Development of the Ferrari Testarossa is said to have begun in the early 1980s, when Maranello set out to create a sports car that would fix the faults of the Berlinetta Boxer. Issues included a cabin that got increasingly hot from the plumbing that ran between the front-mounted radiator and the mid-mounted engine and a lack of luggage space. In 1982, Pininfarina was commissioned to design a 12-cylinder Ferrari with side-mounted radiators, GT-level luggage space, and improved comfort.

The finished product arrived two years later as the Testarossa, a car that quickly became an icon of 1980s retro culture.

Mostly known for its side strakes and ultra-wide rear track, the car made numerous appearances in pop culture, most notably in the third season of Miami Vice and Sega’s arcade game OutRun. Much like the Lamborghini Countach and the Porsche 959, the Testarossa spawned posters that adorned childhood walls well into the 1990s.

Produced until 1991, the two-door berlinetta paid tribute to the infamous Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, a race car that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1958, 1960, and 1961. Testa Rossa, which literally means "red head" in Italian, refers to the red-painted cam covers of the 12-cylinder engine.

Updated into the 512 TR in 1992 and the F512 M in 1994, the Testarossa was the last to use Ferrari’s flat-12 engine and the brand’s last mass-produced, mid-engined, 12-cylinder sports car. Since then, Maranello built only three limited-production, mid-engined supercars using V-12 powerplants: the F50, Enzo, and the LaFerrari.

Continue reading to learn more about the 1984 Ferrari Testarossa.

  • 1984 - 1991 Ferrari Testarossa
  • Year:
    1984- 1991
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V12
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    385 @ 6300
  • Torque @ RPM:
    361 @ 4500
  • Displacement:
    4943 L
  • 0-60 time:
    5.2 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    180 mph
  • Price:
    94000
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

1984 - 1991 Ferrari Testarossa High Resolution Exterior
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1984 - 1991 Ferrari Testarossa High Resolution Exterior
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1984 - 1991 Ferrari Testarossa High Resolution Exterior
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The Testarossa’s design was bold and unique. Although, it was heavily influenced by the wedge styling that was still common in the early 1980s, its most striking features were the massive side intakes and the wide rear fascia. Often considered a statement of style, the intakes were actually the result of Ferrari’s idea to give the Testarossa’s race-inspired, mid-mounted radiators.

Often considered a statement of style, the intakes were actually the result of Ferrari's idea to give the Testarossa's race-inspired, mid-mounted radiators.

The side strakes, often referred to as "cheese graters," were part of the car’s aerodynamic layout as well. They captured air to cool the radiators, which then went upward and left the vehicle through the ventilation holes in the engine lid and the tail. As a result, the Testarossa did not need a rear wing, sporting a more dramatic stance. Its drag coefficient was also impressive at 0.36 — significantly better than its main rival, the Lamborghini Countach (0.42).

Overall, Pininfarina’s body was a departure from the curvaceous Berlinetta Boxer. The front hood was flatter, while the pop-up headlamps were bigger. The front fascia was rather simple, featuring a thin grille and headlamp/turn signal clusters, and a black spoiler below. The Testarossa was dramatic to look at from the sides, as the strakes spanned from the doors to the rear fenders, forming an upswept line below the traditional beltline.

Around back, the grille and taillight clusters were designed to mimic the front layout. The rectangular, elongated piece spanned the entire width of the rear end and had a five-slat grille with a prancing horse emblem over it. Unlike the Berlinetta Boxer, it had an integrated bumper. Like most supercars from the era, it didn’t feature a diffuser, with only an additional grille complementing the quad-exhaust arrangement. The engine lid was similar to the Boxer’s, with side extensions and a nearly vertical windscreen behind the rear seats.

Another unique addition to the Testarossa's styling was the single, high-mounted mirror on the driver's side

Another unique addition to the Testarossa’s styling was the single, high-mounted mirror on the driver’s side. Three years into production, the mirror was lowered at the bottom of the A-pillar and joined by a passenger side mirror, especially on U.S.-spec models.

As far as size went, the Testarossa was significantly bigger than its predecessor. Far from surprising given its bloated rear fenders and Ferrari’s desire to improve interior roominess and luggage space. Overall, the Testarossa was 3.4 inches longer, 5.8 inches wider, and had a two-inch longer wheelbase. On the other hand, it was only three tenths of an inch taller, which gave it a more aggressive stance despite its somewhat boxy design.

Although it caused some controversy at first, the Testarossa design grew on most people almost immediately, becoming a symbol of the 1980s and inspired many other supecar designs.

