1989 Ferrari Testarossa Convertible
An ‘80s icon goes toplessby Jonathan Lopez, on
In the mid-‘80s, Ferrari introduced the Testarossa, a two-door berlinetta created as a replacement for the Berlinetta Boxer 512i. The name was a nod to the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa race car that ran in the World Sportscar Championship in the late ‘50s, but the new model was anything but old school. Occupying the top of the Prancing Horse model lineup, the new Testarossa was subsequently well received amongst critics and the buying public. Not only was it popularized by the show Miami Vice, but several prominent celebrities owned one, and eventually, the Testarossa became a well known symbol of ‘80s culture. Considering the popularity, you’d expect Ferrari to be eager to produce a drop-top version of the 12-cylinder sports car, but not so – only one “official” Testarossa convertible was ever produced, forcing custom builders to make their own roofless variants after the fact. This car is one of those rare custom Testarossa convertibles.
At its heart, the car you see here is a 1989 model. It’s nearly identical in every single way to the Testarossas that rolled out from Maranello and into Ferrari dealerships nearly three decades ago, save the infinitely expanded headroom.
This Testarossa convertible is on offer from Paris Prestige Cars, a French dealer of high-end sports cars, and it’s a rare convertible example of one of Ferrari’s most popular models.
Continue reading to learn more about this Ferrari Testarossa Convertible.
1989 Ferrari Testarossa Convertible
History And Background
The Testarossa, alternately known as the F110, was first introduced in 1984 at the Paris Motor Show. Framed as a replacement for the Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer, the Testarossa sought to fix some of the BB’s various quirks, including a lack of luggage space, and a cabin that would heat up due to coolant pipes that ran around the passengers on their way between the engine to the front-mounted radiator.
Ferrari’s customers demanded convertible Testarossas of their own, but the Italian automaker flat out refused, thus forcing third-party builders to create custom builds.
To address these issues, Ferrari went back to the drawing board, enlisting the help of Pininfarina for the design work. Practicality was upped thanks to a larger body, with the Testarossa adding an extra 2.5 inches to the wheelbase and six inches to the width compared to the BB. Meanwhile, the large front radiator was tossed in favor of two smaller radiators located behind and to the side of the cabin.
Ferrari updated the Testarossa in 1991, modifying the powertrain and drivetrain. The new model was unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show, and was consequently renamed as the 512 TR.
Following the 512 TR was the F512 M, which was unveiled at the 1994 Paris Motor Show. The M stands for modificata, or modified, acknowledging the car’s refreshed engine and styling.
The Testarossa ended production in 1996, and was succeeded by the 550 Maranello.
Throughout its production run, only a single “official” convertible Testarossa was produced. Dubbed the Testarossa Spider Valeo, the topless sports car was created as a gift for Gianni Agnelli, who was running Fiat at the time.
Ferrari’s customers demanded convertible Testarossas of their own, but the Italian automaker flat out refused, thus forcing third-party builders to create custom builds. This particular example comes from Lorenz & Rankl, and is one of seven created.
It’s believed there are only 25 convertible Testarossas in existence.
As previously mentioned, Pininfarina takes responsibility for the Testarossa’s design, with names like Leonardo Fioravanti, Emanuele Nicosia, Ian Cameron, Diego Ottina, and Guido Campoli attached to the list of credits.
In particular, the strakes on the side intakes are a highly noteworthy feature of the Testarossa.
While similar to the Berlinetta Boxer that came before, with its wide, low stance, upturned rear end, and broad, flat nose, the Testarossa stands out in a number of ways. One of the most noticeable changes is the inclusion of copious horizontal lines, which are most noticeable in the flanks and rear.
In particular, the strakes on the side intakes are a highly noteworthy feature of the Testarossa. Plenty of custom builds out there include these as a nod to the popular Ferrari, and they help lend the car an aggressive appearance.
However, they’re also quite functional. They serve as a workaround for countries where large openings in the body are banned, and they help to guide air into the side-mounted radiators to keep the engine running at an optimum temperature. They also improve the car’s balance, widening the rear, and directing airflow up and over the rear deck.
Impressively, this aero feature blesses the Testarossa with zero lift over the rear axle, which is doubly impressive when you consider the lack of a rear spoiler – a feat the less efficient Lamborghini Countach simply can’t boast. Overall drag coefficient is 0.36, although I’m sure the Cd on this convertible model is a little higher due to the new roofless design.
When it was first introduced, the Testarossa came equipped with magnesium knockoff wheels. The wheels were updated twice afterwards, with the latter update in 1988 going to a standard five-bolt pattern. However, the wheel’s look and five-spoke went unchanged.
When it was first introduced, the Testarossa was designed with a higher roofline than the BB, thus offering expanded headroom and greater passenger comfort. This convertible, however, bests that by feature by a mile. Literally.
The cockpit layout is pretty simple, with blocky, squared-of shapes prevailing across the dash.
