Deferred Recognition euro sport / Words and photos by Lester Dizon Additional photos courtesy of #Ferrari-SpA / #1988 / #Ferrari-Testarossa / #Ferrari
One of the collectible cars displayed during the 2015 Fontana AutoMotoRama was the Pininfarina-designed 1988 Ferrari Testarossa, a mid-engine sports powered by a horizontally-opposed 12-cylinder engine. Introduced in 1984 at the Paris Auto Show, the Testarossa got its name from the 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa race car that dominated racing in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Testa Rossa, which means “red head” in Italian, refers to the red-painted cam covers of the cars’ engines.
Produced from 1984 to 1991, the Testarossa was reengineered and released as the 512 TR and F512 M from 1992 to 1996, and became one of the most popular Ferraris with almost 10,000 units made. It was replaced in 1996 by the less-exotic Ferrari 550 Maranello coupé which had a V-12 engine in the front.
EXOTIC AND AERODYNAMIC
Mounted behind the Testarossa’s two-seat cabin and between the rear axles is the 4.9-liter 48-valve flat-12 that delivers 390 horsepower and 490 Newton-meters of torque to the rear wheels through a rearmounted, 5-speed manual transmission.
The mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout keeps the center of gravity in the middle of the car, which increases stability and improves the car’s cornering ability, and results in a weight distribution of 40 percent front and 60 percent rear.
Learning from the faults of the Testarossa’s predecessor, the 512i Berlinetta Boxer, Ferrari and Pininfarina designed the Testarossa to be larger, with a longer wheelbase to accommodate luggage in the front and extra storage space behind the seats inside the cabin. Headroom was also increased with a roofline that is half an inch taller than the 512iBB’s. The large intakes drew air to cool the side radiators and went out through ventilation holes at the rear engine lid, eliminating the need for a spoiler.
The large side strakes of the Testarossa that spanned from the doors to the rear fenders were often referred to as “cheese graters” or “egg slicers”. These were necessary to hurdle engineering and strict legal obstacles that automobile manufacturers faced in the ‘80s. The strakes also made the Testarossa wider at the rear than in the front, which increased its stability and improved its handling. The design was controversial and polarizing during its time but is now considered an iconic part of the Testarossa image.
When a white Testarossa replaced the black faux Daytona Spider of Detective Sonny Crocket (played by Don Johnson) in the hit TV series “Miami Vice”, Testarossa sales soared. Unfortunately, only a few drivers appreciated its 5.3-second 0-100km/h acceleration time, its 13.5-second quarter mile capability, or its 290km/h top speed. Most of the owners, including singer Elton John, actor Alain Delon, and Formula One racing driver Gerhard Berger just wanted to drive what Don Johnson drives.
The Ferrari Testarossa was a sports car designed and built to cash in on an image, which was what the ‘80s were all about. While it was the perfect vehicle for its time, it was also a great automobile. And that’s what makes a Testarossa very collectible, especially this one in rossa corse or Ferrari racing red.
"THE FERRARI TESTAROSSA WAS A SPORTS CAR DESIGNED AND BUILT TO CASH IN ON AN IMAGE, WHICH WAS WHAT THE ‘80S WERE ALL ABOUT. WHILE IT WAS THE PERFECT VEHICLE FOR ITS TIME, IT WAS ALSO A GREAT AUTOMOBILE."