|Transmission||5 speed manual|
|Power||390bhp at 6,300rpm|
|Torque||490Nm at 4,500rpm|
|Tyres||225/50 front, 255/50 rear|
|Top Speed||290km/h / 180mph|
The Ferrari Testarossa, produced from 1984 – 1991, is an icon of motoring and, specifically, the 1980’s. It appeared in numerous television programs, none of which were more high profile than Miami Vice. Indeed the television show ‘Fifth Gear’, in a countdown of the UK’s favourite Ferrari, voted for by viewers, named it number one, beating the likes of the 250GTO, F40 and California Spider.
So what makes it so special?
Firstly, the name. Testarossa means ‘red head’ and refers to the painting of the camshaft covers in red on Ferrari’s sports racing models. Look into the engine bay of any modern Ferrari and you will see exactly that… the top of the camshafts painted in red.
Secondly, the styling. Whilst the front was more rounded than previous iterations, the Pininfarina designed model was given huge side strakes that grew in width towards the rear of the car, moulding into extremely wide haunches. The lines were continued at the back, meaning the circular tail lights that had been used previously (and indeed were used on other Ferrari models at the time), were replaced by rectangular lights, behind a horizontally slatted satin black louvre.
All these details add to the visual effect that the Testarossa is a very wide car, and it is, but not for the reason you might think. Instead, the bodywork was created in this way so it could house the twin side mounted water radiators, which were cooled by the air intakes. Placing the radiators here also added to the car’s versatility, meaning there was additional space in the nose for luggage. The sum of this however was that the front of the car was much narrower than the rear; 1518mm plays 1660mm. That is a huge difference and it makes both parking and driving through tight gaps a rather eye widening experience.
Lastly, considering the body shape, the Testarossa was actually launched as a ‘monospecchio’, with a single wing mirror placed high up on the driver’s side of the car. Not an aesthetic design cue, this was actually as a result of an incorrect interpretation of European law and the requirement of having ‘100% rearward visibility’. Accordingly, having realised the designer had made an incorrect interpretation, in 1986 Ferrari reverted to the usual arrangement of two side mirrors, one mounted on each side.
A further detail to watch out for is the early models have a singular locking wheel nut. This was replaced later in the model’s lifespan by five locking nuts, meaning the former has now become a more sought-after model.
Turning to the engine, at the time it was launched the Testarossa housed the most powerful production engine ever. A 4.9L 12 cylinder ‘boxer’ (this means the cylinders are horizontally opposed instead of being in a V shape), that produced 390bhp at 6,300rpm, it was the first Ferrari engine to have four valves per cylinder. As a result it produces a very specific noise. It has less of the howl you normally hear from a Ferrari V12 but is just as aggressive. Perhaps even more so low down the rev range.
To add to this, the example I test drove had been fitted with a Tubi ‘Rumore’ exhaust, which gave a great balance of sound (both quality and level) into the cabin with the windows up. With the windows down however, and through a tunnel to boot, I would urge extreme caution. I was blown away by the noise this car makes, it being possibly one of the most antisocially aural cars I’ve ever heard; but it does it with so much flare it just doesn’t seem to matter. Nevertheless, the core of my body was still resonating for some time after I finally turned off the ignition.
To drive, the Testarossa is not, at first, quite what one might expect. Sitting in the driver’s seat, you are immediately struck by how good the all-round visibility is. After all, it was designed as a GT car and it really shows. Secondly, its very comfortable; the seats provide great cushioning, although not a huge amount of lateral grip, whilst the suspension is nicely damped. You can really imagine, if you wound back the clock to 1987, crossing countries in it.
At low speeds the steering is incredibly heavy, meaning that after anything more than 30 minutes in traffic, your forearms will resemble Popeye’s. This, combined with the front to rear width difference means it is not an easy car to drive in an urban landscape. Thankfully however, once you gather speed it becomes much lighter, more manageable and, importantly, full of feel.
The interior is very 1980’s and, as was the penchant during this time, manufacturers loved putting gauges where you least expected them. In the Testarossa’s instance, in front of you are the speed and rev counters, the oil pressure and water temperature gauges. But then the oil temperature, fuel gauge (it holds 120 litres!) and odometer are in the central console down to your left. I have no idea why they thought that was acceptable but that’s the price of Italian flare, I suppose!
To add to these gauges is, of course, the beautiful gated manual gear box with, in this case, the lever bent at a slightly odd angle compared to other Ferrari’s of this era. Ergonomically it doesn’t look like it should work but it does, providing for a perfect stretch to engage it.
The pièce de résistance however, at least part tongue in cheek, is the central compartment, which houses six cassette holders and a little cubby hole, and the glove box which, when opened, reveals the largest mirror I have ever seen in a road car. It made me laugh as soon as I saw it, reminding me of a bygone era… And it tells you just how ‘of its time’ this car really is.
The Ferrari Testarossa is probably one of those machines the public will always hold an affection for, particularly for those born before 1990. Driving it, you feel like you are in a 1980’s action scene and the passers-by won’t let you forget it; judging by the whoops and number of photographs taken. The looks are dividing (in my eyes, Ferrari has made prettier models) but that makes it no less arresting. It certainly took confidence from Pininfarina to design the body in that way. But regardless of whether you like the look or not, what you have to realise when you drive a classic Ferrari is you are driving an evolution. Without the preceding models we would not have the current crop of world class supercars and, accordingly it makes it not just an experience, but a privilege
The Ferrari Testarossa, like many classic Ferraris, has seen a surge in prices in recent times. Depending on the mileage and specification (including whether they have the single side mirror or locking wheel nut), their value can range from around £80,000 to £200,000. White, in particular, is very desirable, it being the icon of the 1980’s and so that colour commands a significant premium.