In a sea of retro icons that battle for seven-digit attention, how can you set one model apart from another? Brand loyalties aside, one can always choose an old-school machine based on how analog the driving experience is (this brings it as far from the current showroom lot as possible). And, using that criterion, but also factoring in performance that’s still impressive, things can hardly get better than the Ferrari 288 GTO, which the Italians built for Group B homologation. And this 1985 example, which was converted to North American specification back in the day, makes for a splendid example of the breed.
Nowadays, with Ferrari mixing its F1 efforts with a Le Mans Hypercar entry scheduled for 2023, the Prancing Horse seems as far from the rallying world as possible. However, things weren’t always so. Thus, if we look back to the late 1970s, we find Ferrari competing in rallies together with Michelotto, a dealer that was formed in 1969 and had been handling race car conversions.
The two companies’ rallying efforts continued through the 1980s (this digital proposal brings forth a 2020s adventure of the sort, based on the 296 GTB). And since the FIA introduced Group B in 1982, the Italians naturally joined the party. For one, Group B regulations came with fewer restrictions for the hardware used, while only requiring 200 road cars to be built for homologation.
The glorious street-legal fruits of the Prancing Horse’s rallying labor
Ferrari’s rallying days didn’t bring the expected results. However, the era lead to the creation of monsters like the 288 GTO, which is considered the first modern Maranello halo car, and even the F40 that came after it (how about a a CGI-delivered F40 Challenge racing-inspired restomod?).
While the 288 GTO was based on the 308 GTB, it could almost be considered an all-new design, such was the intensity of the motorsport-dictated transformation. The body is shorter, making it more agile, while the flared wheel arches are there to accommodate wider tires. As for the aggressive styling, this is owed to bits like the front splitter, quadruple driving lights assisting the pop-up headlights, the three air vents sitting just aft of the rear wheels, and the ducktail-style posterior.
A serious diet involving fiberglass and Kevlar keeps the weight in check (1,161 kg or 2,560 lbs dry). As for the motivation, 400 hp might not sound like a lot these days. But we can assure you that the way in which the 2.8L V8 featuring two IHI turbos delivers that power (it also packs 366 lb-ft/496 Nm of torque) makes for an explosive driving experience, gated manual included.
Performance numbers? For instance, the 189 mph (304 km/h) top speed of the 288 GTO made this the fastest road car of its time.
While the cabin was intended to ensure the driver can stay focused on the road, the world-famous Ferrari finesse meant you would still get a leather finish for the Kevlar bucket seats. Optional extras included air conditioning, power windows, and a sound system.
In this example, the music is provided by the TT V8
This example, one of the just 272 288 GTOs Ferrari made, features the said goodies, minus the radio. It’s dripping on Rosso Corsa, while black is the dominant color for the leather on the inside—the Daytona-style seats come with red cloth accents.
Destined for the U.S., chassis number 56773 was converted to North American spec, landing in Illinois at the supplying dealer, Lake Forest Sportscars. It’s worth noting that while the said conversion saw the speedometer displaying values in mph, the odometer still reads in kilometers, which has led to some mileage recording errors over the years.
Even so, RM Sotheby’s, which is currently offering the 288 GTO, assures us that the 7,962 km (4,945 mi) reading shown at the time of cataloging is accurate. The vehicle comes with a full ownership and service record, and retains its factory engine and gearbox. And, for the past two decades, this was kept by a single family.
The seller has applied for Ferrari Classiche Certification in January this year, when the Fezza was serviced, and will cover the expenses required to complete the process.
The price of the Ferrari is not mentioned. Still, given the highly original state of the machine and its low mileage, if we look at past sales, we can expect this 288 GTO to pass the $3M mark and not by a small margin (however, please keep in mind this is nothing more than an estimate).