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The original, immortal 250 GTO had been developed for the FIA GT Championship, duly taking the manufacturer's title for Ferrari in 1962, 1963 and 1964; clearly, any revival of the GTO name could only be permitted for a very special car indeed. Enter the 288 GTO. Like its illustrious forebear, the 288 GTO (the initials stand for Gran Turismo Omologato) was conceived as a limited-edition model, just 200 units being planned to meet the then-existing Group B homologation requirements for international sports car racing. Styled by Pininfarina's Leonardo Fioravanti, creator of the awe-inspiring Ferrari 365GTB/4 Daytona, the 288 GTO was based on the 308 GTB (another Fioravanti creation) and made its public debut at the Geneva Salon in February 1984. Fioravanti later recalled Enzo Ferrari's original design brief, 'There was no specific instruction, just to produce a car based on the 308 GTB that could be used for racing'.
Although superficially similar to the contemporary 308 GTB Quattrovalvole, the 288 GTO was radically different beneath the skin, mounting its V8 engine longitudinally rather than transversely, a change that necessitated a new chassis with a wheelbase extended from 234cm to 245.1cm. This new frame was constructed of steel tubes in the traditional manner while incorporating the latest in Formula 1-derived composite technology in the form of a Kevlar and Nomex bulkhead between the driver and engine. The alteration in engine layout had been made to accommodate twin IHI turbochargers and their associated Behr inter-coolers and plumbing; the adoption of forced induction requiring that the quad-cam, 32-valve V8 be downsized from 2,927cc to 2,855cc to comply with the regulations. Ferrari's considerable experience gained from turbo-charging its Formula 1 engine was deployed in adapting the 308 unit, the latter in highly modified 288 GTO form producing 400bhp at 7,000rpm and a mighty 366lb-ft of torque at just 3,800 revs. Top speed was a staggering 189mph.
Its three rear-wing cooling slots deliberately recalling the earlier GTO, the 288 bodywork likewise benefited from the adoption of F1 technology, being constructed of glass fibre and a mixture of the lightweight composite materials Kevlar and carbon fibre. Aerodynamically refined in the wind tunnel, the 288 GTO sported flared wheel arches, larger front and rear spoilers, taller door mirrors and four additional driving lights in the front grille, these subtly altered looks combining elegance with muscularity in equal measure. Given its race-bred, state-of-the-art technology and drop-dead gorgeous looks, it is not surprising that the 288 GTO appealed to Formula 1 drivers of the day, with Ferrari's Michele Alboretto and René Arnoux, and even McLaren's Nikki Lauda numbered among its owners. In the event, the 288 GTO never contested the races for which it had been conceived, as the FIA axed Group B, citing lack of manufacturer interest as the reason.
We understand that 55233 is the 135th GTO built (out of 272), was delivered new to Austria finished in white with a blue interior and was once part of Chris Evans' famous 'White Collection' of seven important Ferraris all finished in Bianco. It was subject to a ground-up restoration costing in excess of £150,000 in 2009. The car is now finished in Rosso Corsa with a Nero interior and has only covered 31,000km from new.
With total production amounting to only 272 cars, every one of which was sold prior to the start of production in July 1984, these cars have been covetable ever since the production ceased in 1986. The modest number built, particularly compared to all subsequent Ferrari flagship supercars, has ensured that today it is truly a worthy successor to the 250 GTO and remains one of the most desirable and sought-after Ferraris of recent times.