The Ferrari Testarossa was the only mid-engined 12-cylinder luxury car ever built

The Testarossa is one of the most beloved Ferrari models and that’s because of the way it looks. The increasingly wider rear fenders, the big strakes on the doors, and the cleanly cut front fascia gave it a unique look among the wedge-shaped cars of the era.

Its appearance in the Miami Vice TV series also contributed to its fame. However, the Testarossa wasn’t the car most enthusiasts thought it was. It was more of an experimental vehicle born out of customer complaints about its predecessor. It was a mistake that Ferrari promptly corrected by returning to front-engined V-12 cars in the 1990s, but it was an amazing car. The latest video from ISSIMI explains just that.

Ferrari first foray into the mid-engined 12-cylinder market

Ferrari Testarossa Explained - How it Was an Amazing 23-Year-Long Mistake
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When Lamborghini unveiled the Miura in 1966, sports car enthusiasts went wild because of its mid-engined V-12 layout. Ferrari unveiled a midship sports car the same year, but it was a Dino with a small V-6.

But Maranello eventually gave in to the pressure and developed its own mid-engined V-12. It was called the 365 GT/4 BB and arrived in 1973. The BB looked mean, featured a powerful flat-12 engine, and was the fastest Ferrari out there. However, many customers and publications complains about the car being uncomfortable and for the cabin getting really hot because of the engine (a problem reported in the Miura as well).

Ferrari Testarossa Explained - How it Was an Amazing 23-Year-Long Mistake
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Ferrari went on to upgrade the 365 GT/4 into the BB 512 in 1976 and BB 512i in 1981, but it came up with a radically different design in 1984. Unlike the 512, the Testarossa had its engine mounted on top of the transmission and large radiators mounted in the rear to prevent the cabin from heating.

The latter prompted the notably wider rear fenders that made the Testarossa famous. The new flat-12 supercar was also powerful and fast, but it was notably more comfortable than the BB 512i before it. Although the initial plan was to create a beastly 12-cylinder car, Ferrari eventually came out with a luxury, mid-engined grand tourer.

Update and Ferrari’s return to the front-engined layout

Ferrari Testarossa Explained - How it Was an Amazing 23-Year-Long Mistake
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The initial Testarossa carried over unchanged for seven years. Its 4.9-liter flat-12 delivered 385 horsepower and pushed the car from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds.

It had a top speed of around 180 mph and it was described by Ferrari as a 300-kph living room. The Testarossa was thoroughly revised in 1991, when the 4.9-liter flat-12 was updated to 422 horsepower. It was also renamed the 512 TR. The final update, called the F512 M, followed in 1994, when the exterior was altered a bit more and the pop-up headlamps were replaced by more traditional lights with clear lenses. The engine was once again upgraded to 434 horsepower, reducing the 0 to 60 mph sprint to 4.6 seconds.

Ferrari Testarossa Explained - How it Was an Amazing 23-Year-Long Mistake
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The Testarossa was discontinued in 1996 after 12 years on the market and replaced with the 550 Maranello. The new grand tourer featured a V-12, but the biggest change was that the mill was moved in the front. Instead of struggling to find a solution for a packaging nightmare, Ferrari opted to go back to the traditional grand tourer layout that it abandoned in 1973. The front-engined V-12 returned after 23 years and it remained in production ever since, with the 550 Maranello followed by the 575M Maranello, the 599, the F12berlinetta, and the 812 Superfast.


Ferrari Testarossa specifications
Type rear, longitudinal flat-12
Bore/stroke 82 x 78 mm
Unitary displacement 411.92 cc
Total displacement 4943.04 cc
Compression ratio 9.3 : 1
Maximum power 385 HP @ 6,300 RPM
Power per liter 79 hp/l
Maximum torque 361 LB-FT @ 4,500 RPM
Valve actuation twin overhead camshafts per bank, four valves per cylinder
Fuel feed Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical injection
Ignition Marelli Microplex electronic, single spark plug per cylinder
Lubrication dry sump
Clutch twin-plate
Top speed 290 KM/H (180 MPH)
Acceleration 0-60 mph 5.2 sec
0-400 m 13.6 sec
0-1000 m 24.1 sec
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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