Ferrari Testarossa, the car for yuppies

White Ferrari Testarrosa Miami Vice

Ferrari Testarossa, a Formula 1 street car

Il Ferrari Testarossa es una macchina diabolica. She is an icon of design and a bit more. It was presented in 1984 Paris Auto Show as a premier. The set up of this amazing machine is the usual Ferrari one: 12V mid engine rear transmission 2-door coupe. The final design included loads of enhancement details to make the car faster but also adding a good handling feeling for the driver. To make a great street racing car, the car had to get improved in terms of handling stability and cornering ability. With that in mind, the Italian engineers decided to move the weight distribution with some bias to the rear of the car (where the traction and grip is).

The model was produced between 1984-91. It was then re engineered in 1992 and premiered on the Los Angeles Auto Show as the 512 TR. The final redesign of a Testarossa was released in the 1994 Paris Motor Show as F512 M.

Almost 10000 Testarossas were produced, making her one of the most produced model by the brand of Il Cavalino Rampante.

The original 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa

Even though the name Testarossa could sound funny in English, it comes from the 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa that refers to the red painted cam covers of the car. This machine is one of the most beautiful machines ever produced. Only 34 of them were built between 1957 and 58 and she is the second Ferrari more expensive (according to the auction prices and inflation).

1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa


With this background the car is just a dream made true, not only Pinninfarina worked on the design, the job of others in Manarello was necessary to create such an iconic beast.

It’s quite remarkable the fact Ferrari had such a success with a streetcar taking into account that they did not dominate Formula 1 at the time this car was produced.  For us, this is part of the beauty of this car. In 1983, Ferrari won the Formula 1 constructor title, but it was not the case for the following years (more than a decade actually) where Mclaren and Williams (with Honda and Renault engines) dominated Formula 1 races and championships. The move was basically marked with the beginning of an era we are not very keen on: technology into cars. In fact, Ferrari didn’t win again a Constructor Champion in Formula 1 until 1999. So, why people bought this car? What makes this car such a great seller when you are not dominating Formula 1?

The beast has a very charismatic air intake on the side, by the door, it helps getting cool air to the engine and avoids overheating. The dashboard was not impressive at all either in terms of features, it was certainly very Spartan: speedo, revs, oil level and temp … very little more, but the colouring made you feel into a proper devil machine. But what else this car had to be owned by a lot of celebrities: Don Johnson, Elton John, Alain Delon, O.J. Simpson, Rod Stewart, Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, John Carmack, Dr. Dre, Suge Knight or Gerhard Berger.


Ferrari testarrosa dashboard light on

Special Ferrari Testarrosa for collectors

There are some Testarrosas that any collector will love to own. One of them is the Testarossa Spider built specially for Gianni Agnelli (Head of Fiat at the time). It’s the only Testarrosa convertible vehicle ever done. She had some original features like a silver Ferrari logo (and it was painted in grey too). Any other person on earth who contacted Manarello interested in getting a convertible Testarossa got a declined answer from Ferrari; they basically claimed structural and design issues to produce it, which actually could make sense when you produce a line of them and not only just one.

The second collector Testarossa car is a brand-new silver 1989 Testarossa which was a gift from Enzo Ferrari to Don Johnson as he was a fan of the Miami Vice (The American Television crime drama series). Seems like silver is the odd colour for this car and red should be more appropriate, but who am I to say !!!

Another beautiful colelctor car was made to make happy the Sultan of Brunei. A series of 9 customized Testarrosas, designed by Pininfarina (renamed Ferrari FX) were produced too in Manarello. Six of them were to be sent to the Sultan and the order of number 4 was declined. As a matter of fact, Williams F1 team bought the car and it is now exhibited in the Marconi Automobile Museum in California. What a lovely piece of art. The Sultan also bought some F90s, which were exclusively made for him as well in 1988.

Other funky models include the FZ93 designed by Zagato and the Colani designed Testa d’Oro.

The thing with this car is it became an icon of the 80s Yuppies too … everyone wanted to have one of them! so Ferrari made them happy, but what is that, that makes Testarrossa so great and special?

Let’s start talking about the engine. They all fitted a 4.9L in all the versions (developing 390 bhp and onwards as they kept improving the engine overtime), dry sump  and rear transmission (like a racing car). It was literally a formula one streetcar. But not only that, the handling of the car it was and still is exceptional. The suspension and the steering made Testarossa an easy to handle car but still feeling the racing spirit she holds in. And seems that these was the car everyone wanted to drive just to emulate Senna, Prost, Nigel Mansell and Schumacher.

Basically Ferrari managed to pass on to the general market the feeling they could be driving a Formula 1 car. The fact was no other carmaker really managed to copy them even though Ferrari was not winning anything in Formula 1. So here is the funny bit of this car, when things were going not very well sports wise, it was when Ferrari managed to achieve a proper economic success and I’m sure Ferrari designers were completely shocked by the facts, but when you build a machine to dream of and people is eagerly interested … market is king !!!

Pictures thanks to Miamivice and

Less known stories, Racing History
02/06/2018 - 11:38
Less known stories, Racing History
01/22/2018 - 11:58
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