Few introverts buy a Ferrari, and absolutely no one choses a Testarossa without being blatantly optimistic about their confidence level. Both mesmerizing and menacing all at once, mothers with small children will instinctively pull them away from this car, no matter how much little boys howl for a closer look.
Want to know about confident owners? I ran into Michael Jordan years ago at a Chicago Ferrari dealership. With Horace Grant, he was gracious, friendly, and there to pick up his new black Ferrari 512 TR, the successor to this car, the Testarossa. Though this isn’t his particular car, it’s nearly a dead ringer, except for the license plate M-AIR-J.
The Miami Vice TV show helped make the Ferrari Testarossa a household name.
Upset by the fake Ferrari Daytona featured in the show, Ferrari supplied two white Testarossas for the series to use, on condition that the fake was destroyed. And it was, blown up in a loud explosion.
A bit of that explosion remains every time you start up a Testarossa. A twist of the key, just a brief whine of the starter, and the 5 Liter flat 12 motor explodes to life, and just the noise is worth the price of admission.
Testarossa Drivers View
Even on a hot day it’s prudent to let the oil circulate for a minute or two before you head on down the road. This time also lets the transmission warm up a bit as well, and makes for a bit easier shifting until you’ve covered a couple of miles.
Easy on to the gas and the clutch is what you’d expect, a single clutch system designed to hook up 390 HP to the rear wheels. Marvelously effective, the mid-engine 5 liter flat-12 motor hustles you from 0-60 in around 5.3 seconds and the factory claimed the Testarossa topped out at 180 MPH. While the Testarossa is no slouch getting to 60 MPH, this car has enormous pulling power through 2nd and 3rd gear, and only prudence kept me from testing the limits of 4th.
Ferrari Gated Shifter
I’ve heard some people worry about Ferrari’s gated shifter and the dog-leg 1st to 2nd shift, but that’s BS. The Testarossa shift lever easily slides home every time, and though it does take a firm effort to push it into the slots, you’d have to be asleep to miss a shift.
Buy a Testarossa and you will need to bone up on your machine. People want to know about the “cheese grater” side strakes synonymous with this car. Those side strakes were added to address a serious concern of the Testarossa’s predecessor, the 512BBi. The 512BBi had its radiator in the normal position up front, and the radiators hoses running from the front to the motor in the rear caused the cabin to heat up excessively while driving. Ferrari cleverly moved the radiators to the rear fenders, solved the heat problem, and the legendary look was born, to be repeated a few years later in the Ferrari 348.
Performance in any Ferrari doesn’t come cheap, which means maintenance bills are to be seriously considered. Plan on $5-10K every 3 to 5 years. That’s going to cover those major services when timing belts get changed. As well, these cars are now getting old so be prepared for an occasional surprise that is guaranteed to be financially exasperating.
Ferrari Testarossa Flat-12
Be honest with yourself about money; can you actually afford to buy a Testarossa and maintain it without gutting your kids college fund? Always do your homework, get a comprehensive inspection, and buy the best car available.
There was a time the Ferrari Testarossa was the biggest and baddest thing on he road, and in some respects it still is. Looking back nearly two decades, this is the shape that defines the 80’s and the early 90’s, and owning one today is retro-cool.
Slide behind the wheel and it’s Glenn Frey, “Smuggler’s Blues,” and 1985 all over again. And given the world today, that ain’t all that bad.
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Dave Miller drives the fastest, coolest, sexiest cars on the planet. He travels the world uncovering the hidden gems in luxury transportation, meeting the owners, and connecting with extraordinary car enthusiasts. Dave is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and writes for various publications.
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