GTO: Gran Turismo Omologato

Cars

Gran Turismo Omologato: Some of our favourites have worked the GTO moniker...

Gran Turismo Omologato. There’s something in the vowel-heavy phrase that gets the juices going.

Something in the way it rolls around your mouth. Only Enzo Ferrari could have coined such a phrase, when you think about it. 3 words. Nine syllables. A couple of generations of motor sport history.

Car culture is full of such phrases, but none captures the imagination, or has had such an influence, as the very idea of the GTO. Homologation may not be what it’s cracked up to be. Many race cars issued for the road to qualify them for a particular race formula are ridiculously impractical, ludicrously far away from the base brand they represent.

But it’s this aspiration that is the key to the glamour of the GTO label. For John DeLorean, beavering away in the marketing department of Pontiac, it was a way of infusing rump Americana with a bit of Euro panache. For Mitsubishi it was a way of justifying the pony car references and the go faster stripes – until of the course the 3000GT muscle car it produced fulfilled its promise in spades.

But whatever sticking GTO on the grill of your motor was meant to do – it ended up paying homage to some kind of deep-rooted idea of style, speed and derring-do. It’s this that we’re paying tribute to this month.

And here’s a fistful of GTO heroes to get us going.

Ferrari: The Original

The original 250 GTO was produced by Ferrari from 1962 to 1964 for homologation into the FIA’s Group 3. Only 39 250 GTOs were manufactured. The rest is history. The 250 GTO is of course a beautiful totem of automotive art – and only people like Nick Mason can afford to own them. The 288 GTO, meanwhile, was an exotic homologation of the Ferrari 308 GTB, which was produced from 1984 to 1987. It was originally conceived as a Group B competitor, but the tragic end of the formula meant that the 288 GTO never raced and all 272 cars built remained purely road cars. The 288 has a re-bored, twin-turboed engine with kevlar and other trickery. The last Ferrari GTO was a road-going version of the 599XX – 100KG lighter than the road-going Fiorano, but is the only GTO not officially an homologation special.

Chevrolet Monza GTO
A requisite number of Chevy’s mid range coupé was homologated for use in GT racing in the mid-seventies. Featuring a ground-up rebuild by DeKon engineering, these cars bore little resemblance to the road-going version. Coming straight out of the 1973 Oil Crisis, the Monza was an attempt to introduce the American public to a European way of doing motoring. The Monza GTO, meanwhile, was a beautiful brute that attempted to show how Europeans took on Le Mans.

Mitsubishi: Colt Galant GTO
The 3000 GTO wasn’t the only ‘bishi to wear the badge. 15 years earlier than the muscle-bound Mitsubishi’s birth, there was a Galant version. This GTO was penned by Hiroaki Kamisago, who had previously been sent by Mitsubishi to study at the Art Centre College of Design in LA. Like Toyota’s Celica, the car of course took a number of stylistic cues from contemporary American muscle cars like the Mustang, Firebird and Cougar. Notice the long hood, the raised ‘ducktail’ rear. Very elusive these days.

Audi 90 GTO (IMSA)
OK, it was called a GTO – but it was really a ground-up race car. All that had to be used from the road going car to qualify for IMSA rules was, wait for it….the roof! Audi constructed a steel tubular space-frame from scratch to house the drivetrain. Suspension was by double wishbones and coil springs and big ventilated discs were fitted on all four corners. The engine was an evolution of the straight-five engine previously used in the Group B and Pikes Peak rally cars, a 2.2 litre unit equipped with a four-valve per cylinder head and a massive turbo. One of the phattest Audis ever to appear.

*GTO_audi_90_quattro

Noble M12 GTO
One of Noble’s South-Africa-built editions, the M12 was always conceived as a track day special – but never actually homologated into an official formula. It was powered by twin turbocharged Ford V6 engines. Back in 2007 when such a thing was much rarer than it is today, the limited run M12 GTO posted pullaway figures below 4 seconds in the American magazines. Gnarly.

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