Ferrari 288 GTO stolen on test drive, found almost immediately

stolen Ferrari 288 GTO

We've all heard horror stories about people getting ripped off when privately selling a car. It can happen to dealers too, even those selling rare and exotic cars. In this case, the horror story has a happy ending.

Just after noon on Monday, Classic Remise, a vintage car dealer in Dusseldorf, Germany had an appointment with a prospective buyer for the red 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO it was selling on consignment. Ferrari GTOs are fairly rare to begin with, as just 272 were made. This particular 288 GTO had an asking price of $2.63 million (2.35 million Euros) and it also has special provenance. It was the personal car of Formula 1 driver Eddie Irvine, who drove for Scuderia Ferrari in the 1990s, winning four races with the prancing horse on his car.

A heavy-set, bald, English- and French-speaking middle-aged man showed up at the dealer in a taxi. After taking a test drive in the parking lot, the man asked for a road test. This should have piqued the salesman's suspicions, as the dealer later told the Neue Rheinische Zeitung newspaper that was an unusual request, that only about 10 percent of classic car buyers insist on extensive test drives.

The salesman drove the Ferrari to Neuss Uedesheim, about six miles away, where they switched seats. Eventually the test driver stopped, ostensibly to have the salesman drive the Ferrari back to the shop, but when the salesman got out, the driver drove away in the direction of Dormagen. An initial search by the police, including helicopter coverage, failed to locate the car.

It's somewhat surprising that the car was stolen. A police spokesman said that the 288 GTO couldn't be sold on the open market, which the dealer confirmed. "You can not bring the car into the market," he said, "the car is too flashy. You can only put it in a garage and never show it to people. The few models that have been built are all known."

Also, the car thief was photographed examining the car and left his fingerprints at the dealer. That may explain why, just a day later, the stolen Ferrari was located, undamaged, hidden in a garage in the Grevenbroich area, about 18 miles from the dealer.

Police have not identified the garage owner, to avoid compromising the investigation, but they say that they are still searching for the suspect.