Featured Vehicle: 1989 Ferrari Testarossa - Classic Cars News and Information
December 7, 2022

Classic Cars News and Information

Where Dreams Are Driven

Featured Vehicle: 1989 Ferrari Testarossa

5 min read

By: Elizabeth Sindelar-Loy

Although it may be hard for Generation X to admit, the sleek modern dream cars once plastered upon their bedroom walls are now today’s must-have highly collectible vehicles. The automobile industry designates a vehicle as classic when it reaches 25 years. With the first generation of muscle cars approaching their sixties, it’s time to welcome the next group of classics. This new class includes the Lamborghini Countach, Chevrolet Corvette C4, DeLorean DMC-12, Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z and the ultimate iconic symbol of 1980’s excess, the Ferrari Testarossa.

The Eighties were a pop culture decade fueled by decadence and MTV. The era’s hit tv show Miami Vice not only embraced and embodied the eighties, it shaped men’s style, gave a city a facelift and introduced the world to the Ferrari Testarossa.

Originally, Don Johnson’s, Sonny Crockett, drove a black 1972 Ferrari Daytona Spyder 365 GTS/4 which outraged Enzo Ferrari when the car’s popularity grew. From Modena, Italy, the patriarch watched Miami Vice with utter disdain. Without hesitation the elite motor vehicle company quickly filed a lawsuit against Miami Vice’s crew, Coachcraft and various others to halt production of the show. Why you ask? Because specialty car manufacturer McBurnie Coachcraft had fitted a Chevrolet Corvette C3 with Ferrari-shaped body panels – the Daytona Spyder was an imposter! 

The creators of Miami Vice hadn’t meant to disrespect Ferrari. Television budgets of the 1980s simply couldn’t come close to matching the budget of today’s productions. There were no additional funds to use if the highly priced exotic was damaged during filming, let alone be replaced. 

During the lawsuit, Ferrari realized the importance of having one of their vehicles front and center on Miami Vice. The solution? Ferrari donated two new black Testarossas with beige leather interiors for use on the program.  The shows producer Michael Mann requested that the cars be repainted “cocaine white” to be more highly visible during night scenes and to match the color scheme that defined the show’s look.

The “Miami Vice Effect” quickly elevated Ferrari’s new Testarossa to icon status – it was on every young car fan’s favorite poster and every celebrity of the decade either owned or wanted one. The Italian supercar reigned supreme with its design capturing the flamboyance of the time.

The Testarossa was created to replace its problematic predecessor, the Berlinetta Boxer and outperform its competition, the Lamborghini Countach. Its name paid homage to the famed World Sportscar Championship winner, the 1957 250 Testa Rossa sports racing car.  Testa Rossa, literally means “red head” in Italian to reference the red-painted cam covers sported by both cars’ 12-cylinder engines.

The Testarossa was produced from 1984 until 1991 and included two model revisions, 512 TR and F512 M, from 1992 until 1996. Including the revised variations, almost 10,000 cars in total were produced making the Testarossa the most mass-produced of all Ferrari models.

The Italian company, Pininfarina, was tasked to design the newest Prancing Horse. Ferrari took a risk departing from the curvy flowing designs of previous models. The Testarossa had a controversial new look to match the excessiveness of the 80s.  

The sharp wedge style was chosen to compete directly with the style of the Lamborghini Countach and it ultimately became the signature design for cars of the ‘80s. The unmistakable strakes of the Testarossa were not included with the original design. They were eventually added to surpass the strict regulations in several countries, including the U.S., that banned large openings on cars. The eye-catching “cheese grater” design helped the Testarossa breathe through the side-mounted radiators.

Pininfarina lead designer, Leonardo Fioravanti, was an expert in aerodynamics. His innovative features in the overall design resulted in a drag coefficient of 0.36. This put the Testarossa above its direct rival, the Lamborghini Countach’s 0.42. The design of the almost two meters wide rear end helped to increase downforce dramatically.

Engineers chose a naturally aspirated, longitudinally-mounted 4.9 liter flat-12 to power the Ferrari Testarossa. There is an overhead camshaft configuration with four valves per cylinder and a dry sump lubrication system. Connected to the 5-speed manual, the engine has a 9.20:1 compression ratio and a maximum power output of 385 hp at 6,300 rpm. Testarossa wasn’t Ferrari’s fastest produced car of the 80s (that honor goes to the F40), but it could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds with an estimated top speed of 180 mph.

The scenes in Miami Vice portrayed the Testarossa as the ultimate sports car but in reality, it was a truly a luxury Ferrari.  The Testarossa had a comfortable and softer suspension and a linear performance curve.  The sporty looking seats were comfier and well bolstered than previous models had been.  Also, six-foot individuals could enter the Testarossa with ease.

To make this Prancing horse have a more practical appeal, the Testarossa added cargo space behind the seats and in the front hood.  Five years ago, Harry Metcalfe, documented a 2,000-mile road trip in the Testarossa on his YouTube Channel Harry’s Garage to prove it’s practicality. Metcalfe even fit two folding bicycles in the Ferrari’s cargo spaces!

Buying a Ferrari Testarossa is a sound investment whether you are a collector or buying one for the nostalgia factor. A few years ago, Testarossa prices were well under $50,000, but today they are going for well over $100,000.00 and it’s only rising at a hastened pace.  Car crazed kids of the 1980’s who had Testarossa posters plastered on their bedroom walls now have the income to recreate their teenage excitement creating a high demand.

Plus, if you are a car enthusiast who believes cars belong on the road and not couped up in a garage, the mechanically sound Ferrari Testarossa provides driving excitement as an everyday use vehicle.  It’s a timeless piece of Ferrari engineering equipped with modern amenities.  The best of both worlds!

If you would like to learn more click on the link: 1989 Ferrari Testarossa, or please contact our team in the Kansas City showroom.

Gateway Classic Cars sells and consigns hundreds of vehicles each month. Do you have a classic car for sale with a story to tell? We’d love to hear about it, please email us at news@gatewayclassiccars.com to share it.

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