Smaller and a little more powerful than the flagship Testarossa, the 288 GTO was the fastest Ferrari is its day. It should have been, it was designed as a racer. GTO? Gran Turismo Omologato or, in somewhat less evocative terms, Homologated GT. Homologation is the process of certifying that a number of identical units have been made; road cars are homologated by transport, road based race cars are homologated for competition by the FIA, the ruling body of motor sport, once a specified number have been built.

Over 1959-61, Ferrari had been building the short wheelbase 250 GT for road and competition use; when the FIA announced a GT championship for 1962, Ferrari needed something lower and lighter. The rules of the day stated that 100 identical cars should be built in 12 consecutive months, but that special bodied versions could be made once the 100 had been completed; the 250 GT had already been accepted a GT car, so the new car was submitted for approval with the revised bodywork.

When the form came back stamped GT – Omologato, the name stuck. The 3 variation in axle ratio and states of tune; factory cars may have achieved over 170 mph at Le Mans, but 165 mph is about right for 280 bhp. Twenty years on and the FIA again introduced rules to encourage road going GT cars to take part in racing a rallying with effect from 1982. This time the minimum quantity was 200 in a year for Group B. Ferrari had racing in mind, Porsche planned to race and rally the 959 while the rest of the competitive manufactures built outrageous four wheel drive rally specials.

In event, Group B racing failed to capture any following and the Group B rallying stopped in 1986 when the cars became too fast for their own – and spectator – safety. However Ferrari introduced the 288 GTO at the 1984 Geneva Show as a Limited Edition of 200 started taking deposits there and then. While there was no homologation inspired need to develop a previous design, Ferrari started with the 308 GTB as the basis.

Turbo charging small engines had become the fashion for ultimate power to weight ratios and Ferrari already made a 208 Turbo for the Italian market to avoid the heavy tax on cars over 2 liters; so the engine chosen was the V-8, set at 2.85 liters such that, like Porsche, the car would fit into the 4 liter category once the FIA’s turbo correction factor of 1.4 was applied. With twin IHI turbochargers it would develop 400 bhp at 7000 rpm, but much more for racing, simply by adjusting turbo pressures. To allow a conventional racing gearbox behind the axle line, the engine was sited fore and aft which necessitated an extra 4 inches in the wheel base.

What had been the 308 GTB’s 225/ 50 x 16 rear tyres were used on the front of the GTO with 265/ 50 x 16 tyres on the rear – so the body was flared out to accommodate them and any later increase, to the tune of an extra 7 inches. The chassis was just a stretched version of the 308’s tubular frame, but the body was a mixture of materials using glass fiber, Kevlar for the bonnet, and carbon/ Kevlar for the roof. The car’s weight was quoted at 1160 kg: although production ones with full interior trim were nearer 1300 Kg they were still 50 kg lighter than the 308 GTB.

It looks the GTO was very similar to the 308, just longer and wider, until you came to the rear; the two or three near vertical slots, cut into the 250 GTO’s flanks behind the front wheels, became three similar cut outs behind the 288 GTO’s rear wheels, and tail spoiler, too, carried overtones of 20 years earlier. While the earlier car was designed for competition and won, the 288 GTO was designed for competition but never ran – that hasn’t stopped it from being another instant classic Ferrari.