 GTOs are not only the most valuable Ferraris, but the most expensive cars period, with one trading hands for a abso-nutso $15 million in 1991. The 288 is the only other Ferrari deemed bitchin' enough to carry the appellation of GTO, making it the legitimate heir and successor to the most famous prancing horse of them all.
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So what makes the Ferrari 288 GTO worthy of not only the badge but a slip in our fanciful harbor? In a word, everything. But before we get into the specifics, you need to understand why it was built at all. It was to battle Porsche's 961. The largely unknown 961 was a steroidal 640 hp, Le Mans-winning, Group B racing version of a future Fantasy Garage resident, the mega-Bruce Porsche 959. And thanks to Group B rules of the mid-eighties, Ferrari had to build at least 200 streetable examples. Luckily for the Gordon Gekkos of the era, Modena built 272 (though some claim 273). As it happened, Group B was canceled in 1987 due to string of horrific deaths in 1986, so that year's Porsche/Ferrari cage match for automotive supremacy never happened. Ferrari simply detuned the racecars, slapped in a customary interior and sold 'em.
Just as the Ferrari 250 was the starting place for the 250 GTO, the 308 served as a basis for the 288 GTO. However, whereas the mid-engined 308's 3.0-liter V8 (3.0 liters / eight cylinders = 308) was mounted transversely, the 288's (2.8-liters / eight cylinders = 288) was mounted north/south. The 308's aft trunk space was completely consumed by the GTO's twin turbochargers and intercoolers. But even more space was needed for the hopped up engine, so its overall length was stretched by about four inches. Group B racing was Hoontopia back in the day, so there was no cap on the amount of power an engine could produce.
However, there were restrictions on displacement. Engines could be no larger then 4.0 liters. Or, if a manufacturer chose to replace displacement with artificial aspiration, turbo'd mills' displacements were multiplied by 1.4. That is why both the 288 GTO and the 959 displace 2855 cc. With a few more bars of pressure, the racing versions of the 288 GTO easily stonked out 600 hp. For street duty, the pressure was dialed back to a modest 11.6 psi and the small V8 spit out 400 banging stallions. And of course, there was nothing stopping an owner from pumping the boost of the IHI turbos back up.
Exotic (for the time) materials were used on every panel except the steel doors. The rest of the body was an expensive mix of Kevlar, aluminum and fiberglass. This lowered the 288's weight by 250 lbs compared to the 308. It tipped the scales at a slim 2,557 pounds. (That's 6.4 pounds per horsepower. The modern 997 Turbo has a ratio of 7.2.) That means 21 years ago, the 288 GTO's performance was absolutely bonkers. Top speed was 190 mph, and possibly higher. Zero to 60 happened in the mid 4s, and the quarter-mile was dispensed in 12.7 seconds. And since it was built to race, fuel capacity was a whopping 31 gallons. Do we want to drive the 288 GTO cross-country wearing night vision goggles? I'm dizzy just fantasizing... Ahem.
As Joe Kennedy used to say to the Teamsters, before you vote consider the following. Our favorite endangered species, the Enzo, traces its lineage directly to the 288 GTO. In fact, all "modern" supercar Ferraris do. The Enzo followed the F50 and the F50 came after the F40. The F40 had a 2.9-liter V8. Thus, the F40's mill was in fact the 288's 2.8-liter V8 bored out. Ferrari took what they learned from the 288 and gave
teenage boys the world the F40. Also, the 288 GTO is much rarer than the F40 (272 examples of the GTO versus 1,315 for the F40).
Like all good evolutionary tales, there is a missing link between the lusty 288 GTO and the mighty F40 that needs to be mentioned; the ultra-rare 288 Evoluzione. Ferrari built five of these rolling
ber-car test beds, one of which is currently owned by – you guessed it &ndash the Sultan of Brunei. All you really need to know is that the Evoluzione's engine was massaged to the tune of 650 hp, the top speed was purportedly 230 mph and much of the F40's thuggish looks come from Evoluzione DNA.
While not as visually dashing as later Ferrari world beaters (or just straight up ug to the lee as is the case with the F50), the 288 GTO is the Ferrari supercar we're bringing home to clean with a diaper. It's got all the goods: performance out both the ying-yang and wazoo, racing origins, and of course pedigree, pedigree, pedigree. But never mind all that. The 288 GTO is simply stunning to behold. While the F40 does offer even more performance, it is too cartoonish, too adolescent, and too vulgar. The 288, well, cars don't come much better looking. It has the required curves of a Pininfarina blockbuster and the all muscular machoness of any contemporary TVR. As my father would have said, she's a brick shithouse. Or as I say, this one is simply tits on glass.
Jalopnik Fantasy Garage, So far:
Jalopnik Fantasy Garage: RUF RT12
Maserati Quattroporte Executive GT
1978 Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Honda 1300 Coupe 9
1931 Daimler Double Six 50 Corsica Drophead Coupe
Jalopnik Fantasy Garage; More: N.A.R.T. at Le Mans, via Sam Posey [Internal]