Flashback Ferrari

Forget the hair and music: The Testarossa was the real star of the 1980s.

September 6, 2013
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Ferrari unveiled the Testarossa at the 1984 Paris Auto Show to mixed reviews. While many enthusiasts thought the company’s new flagship looked modern, edgy and aggressive, just as many thought it looked ridiculous, thanks to the prominent strakes (less charitably described as cheese graters) that filled its fender-mounted air intakes. There was no denying that the Testarossa was a proper exotic, however, and it quickly became the car to have—as well as Ferrari’s best-selling 12-cylinder model to date.

Controversial bodywork aside, there was little not to like about the Testarossa. For starters, with a claimed top speed of 180 mph it was the world’s fastest road car (ignoring the limited-production 288 GTO) and it could hit 60 mph in a little more than 5 seconds. This impressive pace came courtesy of a 4.9-liter flat-12 engine that produced 380 hp—40 ponies more than its predecessor, the Berlinetta Boxer, and enough to overcome the car’s hefty 3,600-plus-pound curb weight. The engine’s four-valve, red-painted cylinder heads also gave the Testarossa its name: “Redhead,” a moniker first used on the 1950s Testa Rossa sports racers. 

Compared to the Boxer, the longer and much wider Testarossa offered more interior and storage space, as well as a much more user-friendly driving experience. And there was more to come.

In 1992, Ferrari introduced an updated model, the 512 TR. Engine output rose to 428 hp and top speed climbed to 195 mph, while a stiffer frame, retuned suspension and larger, 17-inch wheels made the 512 TR more of a sports car than the GT-oriented Testarossa. Modest exterior updates rounded out the changes.

In 1994, Ferrari unveiled the ultimate Testarossa: the limited-production F512M. This time, there were extensive cosmetic changes—the most noticeable were fixed headlights in place of the earlier retractable units, a pair of NACA ducts on the front hood and round taillights—while the engine produced only a few more ponies.

Today, thanks to their higher production numbers, the Testarossa and the 512 TR cost less than the earlier Boxers, but they are significantly faster, better-handling and more reliable cars than their predecessors. If you like the look,
the Testarossa, 512 TR and F512M can be very rewarding Ferraris to own and drive.


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Also from Issue 129

  • Pininfarina's Sergio concept car
  • Daily driver and long-haul FFs
  • Modified 308 GTB
  • Carbon-ceramic brake tech
  • Market Update: Collector cars on the rise
  • Goodwood Festival of Speed
  • F1: Ferrari falls behind
  • 24 Hours of Le Mans
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