Forza Ferrari at Geneva Show

What the Geneva Motor Show lacked in novelties was more than compensated by the debut of the Ferrari GTO, resplendent in traditional scarlet on the Ferrari importer and Pininfarina stands. Omologato, an emotive word in the Italian language, refers to the intention of Ferrari to build 200 examples — at least — and then 20 more evolution models for their customers to play with.

The brochure refers to the fact that the “classical line of the 308 model has been adapted to the new mechanical layout”, but the GTO is a model in its own right and is not directly referred to as a 308. The chassis is extensively revised to carry the V8 engine longitudinally, instead of transversely, and it sits 7 cm lower in the chassis. A new design of 5-speed gearbox / transaxle, incorporating a limited slip differential, and a Formula 1 type 8 1/2 in twin-plate clutch transmit the power to the road via 10 in section composite alloy wheels and Goodyear NCT tyres.

Using the technology and experience of the Lancia Martini LC2 Group C car, which employs a similar power unit, the double overhead camshaft, four-valve engine has been increased in capacity to 2,855 cc and, helped by twin IHI turbochargers with intercoolers, raises the power to no less than 400 bhp at 7,000 rpm, with a maximum boost pressure of 0.8 bar (11.3 lb). Credit is given to Dr Harvey Postlethwaite for introducing new techniques and materials which have been used in the bodywork. Carbon fibre, Kevlar, Nomex and light alloys are used variously or in combination to produce high quality body sections and panels which are lighter than aluminium, and stronger too, though the kerb weight of the roadgoing version is heavier than expected at 2,557 lb, around 23 cwt or 1,160 kg. Luxury equipment such as air conditioning, radio and electrically operated windows are extras, presumably more to keep the catalogue weight down than to pare the price which works out at 140 million lire ex-works, or 203,000 Swiss francs. Call that £63,400 before tax and you won’t be far off the mark! The GTO is styled by Pininfarina but is built in the Ferrari factory at Maranello, production commencing in June at a rate of 20 per month. Homologation into Group B is presumably expected in April 1985, therefore, and then the 20 evolution models will be built. Dr Franco Gaul of Ferrari tells us that the engine capacity of 2.8 litres has been chosen to bring the GTO within the 4-litre Group B class which has a minimum weight of 1,100 kg, so not much can be done to reduce the weight even further. The power output, however, can be raised to a minimum of 600 horsepower, so the prospects of seeing the GTO pitted against the Group B four-wheel-drive Porsches, virtually with 956 type power units and 600 bhp, is likely to bring a new and very exciting element into endurance racing..

There are persistent rumours that one or more private teams, and Pozzi has been mentioned, will rally the Ferrari GTO, and here again the prospect of this model versus the Porsche Group B would bring a fresh dimension to the sport. The previous GTO, one of Ferrari’s most admired models, was the world champion GT car in 1962, ’63 and ’64 so its successor has a lot to live up to. Initial reaction has been so favourable that it seems the 200 minimum run will be far too little, and could be extended to 400 or more.

As in the 308 steel tubing is used to form the chassis, but the wheelbase is extended by 4.3 in to 96.5 in, the front and rear tracks by 4 in to 61.5 in, and the overall length by 2.4 in to 168.9 in. Twin fuel tanks, each of 13.2 gallons, are located on either side of the engine bay, and the suspensions have upper and lower steel triangulated links with inclined Koni telescopic dampers and concentric coil springs.

The GTO has sensational performance as you’d imagine, with a top speed of 190 mph and a 0-60 mph acceleration time of about, 4.8 seconds, with 200 kph (124.3 mph) seen in 15.2 seconds..

It was not only on the Ferrari stand that homologation model was to be seen. Peugeot displayed the production version of their 205 Turbo 16 rally car, which uses the Ferguson designed and built four-wheel-drive system. Again only 200 examples will be built with the 1,775 cc engine located transversely in the rear seat area. With fuel injection and a KKK turbocharger, the twin-cam engine is tuned to 198 bhp, though the 20 evolution version, built for rallying are expected to run out nearer 300 bhp. Most of the 200 have been built already, and the debut of the Peugteot will be on the Corsica Rally early in May, with four or five events to follow including the RAC Rally in November. Of greater public interest, maybe, is the neat and purposeful looking 205 GTI road car which joins the growing ranks of powerful family cars in the Golf GTi and Escort XR3i mould. The 1,580 cc engine develops 105 bhp in a model weighing only 850 kg at the kerb, resulting in a better power-to-weight ratio than the hottest production Escort. Still on the rally theme, the Mitsubishi Starion four-wheel-drive Rally car made its debut, and should have its maiden rally outing on the RAC in November. Andrew Cowan and engineer Allan Wilkinson were on hand toting the praises of this newcomer which has a 2-litre 350 bhp turbocharged engine, with an intercooler, and weighs only 960 kg. Production of 200 examples should be completed by September, and a full World Championship programme is planned for 1985, though the driver, or drivers, have not yet been named. “Allan says it’s too fast for me,” Cowan comments, the Scotsman being the “team captain”. The Starion competitions car was engineered in Japan, and Wilkinson is full of praise for the concept and execution, which includes subframe mounted front and rear suspensions allowing almost infinite adjustment. Citroen have now completed their run of 200 Visa Mille Pistes four-wheel-drive cars and by now should also have made the 20 evolution models which will first appear on the Safari Rally. The 200-off version has a 1,360 cc engine rated at 112 bhp, and these are priced at around £9,000, while the evolution model has a 1,434 cc engine rated at 135 bhp, and is priced at about £15,000, Which sounds very reasonable for a serious entree to top-class rallying these days. John Weatherley will run a UK “works” car in the Rothmans Open Championship series, and will no doubt be looking forward to next year’s development, a turbocharged Group B Citroen BX four-wheel-drive model. This will be powered by the Talbot Murena based engine of 2,140 cc, producing 220 bhp in series form (200-off) and 405 bhp in evolution form. A predicted price of £17,000 for the series version sounds almost cheap for what is on offer.

