Classic Ferraris are one of life’s true joys. Just last month, we celebrated Enzo’s birthday with a list of our favorite prancing horses. Needless to say, we were thrilled to see that one of our top picks—a bright red 288 GTO—showed up on the latest episode Jay Leno’s Garage for a thorough walk around and road test. What made it even more special was that its owner, Ferrari super-fan David Lee, came along for the ride.
While sometimes overshadowed by the iconic F40, the 288 GTO is absolutely legendary in its own right. It wasn’t Ferrari’s first turbocharged car (that honor belongs to the 208 GTB Turbo), but it was their first turbo-car that knocked it out of the park. Designed to compete in the ultra-dangerous Group-B rally, 272 examples were produced for homologation purposes. Unfortunately, the class was officially disbanded before the car could compete, leaving the exploration of its racing potential up to our imagination.
Lee’s GTO is a both a pristine example, and more importantly, a true driver. Even with its low mileage (only around 10,000 km, or 6200 miles, on the clock when he purchased it), he’s not afraid to enjoy it as intended. Who could blame him? With 400 horsepower and and only 2600 pounds to move around, the 288 was a rocketship when new and still respectable today. You could also make the argument that its 2.8-liter twin turbo V-8 provided the performance template for cars like the 488 GTB and all-new 710-hp F8.
Out on the road, Leno and Lee enjoy the GTO’s unique blend of turbocharged power and old-school-Ferrari charm. While the car is similar in layout to its modern turbo V-8 descendants, the power delivery is definitely 1980s—smash the gas, wait two seconds, and hold on as the pair of hairdryers spool up and hit you with the all the boost. A simple dashboard layout, pop-up headlights, and gated manual shifter round out the era-correct experience.
Overall, Leno is delighted by the car, comparing it to the mighty F40, but with additional refinement. Lee is equally as thrilled by his GTO, as it’s not only a fantastic car to drive, but a high school dream car he once thought unattainable. Lucky for him (and viewers like us) he was able to get his hands on one. He’s not afraid to drive this ’80s Ferrari icon and share one of the finest prancing horses with the rest of the world.