GTO – moniker turned legend
The numbers and codes that Ferrari has used in naming its cars down through its history have always been based on very simple logic. The names of its 12-cylinder cars, for example, were always based on their per cylinder displacement. That meant that the 125 S was a 1,500 cc car (125x12 = 1,500). Equally, the name of the 250 GT and the 250 Testa Rossa merely reflected the per cylinder displacement of their 3,000 cc engines (250x12=3,000). By the time International GT Manufacturers’ Championship was launched in the 1960s, Ferrari already had a very competitive model in the 250 Passo Corto which the British renamed the SWB or Short Wheel Base. Even though that car did garner some significant victories - most famously Stirling Moss’s win in the Tourist Trophy - an even faster, sportier car was required to win the Championship. This raised a thorny problem, however: then, as now, the FIA had very strict rules for eligibility for admission to the event, not least of which were that all the cars had to be homologated for road use and that at least 100 examples of each had to have been built.
With that in mind, the Maranello engineers set to work. They used the brilliant 250 and Gioachino Columbo’s excellent 60° V8 engine as starting points in creating an authentic track car. Their technical prowess met its match in Sergio Scaglietti’s design flair. The latter actually created the bodywork for the car starting directly from the aluminium and without having fully defined its forms on paper. The new model’s first tests introduced another piece of aerodynamic kit that would prove essential to boosting its stability – a small lip on the tail. This design feature is now known as a nolder and is instantly recognisable on the 2010 GTO too. It was clear that it would be impossible to build 100 examples of the new car in a single year, so Ferrari set to work to convince the sporting commission that the car was actually a “variation” of the existing 250. They agreed in what was a major victory for the Drake, granting the car the homologation that made it eligible for the GT races. The Ferrari 250 GT thus became the GTO (with the O standing for omologato), as reported in the telegrams sent to privateers as confirmation that they could indeed now compete. A car that would prove a real milestone in Ferrari history had been born. And that is the very simple story of a magical moniker which now makes a welcome comeback as another milestone in the Maranello story is hailed: the 599 GTO, the most powerful road car ever built by the Prancing Horse. The legendary GTO name, however, wasn’t mothballed entirely after the 1960s. In 1984, in fact, just as Formula 1 was adopting turbo engines, work began in Ferrari on a turbo road car. The principle behind the new model was simple: the designers started from an existing car, the 308, but replaced its original engine with a 2855 cc longitudinal V8 with twin turbos and twin heat exchangers. The result was a car that delivered stunning performance yet was beautifully balanced thanks to significant modification of its chassis and vehicle dynamics. It was also the forerunner of the F40 which would enjoy worldwide acclaim. As had happened two decades previously, the car needed to be homologated, but this time the aim was wasn’t the track but the road, making it a real record breaker in terms of performance. Once homologation was granted, it seemed only natural to dust off the GTO name and revive the heady legend that went with it. A legend that the 599 GTO will now continue to fuel in the hearts of enthusiasts the world over.