Still on the four-wheel-drive theme, Which most major manufacturers are either pursuing or considering the wake of the Quattro, Alfa Romeo unveiled the type 33 “break” estate car with all wheels driven, and across the way was a 1.3 Ti version of the Alfa Romeo / Nissan conceived Arna which looked rather less mundane with an air dam and a small spoiler across the bootlid. And just as Volkswagen are now enthusiastically applying four-wheel-drive across the range, so Fiat is borrowing some ideas from Lancia. Not 4-wd, in this case but the Volumex supercharged 135 bhp engine from their stablemate for the Argenta saloon.

The surprise from VAG was something they did not show. Company chairman Dr. Carl Hahn announced the presence of a 100 Quattro at a show function, but this statement had to be retracted straight away since the car will not come out until the autumn. Nevertheless it’s only a matter of time before virtually all the VAG models have all four wheels driven, even the Golf to have this facility in 1985.

Volvo introduced a new 7-series version, the 740 GLE which puts the 2.3-litre, four-cylinder injection engine into the larger saloon body. Next year the Swedish company will produce a novel alternative to four-wheel-drive, an anti-skid two-wheeldrive transmission. It cannot have the traction of 4-wd, of course, but will incorporate a sensor at each driven wheel which will monitor incipient loss of traction, sending signals back to an electronic sensor and interrupting the fuel supply. It sounds dreadful, like a rev-limiter device, but apparently the Electronic Traction Control (ETC) system works very well.

Most of the manufacturers concentrated their technical novelties on the Frankfurt Show last autumn, but two European premieres from the Japanese were the Nissan 300 ZX GT model, descendant of the 240, 260 and 280 “Zee” moels, and what must be the world’s smallest turbocharged model, the Daihatsu Charade Turbo with 68 bhp emanating from its 993 cc three-cylinder engine. Driving through a five-speed gearbox, it looks a real fun car. While Porsche are keeping their big news until later in the year, the Spanish SEAT company was banging the drum about its new family of engines developed by Porsche. Since the split with Fiat came in 1980, SEAT had to look elsewhere for future developments and turned to Porsche, who in the space of three years designed, developed and tested a 1,193 and a 1,461 cc pair of engines from scratch. They feature the Thermodynamically Optimum Porsche (TOP) combustion camber design, with combustion taking place in the piston crowns, and have relatively high compressions of 9.5 and 10.5:1 respectively. Light weight, good power and low fuel consumption are features of these power units which will be installed in new models yet to be seen, starting with the Ibiza saloon. The Renault 25, described elsewhere, made its world debut, with anticipated UK prices at between £9,000 and £13,000 when it replaces the 20 and 30 models, and from Italy Maserati presented the Biturbo 4-door, though sadly this interesting car continues to be unavailable in right-hand-drive form.

Opel unveiled a revised version of the Monza Coupe, the GSE which replaces the 3.30E Coupe. Distinguishing features are extensions to the bodywork below the door line and the addition of a rear spoiler, giving the car a more sporty appearance, revised rear suspension which lowers the body by half an inch, Recaro seating, and liquid crystal display instrumentation which also appears in the Senator CD.

Austin Rover presented the new Metro four-wheel-drive rally car on Press days, but whisked it away for further testing before the public arrived, while on the Jaguar stand the Swiss got their first viewing of the XJS Cabriolet, and the new 24-valve engine. At Aston Martin Lagonda, Victor Gauntlett was seen deep in conversation with Gianni Zagato . . . while on the Lotus stand, managing director Mike Kimberley and sales director Mike Bishop were holding the fort, having just sacked their Swiss distributor for poor performance. With new capital and new vitality, Lotus are looking for better sales in all their markets this year, with the Excel accounting for 55% of their UK sales. “This is the first time that Lotus has been directly responsible for its stand in Geneva, and we’re here to show that we mean business,” says the ebullient Mike Kimberley.

British car sales in the key Swiss market have been in steady decline for several years, but a new mood of optimism radiates from each manufacturer and it seems likely that 1984 will be the year in which the tide turns.

M. L .C.