1990 Ferrari Testarossa

1990 Ferrari Testarossa

Keys on the table – I grew up hating the Testarossa. It seemed to exemplify everything I detested about the Eighties. Four-wheeled cocaine for the personality deficient; a Ferrari for whom saying they owned a Ferrari was more important than driving one; (questionable) style over substance – the opposite to a tuned Cossie. However, much as you need to be of a certain age to appreciate certain things – oysters, whisky, Pink Floyd – your first proper experience of a Testarossa will blow away any preconceptions. It’s sheer theatre – yes, there’s no getting away from its hedgerowtroubling width, but it’s also low, very red and festooned with the era-defining accoutrements we simply don’t get now. Pop-up headlamps, side strakes, antennae-like mirrors? Pass me the pastel shirt and loafers.

The seduction continues inside, even if it is a lesson in awkward ergonomics. I’m 6ft 5in, but I wasn’t quite expecting to wear the sun visor like a baseball cap. Instead I notice the red, italicised ‘digital’ font on the binnacles – this thing is fast, and I’ve not stroked the Tipo F113 180º V12 into life yet.

Flick the key and the world becomes every Italian engine cliché – a smooth but powerful growl, a bit like a big cat taking a large, relaxed yawn. I depress the surprisingly light clutch, feel the ice-cool ball of the metal gear lever slide easily into my palm and take one last look in the comically useless side mirrors. All I can see are the Testarossa’s fat, engorged hips and intakes.

I’ve been lucky to drive a few over the years, but despite that, and my years bowing beneath the whaletail altar of cult Cosworth, it’s still a thrill to be drawn into the Testarossa’s orbit. At this point it would be easy just to spend the rest of my time grinning my face off just by being here, but the Testarossa continues to confound. Of course, it’s fast and loud – that’s to be expected with 385bhp mere millimetres from the back of my head – but what’s more surprising is just how good it is to drive – and not in mere relative terms.

After all, the mid-rear engine layout serves up a 40 per cent front, 60 per cent rear weight distribution. Take the Testarossa to its limits in an uncaring manner and it’ll leave you with cuts and bruises to match its own side strakes. However, this isn’t the hardcore supercar that its angular Pininfarina body suggests – this is a hyperspeed GT car. It rides well, and if you’re not a millennial giant like I am then it’s comfortable; a car in which to blast away autostradas to dust.

However, unlike a lot of GTs, the Testarossa handles with acuity. Deftly manipulate the tiny three-spoke steering wheel and the Testarossa dutifully cuts in, with a perfect level of heft and lightness. Those used to more talkative, sportier Ferraris may feel it’s a little mute, but there’s enough chatter from the tread blocks to place the Testarossa with precision. There’s plenty of grip; I’m soon leaning on the Testarossa’s dynamics in a way that barely seems credible when standing in front of it. Sat in it, however, it’s all about the engine – just like a proper Ferrari, then. The flat-12 really wakes up at around 3000rpm, rasping through to a heady 7000rpm. Peak torque’s at 4500rpm and power tops out at 6300rpm, but these are just numbers on paper – all I’m really focused on is the aural rush of the engine’s chainsaw rasp reaching the higher limits, and just how quickly the next apex is approaching as I thunder towards it.

Problems will hurtle towards you in a similarly rapid way if you fail to invest in an independent pre-purchase inspection. You’ll also need to check carefully for rust spots – and not just in the usual sills and wheelarches, because those gaping side strakes can hide rot too. You’ll also need to carefully inspect the dashboard for any evidence of leather shrinkage. The next big consideration is lack of use – tyres and hoses can perish due to long-term inactivity.

The Testarossa is the ultimate expression of Eighties-ness, to the point that its styling cues were copied by aftermarket tuners across the world, with Mercs, Beemers and Porsche sprouting bodywork extensions. Unlike those pretenders, the Testarossa’s intakes are actually functional, feeding the rear-mounted radiators, which underlines the truth behind the Testarossa – beyond the posturing, the OTT styling and Hollywood pretensions, this is a proper Ferrari.

‘All I’m really focused on is the aural rush of the engine’s chainsaw rasp’

Owning a Ferrari Testarossa

For Douglas Evans, the Testarossa’s appeal is clear. ‘Consummate style with performance to match,’ he says. He paid £67k for this one in 2013. ‘I am a perfectionist when it comes to cars. Apart from the main body of the engine and the original exhaust system, everything has been removed, rebuilt and refurbished or renewed,’ he says. He describes this as a preventive rolling programme of maintenance by Emblem Sports Cars of Poole (which he heartily recommends) and excluding normal servicing this has cost him £50k; total expenditure is £65k. ‘The strong points are the engine, gearbox and chassis combination, as well as the design inside an outside. I’m less of a fan of the soft paint and the absence of power steering at parking speeds. The dogleg gearbox requires concentration, as does waiting for the oil to warm up before engaging second.’ Douglas says parts supply is surprisingly good from Ferrari.

TECHNICAL DATA 1990 Ferrari Testarossa

  • Engine 4942cc V12, dohc, Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection
  • Max Power 385bhp @ 6300rpm;
  • Max Torque 361lb ft @ 4500rpm
  • Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
  • Steering Rack and pinion
  • Suspension Front and rear: independent with unequal length double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bars
  • Brakes Ventilated discs front and rear, servo assisted
  • Performance Top speed: 171mph
  • Acceleration 0-60mph: 5.2sec
  • Weight 1506kg (3320lb)
  • Cost new £62,665 (1984)
  • Classic Cars Price Guide £52.5k-£80k

ferrari testarossa series 2

V12 kicks out 385bhp and a glorious noise. Testarossa has presence to match its width. In here it’s grand-tourer civilized.

Article type:
No comments yet. Be the first to add a comment!
Drives TODAY use cookie