1990 Ferrari Testarossa Series 2 Type F110
What if, having reached the summit of Mount Everest – after all that effort and personal sacrifice – Sir Edmond Hillary simply turned to Tenzig Norgay and shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. It is a bit of a stretch to equate the scaling of Mt Everest to the purchase of your dream supercar; however, This was Spencer Mcleans quandary. After working diligently toward his goal for years, he found himself sitting in his dream-specification Aston Martin –dark blue with cream leather – feeling underwhelmed.
Fortunately, the Salesman had a plan B! I suspect he had seen this before; so, without skipping a beat, he said: “Have you driven a Ferrari, sir?” It is funny how people see themselves in cars. Up until that point, Spencer had not seen himself as a Ferrari kind of guy, “Ferraris are for people who are full of themselves”. But, well after a short test drive in a 348, Spencer said: Oh my giddy aunt, I have got to own one of these!” And that is how Spencer became one of “those” guys.
Except, the man I was sharing coffee with at “Coffee and Machine, the all Italian edition”, early on a bright Saturday morning in September is anything but “full of himself”. While I am sure Spencer is an interesting guy and he could have talked about himself, instead, he chatted passionately about his love of cars – in particular, sports cars of all makes. It started young with Spencer, at age seven or eight; and, like most of us, was influenced by popular media of the time. For a young boy growing up in England, in the mid-1970s, it was The Persuaders featuring Roger Moore and Tony Curtis. A quick google search reveals the opening scene in which Roger Moore is punting a butter-yellow Aston Martin V8 around the outside of Tony Curtis, who is, curiously, driving a Ferrari Dino.
THIS TESTAROSSA IS A SERIES 2 WITH A WHIFF OF COMPLETE AUTHENTICITY ABOUT IT AND JUST THE PERFECT AMOUNT OF PATINA
ALL TH IS 1970 S GOODNESS AMOUNTS TO ABOUT 385 HORSE POWER – THAT WASALL DON JOHNSON REQUIRED TO MATCH IT ON THE STREETS OF MIAMI WITH CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN MUSCLECARS.
Being a child of the 1980s, my personal motoring reference point was the ice-white Ferrari Testarossa driven by Don Johnson in Miami Vice. You did not think I was going to write a story about a Ferrari Testarossa without mentioning “that show”, did you? Anyway, that is a neat segue to Spencer’s beautiful Rossa Corsa Ferrari Testarossa. This Testarossa is a series 2 with a whiff of complete authenticity about it and just the perfect amount of patina. Spencer has owned this Testarossa for about 12 years now; it is correct in every aspect – right down to the cast-alloy Momo wheels, twin rear-view mirrors, period-correct light-brown leather interior, correct gear knob and steering wheel. A peek under the rear cover reveals a neat, but not pristine, engine and the red cam covers for which the car is named – with Testarossa literally meaning “red head” in Italian. The car is on full Queensland (Australian) registration and the service stickers attest to a regimented maintenance program to keep the beautiful flat 12 engine purring – that Ferrari intended.
Many Ferrari purists judge this second generation Testarossa to be the pick of the range. Although, it could be argued that the very last Testarossa – the F512 TR and M – moved the game on in terms of performance: deleting of the pop-up lights robbed the car of some of its character and design purity. While we are talking about design, let us brush up on where the Testarossa sits in the Ferrari world. As if the side strakes do not give it away, the Testarossa was conceived and released in the mid-1980s: making its official debut at the Paris Auto show, in 1984. It was preceded by the 512 BBi Berlinetta Boxer and shares that vehicle’s basic layout: being a rear mid-engine design with a five-speed manual gearbox. The engine is unique in that the engine design with a five-speed manual gearbox. The engine is horizontal packaging. However, it makes the vehicle’s center of gravity higher than it could be.
The engine is a development of the 4.9-liter flat 12 found in Ferrari Formula 1 cars of the late 1970s: With Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve taking first and second places for Ferrari in the 1979 Drivers World Championship using a derivative of this engine. The Testarossa engine carries the full range of 1970s Formula-1 technology: with a dry sump oiling system, overhead camshafts, multi-valve cylinder heads, and electronic fuel injection. All this 1970s goodness amounts about 385 horsepower – that was all Don Johnson required to match it on the streets of Miami with contemporary American muscle cars. The only real competition came from the other Italian supercar company – Lamborghini — and I suggest you have already made up your mind whether you are team Countach or team Testarossa.
As the story goes, the Testarossa was designed to address some undesirable “character traits” of the 512 BBi, that centered around cooling a mid-engine car without poaching the occupants because the cooling pipes in the 512 BBi transmitted loads of heat into the cabin. So, in an effort to address engine cooling, Ferrari moved to twin side-mounted radiators; therefore, creating the most distinguishing feature of the Testarossa: the twin radiators complete with side strakes, that, aside from looking totally cool, address safety regulations in some countries. The Salesman who offered Spencer a test drive in a Ferrari really started something.
Spencer was hooked! Before the Testarossa, there was a 348 and a 328 – sadly being a left-hand-drive car, the 348 was sold before the move to Australia. Do not feel bas for Spencer because the 348 was replaced with a beautiful white carburetted 308. So the family moved to Australi, and, after getting settled, Spencer decided that he needed some more 1980s magic in his life – and the hunt was on for a Testarossa! In an act of utter faith, he entrusted the purchase of the perfect Testarossa to a friend in the United Kingdom, who selected this particular vehicle and sent it Down Under. The friendship endured, as it rightfully should, because, Spencer, your mate did you a solid – your Testarossa is beautiful!
So here we were, standing in the car park at “Caffeine and Machine, the all Italian edition” surrounded by stunning Italian sports cars and we found ourselves wedged between the Testarossa and a new Ferrari. The contrast between the two cars could not be more obvious! The Testarossa was a big car for its day; however, it is dwarfed by the new Ferrari with its massive wheels and imposing presence. I asked Spencer if he is interested in the “new stuff”. It is clear that Spencer is a Driver first and foremost, and his response supports my assessment: “New cars are too fast and they scare you to death!” Spencer described how it feels to get things “right” in the Testarossa. He loves the manual gearbox and the heavy steering, “if you pfaff it up, these things are unforgiving”, he said while he gestured to the Testarossa.
Being an all-Italian event, Alfa Romeos are everywhere: Spencer spoke about his love of the early 105 series, along with the Montreal – just a few cars down. Clearly, Spencer has a deep appreciation for Italian cars: probably something to do with the way Italians tread the fine line between form and function. We discussed what he is currently enthused by and the conversation moved on to the original Morgan aero 8, TVRs, and Corvettes; and his desire to find the perfect Ferrari 330 GT. The elephant in the room, of course, is Porsche; and, in particular, the most successful sports car in the history of sports cars ever – the 911. Simple: “Don’t like them!”. He goes on to tell me about his latest purchase: a Bentley R from the mid-1990s. Clearly, Spencer still has the English-car bug!
And what about Aston Martin? He smiled and sheepishly said he revisited his own personal Everest about seven years ago and purchased an Aston Martin DB7 – dark blue with cream leather.