Like the Alfa Romeo 164 ProCar , the Ferrari 288 GTO Evoluzione never got its shot at racing anything other than itself on the test track, but unlike the Alfa, its legacy didn’t begin and end with itself: the Evo paved the way for the F40, with one of the cars being used as a development bed in some capacity for Enzo’s ultimate road car. The F40 did see some track time at such prestigious venues as La Circuit de la Sarthe, but it was always a road car first and foremost, even if pop culture tells us it is the epitome of a racing car that doesn’t really belong on the street—except, well, it did. If you can put a number plate on it and drive past the cops without flinching, it’s a road car.
The 288 GTO Evo though? Different story. This was designed for one purpose: Group B. This weird winged wonder was never intended to chase Quattros and S4s off of dirt jumps, but like Porsche’s 959, it was aimed at becoming a serious contender in the tarmac events in the Group B calendar in both the WRC and the Italian Rally Championship before the FIA decided everyone was having too much fun and too many people were dying as a result. That’s not meant to downplay the tragic loss of lives, but it seems a little silly to nix the tarmac-based Group B events because of it. That’s what happened though, and it meant the 288 GTO and its ridiculous Evo never got their shot.
What was it though? Besides a challenge to the idea of Ferraris being pretty (I love the way it looks, but a punched-up face and and ass like a cheese-grater underneath the most function-over-form wing ever stacked on a trunk certainly doesn’t fall under the category of “traditionally beautiful”), it was a twin-turbocharged, 650-horsepower, tube-framed carbon-bodied beast. I usually hate calling cars “beasts,” but it seems fitting here given the Evo’s looks and its ability to paste heads into barely-covered seatbacks. Weight was reported to be less than 1,000kgs, or about 2,200lbs with all the juices. Together with Pininfarina and Michelotto, Ferrari planned a series of 20 of these Evos to be used as works and privateer entries in Group B, but when the project was halted and the knowledge distilled into the F40 instead, only six cars were built, with one of them derived from an existing 288 GTO and the other five constructed from the ground up.
It’s easily one of the more unique Ferraris to leave the Maranello gates, full of squares and a general abruptness of design, and though there’s not much like it it slots into the manufacturer’s history as a little-known but important piece; it represents both the end of a short-lived attempt at Group B competition as well as a telling link between the design language of Ferrari’s road cars of the ‘70s as they gave way to the next generation of angular designs. In the Evo you can see hints of Dino that led to the form of the 308 that gave us the 288, and from certain angles it looks like an F40 wearing a mustache-and-glasses disguise. Everyone always wants to compare the F40 with the 959—and they should—but wouldn’t you have rather seen the überPorsche competing with this thing instead?