The Testarossa was also supposed to be more practical, offering a bit of space behind the seats for knickknacks, plus an expanded storage space in the nose for luggage.
The cockpit layout is pretty simple, with blocky, squared-of shapes prevailing across the dash. Drivers grip a three-spoke steering wheel, behind which is a four-gauge cluster with a left-mounted speedometer, right-mounted tachometer, and smaller readouts for water and oil in the middle.
The central tunnel gets a few extraneous buttons and knobs, but probably the coolest feature of the whole cabin is the gated shifter.
The Testarossa uses a rear mid-engine, RWD layout. The name “testa rossa” translates from Italian as “red head,” which is a nod to the red cam covers that adorn the engine bay.
Peak output is rated at 390 horsepower at 6,300 rpm, and 361 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm, all of which is sent to the rear axle by way of a five-speed manual transmission.
Speaking of the engine, the Testarossa is actually Ferrari’s last flat-12 engine, with a 4.9-liter (4,943 cc) powerplant that evolved out of the BB, offering the same compression ratio (9.20:1) and displacement as its predecessor. Features include four valves per cylinder and dry sump lubrication.
Peak output is rated at 390 horsepower at 6,300 rpm (some earlier U.S. cars had 380 horsepower), and 361 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm, all of which is sent to the rear axle by way of a five-speed manual transmission as the only gearbox option.
Performance numbers are impressive for the time period. The 0-to-60 mph sprint clocks in around the low five-second range, while 0-to-100 mph sprint clocks in around the low 11-second-range. A pass down the quarter-mile stretch takes roughly 13.5 seconds. Top speed is rated at 180 mph.
This particular convertible example has just 22,500 km (13,981 miles) on the odometer, and it’s equipped with its original engine. It also comes with a modified exhaust, which is sure to add a few ponies to the top end, in addition to adding a nice 12-cylinder bark when you bury the loud pedal.
Of course, being a convertible model, I’d be curious to learn what going topless has done for the car’s performance. If the car is heavier, then performance will suffer – but at least you get to exchange a dip in speed for unlimited blue sky above.
Chassis And Handling
The Testarosssa’s rear mid-engine layout makes it a lively car to drive, with the 3,766-pound curb weight distributed in a 40/60 split across the front and rear axles.
The suspension is similar to the BB, with double wishbones used for the front and rear. The original rear suspension utilized unequal-length wishbones, twin-telescopic shocks, coil springs, and an anti-roll bar.
Chassis stiffness might be compromised without the roof, or perhaps additional bracing was added, thus upping curb weight. But again, that’s the price you gotta pay for sun and fun.
Interestingly, the entire rear mid-mounted drivetrain and suspension set-up was designed specifically to be removed as a single piece, allowing mechanics access underneath the car for service of the timing belts.
When it was first introduced, the Testarossa’s magnesium knockoff wheels measured in at a very strange 16.33 inches for the diameter. The reason behind this was that it was equipped with the short-lived Michelin TRX tire system. The unusual sizing meant no other tires could be fitted, and thus, only TRX rubber could be used, sized at 240/45R415 in front, and 280/45R415 in back.
Eventually, the TRX system went the way of the dodo, and in 1986, the Testarossa was refitted with 16-inch wheels. Width came in at 8 inches in front and 10 inches in back, with rubber duties handled by Goodyear’s Gatorback compound, sized at 225/50R16 in front and 255/50R16 in the rear.
Finally, the brakes are discs measured at 12.17 inches in front, and 12.20 inches in the rear.
Like the straight-line speed, I want to know what Lorenz & Rankl did to make this convertible. Chassis stiffness might be compromised without the roof, or perhaps additional bracing was added, thus upping curb weight. But again, that’s the price you gotta pay for sun and fun.
If you include the 512 TR and F512 M models, Ferarri produced nearly 10,000 units of the Testarossa, making it one the Prancing Horse’s highest-ever production volumes.
However, only a handful of Testarossa convertibles are thought to exist, and as such, this particular model, which boasts just two previous owners, is valued at $460,000.
With its rear-mounted six-cylinder engine, razor-sharp handling, and unmistakable styling, the Porsche 911 is considered one of the all-time greatest sports cars ever produced. As such, this Stuttgart superstar frequently finds itself up against products from Maranello, but with a Targa top above, the 911 is a mighty tempting alternative.
Read the full review here.
When talking about ‘80s icons, the wild-looking Lambo Countach is a step above. The aero is over the top, while 12-cylinder performance makes for some serious competition in the speed department. There’s even a one-off targa model called the Countach SS, built by Al Mardikian.
Read the full review here.
It’s hard not to think of what could have been if Ferrari bit the bullet and followed-through with a production Testarossa convertible. As is, though, this custom example is an excellent look at what such a vehicle could have looked like. It’s pure ‘80s through and through, and a real treat for anyone looking for extra atmosphere in their drive.
Special thanks to the Paris Prestige Cars team for letting us photograph this rare Ferrari!