Ferrari Testarossa 1984

We don’t want to rehash clichés about “Turbo” inserts, posters on the walls in the 90s, and childhood dreams. But what else can we recall looking at one of the most charismatic beauties of the last century? What should we write in the first paragraph about a car that created a small direction in visual tuning – let it be a rhetorical question.

Why More Is Better

The Ferrari Testarossa is a mid-engine sports car with a rear-mounted engine, introduced in 1984. It was the successor to the 512 BBi model, which gained fame as a mobile sauna – and it was this feature that played a major role in the unique design of the Testarossa.

The classic mid-engine car layout involves placing the engine’s coolant radiators at the front. This makes sense, as the oncoming air flow significantly reduces the temperature, but the downside is the pipeline running from the engine at the back to the radiators at the front. If you have a small coupe, the pipes will heat the metal and the interior and if you are in a Ferrari, sweaty armpits are not befitting your status. Hence, the 512 BBi raised questions among buyers.

How the Sides of a Ferrari and Eggs Are Related

The technical specification for the new car included placing the radiators at the back. A more specific task made by the V12 engine with a 180-degree cylinder bank offset. Keep this thought and we’ll return to it later, for now, the main point is – the engine was flat but long and wide.

A pair of radiators had to be placed in the side “pontoons” of the sports car’s fillet section. Large air intakes were necessary for ventilation, which was prohibited by the road regulations of some countries. Back then, authorities remembered that there were not only cars on the road but also pedestrians – and began to form their passive safety. The legal nuances of those years are a topic of their own, which we will touch upon, but for the North American market, it was necessary to either make the air ducts smaller or change their shape.

It so happened that chief designer Leonardo Fioravanti from Pininfarina, responsible for the exterior, had a good understanding of aerodynamics. The first consequence of this was a low drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.36. For comparison, the wedge-shaped and seemingly more streamlined Lamborghini Countach had a Cd of 0.42. The second consequence was the famous sides, colloquially called the “cheese grater” or “egg slicer.” This design was intended to divide one large air intake into several small and most importantly, legal slits. Eventually, the design looked so attractive that some workshops began copying it for the body kits of other popular coupes of those years, predominantly Japanese.

Who Exactly Is This Testarossa

Not that every model name at Ferrari carries some secret meaning, but in this case, there are two interesting references. In 1957, the World Championship for sports cars – that is, not formula racing with open wheels – was won by the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa and the new model could have been named in honor of the legendary ancestor. However, the Italians have plenty of championship-winning cars in various disciplines. The second and most likely reason for the name is the direct translation from Italian as “red head”. Indeed, the valve covers of the Tipo F113 engine installed in the Testarossa were red.

They were hard to see, as this was a V12 engine with a 180-degree cylinder bank offset. Calling it a boxer engine could provoke the wrath of its creator Mauro Forghieri. He described the difference between the Tipo 113 and a classic boxer engine as follows: the arrangement of the connecting rods of one bank on a single crankshaft journal and movement in one direction for the V12, while in a classic boxer engine, it is the opposite.

Enzo Ferrari is attributed with a quote that loosely translates as “aerodynamics are for those who can’t build powerful engines.” A displacement of 4.9 liters, DOHC valvetrain and 4 valves per cylinder – the first road-going Ferrari with such a configuration – allowed for a decent power output of 370-390 hp, making it the most powerful engine among sports cars of those years. The fuel injection system – Bosch K/KE – jetronic, familiar to many youngtimer enthusiasts. The direct ancestor of this engine was Formula 1, so ideologically the car was close to racing from birth, but it never made it to professional track racing.

Only in Maranello

The Testarossa is rightfully considered one of the most mass-produced Ferraris in history. Original cars from 1984 to 1991 totaled 7,177, plus a couple of thousand in two restylings, the 512 TR and F512M. But the first years of production had a number of interesting nuances and the car in the photographs is from those years. The most noticeable is the rearview mirror, which even got its own name – “flying mirror”. Not only was there one, but it was also positioned high up near the roof. According to legend, it appeared due to a misinterpretation of the road regulations of those years. The Italians somehow decided that the rearview mirror should show the entire car, meaning a piece of the rear panel, which would be hidden with a conventional mirror placement. The absence of the right mirror can be explained by a fairly common practice of those years. After a year and a half of production, Ferrari received some complaints about the lack of visibility, reread the regulations, and returned the mirrors to the usual place for us.

Pay attention to the wheels. The single nut is not a design move; the wheels are indeed attached to the hub with one nut, just as in the world of motorsport. In civilian life, they require a special key and preferably, a long lever. The diameter of the wheels in the first years was also somewhat unusual for us: 415mm or 16.33”. Michelin made custom tires. In the 1986 model lineup, they switched to the usual 16″ diameter and in the 1988 lineup, to a standard hub for 5 bolts. 

What Is a Testarossa in the Garage Today

First and foremost, it’s a very good investment. Especially the first series with the flying mirror. The owner confirms: it’s really uncomfortable to drive and you can forget about parking on the right side of the car right away.

Basic maintenance of the car in perfect condition is several thousand dollars. Every 3-4 years, the timing belt, which costs only $35, needs to be replaced. But its replacement will cost about $10,000 – all because the entire rear powertrain is removed in assembly with the subframe. A quite good solution, but for an ordinary person, a repair that costs almost 300 times more than the part itself sounds outrageous.

In the region where this Testarossa resides, there are about a dozen services that believe they can handle such supercars. Realistically, 1-2 can and the masters in them specialize specifically in such cars. Where they get their experience and what will happen if they do not pass on their knowledge remains only to guess.

As we were forming the material, unexpected news came in. Ferrari often gave sports cars to its Formula 1 drivers and one of the latest F512Ms – the final restyling of the Testarossa – was received by team driver Gerhard Berger. In 1995, during the San Marino Grand Prix at the Imola track, the car was stolen. The trail went cold and the investigation adhered to the version that the car was smuggled into Japan.

At the end of 2023, this car was imported into England by a US citizen – and caught the attention of the police. They contacted Ferrari, who checked the documents and unequivocally declared – yes, this is Mr. Berger’s car. After 28 years, the disappearance was solved, although the question of its further fate remains.

The material was worked on by:
Owner: nuke9988
Photographer: mccarthy606
Text: its_sokol