Exterior Dimensions

Length 4,485 MM (176.57 Inches)
Width 1,976 MM (77.79 Inches)
Height 1,130 MM (44.48 Inches)
Wheelbase 2,550 MM (100.39 Inches)
Front track 1,518 MM (59.76 Inches)
Rear track 1,660 MM (65.35 Inches)

Interior

1984 - 1991 Ferrari Testarossa High Resolution Interior
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Designed from a clean sheet, the Testarossa’s interior was an important breakthrough toward refinement for the Italian brand. The Berlinetta Boxer’s cabin was rather rugged and spartan compared to the Testarossa’s, which was created with a lot more comfort in mind.

The new dashboard ditched the simpler, race-inspired styling cues Ferrari had been using for decades.

The new dashboard ditched the simpler, race-inspired styling cues Ferrari had been using for decades. All the gauges were grouped together within the instrument cluster, creating a cleaner and more refined dashboard design disturbed only by the A/C vents atop the center stack. The cassette/CD player was fitted above the A/C controls, but concealed by a small lid wrapped in leather like the rest of the dash.

An interesting fact is that all Testarossas left the factory without a stereo. They were only pre-wired for them and the dealerships installed whatever the owner wanted.

The rest of the center stack consisted of small storage cubbies, while the center console had several buttons and switches. The shifter for the manual transmission was mounted on the left side of the console, just like in the Berlinetta Boxer. Although they had a simple design, the door panels were wrapped in soft leather, as were the sports seats. These provided some lateral support and a good driving position, but some customers complained that they weren’t strong enough for hard cornering.

Visibility was improved compared to previous Ferraris, but the steering wheel blocked portions of the instrument cluster when adjusted into place.

As far as luggage space was concerned, the Testarossa was a major improvement over the Berlinetta Boxer. Not only did it have a bigger compartment under the front hood, but the storage space behind the seats was also significantly larger. Customers that wanted to maximize space had the option to order the bespoke Schedoni luggage, which was specifically tailored for the front compartment and the shelf behind the seats.

Although it still had some of the faults that came with a 1980s sports car, the Testarossa was nearly as comfortable and spacious as a grand tourer. Not to mention it offered more luxury and convenience than any other Ferrari until then.

Drivetrain

1984 - 1991 Ferrari Testarossa High Resolution Drivetrain
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The Testarossa was powered by a 4.9-liter flat-12 engine that was very similar to the one found in the Berlinetta Boxer. Using 48 valves, dry-sump lubrication, and a compression ratio of 9.20:1, the flat-12 generated 385 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 361 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm in the European version. The North American version, which was fitted with catalytic converters, had 375 horses at 5,750 rpm.

The Testarossa was brawny enough to hit 60 mph from a standing start in around 5.2 seconds and reach 100 mph in 11.4 ticks.

While it wasn’t the most powerful sports car on the market, the Testarossa was brawny enough to hit 60 mph from a standing start in around 5.2 seconds and reach 100 mph in 11.4 ticks. Top speed was estimated at 180 mph for the European version and 176 mph for the U.S.-spec model. The latter took around 13.5 seconds to complete the quarter-mile.

All models were equipped with a five-speed manual transmission that routed the power to the rear wheels.

At launch, the Testarossa had a rear suspension system that consisted of independent, unequal-length wishbones, coil springs, twin-telescopic shock absorbers on each side, and an anti-roll bar, which was rather unusual. The drivetrain and suspension were basically designed to be removed as a unit from underneath the car so the engine timing belts could be serviced. The system was redesigned to a friendlier configuration in 1988.

The Testarossa’s wheels were also unusual at first, as Ferrari equipped the supercar with magnesium, single-bolt "knockoff" rims measuring 16.33 inches. The rollers used the Michelin TRX system and because of the odd diameter size they could only be fitted with specific TRX tires. Following several complaints, Ferrari changed the wheels to a standard 16-inch diameter in 1986, but kept the same design. The wheels were changed again in 1988 from the single bolt setup to the standard Ferrari five-bolt arrangement.

Fuel economy was estimated at 10 mpg in the city and 15 mpg on the highway

Stopping power came from 12.17-inch rotors at the front and 12.2-inch rotors to the rear. According to a Car and Driver test from 1985, the Testarossa needed 210 feet to come to a complete halt from 70 mph.

Fuel economy was estimated at 10 mpg in the city and 15 mpg on the highway, which was inferior to the Lamborghini Countach’s 12 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway. For reference, a 1985 Chevrolet Corvette with the 5.7-liter V-8 returned up to 15 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.

