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The Ferrari 288 GTO Is the Forgotten Ferrari Supercar

In Ferrari’s modern era, since the early 1980s or so, the brand has produced five distinct supercars. Several of them are easy to remember: the F40, of course, was a legend and an icon. The LaFerrari is the newest one. We all remember the Enzo, which was such a force when it came out years ago. And most people remember the F50, even though it was a bit buried in the 1990s and is an uncommon sight at car shows.

So what’s the fifth?

That would be the Ferrari 288 GTO, which was sold in the mid-1980s. It was the original Ferrari “supercar,” meant to stand above the lineup, which was forming as we now know it, with a midengine V8 model (then the 308), a 2-seater V12 (the Testarossa) and a 4-seater V12 (then the 412). The 288 GTO was the limited-production halo car, the one at the top, the Ferrari supercar of supercars.

Except that nobody really remembers it. Collectors do, of course, but regular people seem to forget it, so I’ll give you a little refresher. Here’s a basic overview: The 288 GTO was based on the 308, though it was so radically modified that it bears only a passing resemblance — though non-car enthusiasts occasionally mistake them. The most crucial difference was under the hood: The 308 used a rather underpowered (by modern standards) 3.0-liter V8, but the 288 GTO rocked an amazing turbocharged 2.8-liter V8, giving it 395 horsepower and 366 lb-ft of torque — big numbers for the time.

The initial plan for the 288 GTO was that a racing version would run in Group B, a new circuit race series that required “homologation,” meaning that road-legal versions of the racing cars had to be built. This was the same race series that gave use the Porsche 959 — although, oddly, the race series never happened. Nonetheless, the road cars happened, and Ferrari ended up building 272 examples of the 288 GTO.

That number is important, because it’s solidified an unusual place in history for the 288 GTO: the rarest Ferrari supercar. You see, Ferrari ended up building something like 1,300 F40 models, and a little under 400 F50s, and about 500 Enzos, and maybe 600 LaFerraris, but the fact that there are only 272 different examples of the 288 GTO means that it’s the gatekeeper of the set. Indeed, any collector who wants to get all five Ferrari supercars will have little difficulty securing an F40, a LaFerrari and an Enzo, and some trouble with an F50 — but the 288 GTO will be the bottleneck, the rarest of them all, because it was produced in the smallest numbers.

As a result, Ferrari’s “forgotten” supercar is now easily fetching $3 million, and likely more — and collectors prize it as one of the greatest modern Ferrari models. Even though many casual car enthusiasts forget it existed at all.

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  1. I remember going to the Ferrari dealer in Toronto and seeing the car when it was new. The asking price was $350k, one year later they were selling for 1 million.

  2. Back in the 80’s, a friend of mine and I walked into the local Ferrari dealership and saw this beautiful car behind some ropes. We were so tempted to give it a touch. A fleeting but memorable moment for sure.

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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