GTO - Gran Turismo Omologato.
Italian for ‘Grand Touring Homologated’, these three letters mean business.
First used by Ferrari in the early 1960’s to designate a limited-production, racing-developed variant of the 250 GT Berlinetta SWB, the GTO badge was given to signify the homologation of the 250 GT for competition in the FIA Group 3 racing series. The regulations for Group 3 racing stated that 100 road-going examples needed to be produced in order to homologate, or approve, the car intended to enter the racing series. The resulting ‘homologation special’ was a light-weight, lowered, stripped-back race car for the road: the legendary Ferrari 250 GTO.
Fast forward twenty years to the mid-1980’s - Ferrari once again found themselves facing homologation requirements to enter into a racing series. This time, it was a circuit-based spinoff of the infamous Group B rally series. FIA Group B regulations specified that 200 road-going examples were required for homologation; which, when compared to other racing series of that era, was a relatively low production requirement and allowed manufacturers to use innovative engineering and new materials in the development of their race cars. In development of their planned Group B car, Ferrari started by making modifications to their existing mid-engined V8 sports car, the 308 GTB. By the time they were finished, however, the only remaining similarities to the 308 were a few design cues and the number of cylinders in the engine. The final product was a twin-turbo, V8 supercar that set the precedent for all Ferrari halo cars to come. It was a homologation special that was worthy of only one name: GTO.
The Ferrari 288 GTO was released in 1984 as the road-going, production version of the 288 GTO Evoluzione that was intended to race in the Group B circuit series. In total, Ferrari built 272 GTO models - 200 to comply with homologation requirements, and an additional 72 to meet additional demand from a few of their best clients. Every single 288 GTO that left the factory was painted in red, and each one was built to Euro specification - Ferrari never federalized the 288 GTO for sale in North America.
The development and engineering of the 288 GTO was quite extensive, with Ferrari utilizing innovative materials and Formula 1-derived technologies during design and production. From the 308 on which it was based, the wheelbase for the 288 GTO was elongated by 200 mm and the outer bodywork was redesigned to maintain pleasing proportions. Width was also increased by 190 mm to accommodate wider wheels and tires, and weight was decreased by about 500 lbs through the use of carbon fiber, Kevlar, and molded fiberglass. At the time, Ferrari had been seeing success in Formula 1 by utilizing turbocharging and was experimenting with the technology in road cars. With the displacement restrictions in Group B, the GTO was the perfect candidate for a turbocharged engine, and after de-boring the original 2.9 L V8 from the 308 GTB, Ferrari fitted twin-turbochargers and longitudinally mounted the now 2.8 L V8 in the 288 GTO. The result was an engine that remained in compliance with the FIA Group B regulations while still producing 400 brake-horsepower and 366 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a dog-leg manual, five-speed racing transmission, the GTO could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds and could reach a top speed of 189 mph, making it one of the fastest street legal production cars at the time of its release.
However, following a series of tragic accidents in the 1986 season, Group B was canceled before the GTO ever saw competition. The homologation special that had undergone such painstaking and innovative development was cast away, left without purpose, and from a motorsport perspective, dead on arrival.
But even if the GTO had seen competition - that was never going to be what made it so special. From the moment it was honored by the name of Gran Turismo Omologato, the 288 GTO was destined to be legendary. A fully bespoke design by Pininfarina, the body was low, wide, and ultra-masculine while simultaneously remaining sleek and tidy. It was light, yet strong, and featured design elements reminiscent of the 250 GTO, such as angled fender gill-slits and an aggressive kamm tail. It was, and still is, a poster car by every definition. And the Formula 1 technology, utilized by Ferrari’s engineers to extract 400bhp from the GTO’s 2.8L V8? It ultimately laid the foundation for the first production car to ever exceed 200 mph: the beloved Ferrari F40. So while the 288 GTO never officially saw its day on the podium, it played a much more important role as the predecessor of all future Ferrari halo cars. Without the GTO, we might never have been blessed with cars like the F40, the F50, the Enzo, and the LaFerrari.
