A Short History of One of the Most Popular Ferraris of All Time, the Testarossa

Ferrari Testarossa 8 photos
Photo: Ferrari S.p.A.
Ferrari TestarossaFerrari TestarossaFerrari TestarossaFerrari Testarossa EngineFerrari Testarossa InteriorFerrari Testarossa ChassisFerrari Testarossa Pre-Production Version
The Testarossa is one of Ferrari’s most iconic models, and back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, it was on every young car fan’s favorite poster. It became a Hollywood star thanks to the Miami Vice TV series, and every celebrity either owned or wanted one.
The origins of this famous Ferrari can be traced back to the early 1980s and its problematic predecessor, the Berlinetta Boxer. It was developed to replace it and fix its numerous issues, with Pininfarina being tasked to design the new car codenamed Type F110.

The design team was led by Leonardo Fioravanti, who helped create many of the Prancing Horse’s previous models. Other equally important members included Ian Cameron, Guido Campoli, Diego Ottina, and Emanuele Nicosia.

The Testarossa represented a major departure from the curvy, flowing design of previous models, as the design team opted for a completely new and aggressive style, which was controversial at the time but ended up becoming legendary.

Ferrari Testarossa
Photo: Ferrari S.p.A.
The same can be said of the side strakes, which the team did not include in the original design as they were trying to limit the use of side intakes.

Due to strict regulations in several countries, including the U.S., that banned large openings on cars, the emblematic "cheese graters" that span from the doors to the rear fenders were born.

They helped the Testarossa breathe through the side-mounted radiators, marking an improvement over the single rear-mounted unit of the Berlinetta Boxer that caused huge overheating issues.

Being an expert in aerodynamics, Fioravanti employed many innovative features in the overall design, which resulted in a drag coefficient of 0.36. That was significantly better than its main rival, the Lamborghini Countach.

One of the improvements was the iconic wide rear end measuring almost two meters (6.5 feet). This design helped increase downforce dramatically and set it apart from other sports cars of the era.

Ferrari Testarossa
Photo: Ferrari S.p.A.
Early models featured a single high-mounted side view mirror that was deemed a danger for cyclists in many countries. As a result, it was swiftly replaced by a conventional set of side mirrors to pass safety regulations in all the markets where the model was sold.

Early Testarossas also came with single bolt "knockoff" rims with a unique 16.33-inch diameter. These could only be fitted with Michelin TRX tires, which were very rare and expensive.

At the request of numerous buyers, Ferrari changed the dimension to exactly 16 inches and several years later switched to a standard five-bolt configuration.

To power the Testarossa, engineers chose a naturally aspirated, longitudinally-mounted 4.9-liter (4,943-cc) flat-12. It had an overhead camshaft configuration with four valves per cylinder and a dry sump lubrication system.

Ferrari Testarossa Engine
Photo: Ferrari S.p.A.
Connected to a 5-speed manual, the engine had a 9.20:1 compression ratio and a maximum power output of 385 hp (287 kW; 390 PS) at 6,300 rpm. Peak torque was achieved at 4,500 rpm and stood at 490 Nm (361 lb-ft).

In terms of performance, the Testarossa was one of the fastest cars of the era. It could accelerate from 0 to 100 kph (62 mph) in 5.8 seconds and from 0 to 60 mph (96 kph) in 5.2 seconds. The estimated top speed was a respectable 290 kph (180 mph).

Following its appearance in the Miami Vice TV series, the Testarossa gained immense popularity. Legend has it that in the first two seasons, the production team used Testarossa replicas made by McBurnie Coachcraft from two C3 Corvettes. Ferrari filed a lawsuit, and eventually, the show’s producers accepted the two genuine models delivered by Ferrari for free and destroyed the replicas at Enzo’s request.

Years later, the show’s star, Don Johnson, was gifted a brand-new silver 1989 Testarossa by Enzo Ferrari himself. The car was extremely popular in the U.S., with many high-profile figures owning one of the 7,177 units produced from 1984 to 1991.

The Testarossa was succeeded by the 512 TR which was a highly redesigned version produced from 1991 to 1994 in 2,261 units. It was followed by the F512 M (for Modificata), the most powerful of the three versions, built from 1994 to 1996 in 501 units. This model notably dropped the pop-up headlamps adopting two new recessed units with clear lenses instead.

In total, the Ferrari Testarossa was produced in almost 10,000 units, making it one of the most popular models to ever roll off the Maranello assembly line.
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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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