Drivetrain 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

Prices

1984 - 1991 Ferrari Testarossa High Resolution Exterior
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When it reached U.S. dealerships for the 1985 model year, the Testarossa was priced from $94,000. By 1990, toward the end of production, the sticker soared to nearly $150,000. After 7,177 units we built, the Testarossa was replaced by the 512 TR in 1991.

In the following decades, the Testarossa’s value plummeted on the used car market, with very few models changing hands for more than $100,000. More recently, however, the Italian sports car has captured the attention of more and more car collectors, gaining more value. In 2014, for instance, an example with only 95 miles on the odo fetched $242,000. In 2015, a 1990 model with 171 miles sold for $250,800, while a 1989 version with 2,025 miles went under the hammer for $220,000.

Granted, the Testarossa is no 250 GTO, but experts around the world agree that the Testarossa may be the next Ferrari to take a massive leap forward in appreciation.

Competition

Lamborghini Countach

1973 - 1990 Lamborghini Countach
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Much like the Testarossa, the Countach had a revolutionary design that quickly turned it into a poster car. Arguably more popular than the Testarossa, the Countach was launched in 1973 and was built with various modifications until 1990, when it was replaced by the Diablo. By the time the Testarossa arrived in 1984, the Countach had evolved into the LP500 S, which carried a 4.8-liter V-12 rated at 375 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque. It needed 5.6 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start on its way to a top speed of 186 mph. In 1985, Lambo launched the 5000 QV, updating the V-12 into a 5.2-liter unit. Output increased to 455 horsepower and 340 pound-feet, while 0-to-60 sprints dropped to 5.2 seconds. An icon of the 1970s and 1980s, the Countach can change hands for more than $400,000 depending on mileage, state, and model rarity.

Find out more about the Lamborghini Countach here.

Porsche 959

1986 - 1989 Porsche 959 High Resolution Exterior
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Although its twin-turbo flat-six engine and all-wheel-drive system made it significantly quicker than the Testarossa, the Porsche 959 was yet another poster car of the 1980s. Still considered one of the most radical road-legal vehicles to come from Stuttgart, the 959 was — at the time of its launch — the world’s fastest street-legal production car. It was hailed as the most technologically advanced sports car and influenced the supercar concept we’re all familiar with today. Launched in 1986 with 444 horsepower, the 959 needed only 3.7 seconds to reach 60 mph. The 959S had 530 horses and hit the same benchmark in just 3.4 seconds. Top speed was rated at 208 mph. Arguably the more valuable of the bunch, the 959 is known to fetch more than $1 million at public auctions.

Read more about the Porsche 959 here.

De Tomaso Pantera GT5

1971 - 1991 De Tomaso Pantera Exterior
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Launched in 1986, 15 years after De Tomaso had introduced the Pantera, the GT5 was the last iteration of the famed Italian sports car. Although powered by the same Ford-sourced, 5.8-liter V-8, the GT5 came with 350 horsepower and 333 pound-feet of twist on tap. With a 0-to-60 mph sprint of 5.5 seconds, it wasn’t as fast as the Testarossa and its top speed was only 137 mph, but its Italian style and aggressive body kit made it an desirable car. De Tomaso built only about 250 GT5s. Nowadays, well maintained examples can fetch more than $200,000.

Find out more about the De Tomaso Pantera GT5 here.

Conclusion

1984 - 1991 Ferrari Testarossa High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The Testarossa might not have been the quickest or the most powerful Ferrari of the 1980s, but its intriguing design, refined ride, and luxurious interior made it a very important car in Maranello’s storied history. The Testarossa basically bridged the gap between the fast and crude Berlinetta Boxer and the 550 grand tourer that replaced the F512 M in 1996. Making it even more special is that, along with its subsequent updates — the 512 TR and F512 M — the Testarossa was the last Ferrari to use a flat engine. It was also the last mid-engined, 12-cylinder car except for the limited, range-topping F50, Enzo, and LaFerrari. Together with the Countach and the 959, the Testarossa is one of the most iconic sports cars of the 1980s, and vehicle collectors who can’t afford high-profile Ferraris are very eager to purchase and drive one. Due to its unique design and classic flat-12 drivetrain, the Testarossa is likely to become a $1-million classic in just a few years.

  • Leave it
    • * Not as aggressive as the Berlinetta Boxer
    • * Overshadowed by the 288 GTO and F40
    • * The Countach is an equally exciting option
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