This past July, the Service Department here at Blue Chip had the honor of performing a major engine-out service on a 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO. This example was experiencing leaking from the engine, cooling system, transmission, and clutch hoses, and required an extensive service to get it back in good driving condition. We sat down with both of our Ferrari technicians, Logan and Ryan, to get more insight into the work required to keep these classic Ferraris in working order, and also to understand some of the thoughts and emotions they experience whilst servicing a car of this caliber and significance.
Logan, who performed the majority of this service, gave us a great high-level overview of the work performed and the procedure he followed to ensure the factory-original condition of the car:
Following a complete vehicle inspection and diagnosis of all issues, Logan began the service by draining all of the fluids from the car and completely removing the drivetrain, pulling both the engine and the transmission as one unit. From there, the first order of business is addressing all of the oil leaks. The drivetrain must be disassembled and all cam caps, valve cover gaskets, and distributor gaskets must be removed. Once the drivetrain is disassembled, all surfaces are cleaned and new gaskets are installed for each seal. After correcting the oil leaks, Logan turned his attention to the coolant leaks. The coolant leak repair was achieved by removing the thermostat housing, cleaning excess coolant from all surfaces, and replacing all gaskets associated with the thermostat housing. Once all fluid leaks were corrected, Logan performed a variety of preventative maintenance services, such as the replacement of both timing belts and associated tensioner bearings, a valve clearance adjustment to factory specification, replacement of transmission mounts, and an AC service. Finally, the drivetrain was reassembled and reinstalled, all fluids were replaced, and the GTO was respectfully test driven to ensure proper vehicle performance and operation.
As is standard, only genuine Ferrari parts were used in this service. Logan also informed us that this type of service is routine with Ferraris of this era, and an engine out service with a full reseal and belt service is recommended every three years on a 288 GTO.
Logan, who started with Blue Chip this past summer, spent six years under the Ferrari brand before joining us at Blue Chip and has completed all factory curriculum toward earning a Ferrari Master Certification. While working at Ferrari, Logan gained valuable experience in servicing older Ferraris and now is able to specialize in that niche here at Blue Chip.
Ryan, who is also our Shop Foreman, has been with Blue Chip for over three years and has been the primary caretaker for the GTO since it was purchased by the current owner a year and a half ago. Prior to Blue Chip, Ryan worked under the Ferrari brand for seven years and received his Ferrari Classiche certification, which requires a week of onsite training at the Ferrari factory in Maranello, Italy.
Both of these technicians have extensive factory training and experience working on vintage Ferraris, and it was a pleasure having the opportunity to chat with them regarding the significance of this specific service.
We asked both Logan and Ryan how it felt to have the opportunity to service such a significant car, and their response was almost unanimous: a rewarding experience, and a true pleasure in honest automotive service. They commented on the sense of reverence and respect that they hold within themselves when working on a car of such historical significance; both relaying that they feel an obligation to preserve and protect these cars so that future generations of collectors and enthusiasts can enjoy them. Ryan expressed his thoughts to us on servicing and maintaining cars of this caliber:
“Working on a car is like solving a problem. Anyone can look at a problem and address it in multiple ways… It takes a certain level of appreciation for the history and significance of a car to not only solve that problem, but to do so in a way that is respectful and considerate to the heritage and influence of that car.”
Considering the gravity of a 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO, and the influence that this car has had on the past, present, and future of Ferrari, the adoration held by Logan and Ryan amidst these services is immense. Their pride for their work is reflected in the quality of service they perform; in union with the knowledge and experience held by both of them, they provide excellent care for the cars they service and ensure a phenomenal product for each one of our enthusiast clients.
We at Blue Chip are very fortunate to not only have the opportunity to care for a car of such magnitude like the 288 GTO, but also to have knowledgeable, factory-trained technicians on our team who are as passionate about servicing these cars as we are about driving them. We are thankful for and proud of the team we have here, and we look forward to servicing many more cars of historical significance down the road.