Ferrari Testarossa


At the Paris Salon in October 1984 Ferrari publicly unveiled their second generation Flat 12 supercar. It replaced the Berlinetta Boxer (BB) that had been produced in three different iterations since late 1973.

Throughout troubled times the BB had sold reasonably well but the Testarossa that replaced it would shift huge volumes and enter the wider public conscience in a manner its predecessor never managed.

Intended to be a faster, better handling, more spacious and more luxurious car than the BB, the Testarossa succeeded on every level. Its styling was also emblematic of the era which led to many appearances on the big screen and TV.

Typically pitched as a direct rival to Lamborghini’s Countach, the two cars were actually very different. Whereas the Countach was outrageous, cramped and impractical, the Testarossa was quite a refined machine. It had a reliable fuel-injected engine, comparatively light controls and good visibility so could conceivably be used every day.

Its most recognisable features were the banks of stylised cooling scoops down each flank. Pininfarina were typically more reserved than Lamborghini-stylists Bertone, but the Testarossa’s outlandish intake ducts filled with multiple vanes gave the car an instantly recognisable profile.

Another factor in the Testarossa’s huge commercial success was that it became the first 12 cylinder Ferrari since 1974 that was officially legal for sale in the US. Previously the BB had been outlawed on grounds of safety and emissions but the Testarossa was fully US compliant and took America by storm.

It was built on a welded tubular steel chassis with type number F110 AB. Compared to the BB the wheelbase was stretched from 2500mm to 2550mm and it had a removable engine subframe that could be unbolted from the main chassis for easier maintenance. Suspension was independent all round with unequal length wishbones, coil springs, telescopic shocks and anti-roll bars. Like the BB, twin shocks were installed each side at back.

Ventilated disc brakes measured 315mm at the front and 310mm at the rear but ABS was never fitted. New five-spoke magnesium alloy wheels were fastened in position with a single locking nut. They were designed for Michelin’s metric-sized TRX low profile tyres and had a diameter of 415mm (16.33-inches). The front’s were 210mm wide (8.26-inches) and the back’s 240mm wide (9.44-inches). Compared to the outgoing 512i BB track was 18mm and 97mm wider front to rear.


Engine-wise a further uprated version of the familiar 180° Flat-12 DOHC motor was installed. As before it was dry-sumped and displaced 4942cc thanks to a bore and stroke of 82mm and 78mm respectively. However, there were several new features, most notably four-valve cylinder heads and Marelli Microplex MED 120A electronic ignition. Additionally, the two belt-driven overhead camshafts for each cylinder bank now ran off the crankshaft as opposed to the idler gears.

In standard European specification the Testarossa’s Tipo F113 A engine had no catalytic converters and used Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection with a 9.2:1 compression ratio. It produced 390bhp at 6300rpm and 354lb ft of torque at 4500rpm.

Transmission was via a five-speed manual gearbox, twin-plate hydraulic clutch and limited-slip differential.

A 115-litre fuel tank was located underneath the engine hard up against the rear bulkhead.

As usual Pininfarina were commissioned to design the bodywork and interior for this latest Ferrari. They ditched the BB’s wedge profile in favour of softer, more modern lines and created one of the most recognisable automobiles ever. The Testarossa was a true landmark design and icon of its era.

Most startling were the huge cooling scoops carved out from each flank. They fed the side-mounted water radiators and were enhanced with elaborate horizontal slats. This theme continued on the tail fascia where a full width bank of black slats covered the lights and grille. Gone were the traditional circular tail lights that had so long been a Ferrari fixture, they were replaced with modern rectangular clusters.

Retractable headlights were retained at the front and the supplementary lenses were now mounted in the nose fascia alongside a black egg crate grille. The chin spoiler and side sills were finished matt black to lend a more slender profile. One of the most curious features was a single driver’s side wing mirror positioned towards the top of the A-pillar. It was fitted as the result of a misinterpretation of new laws regarding 100% rearward visibility.

Steel was used for the cabin and doors, plastic for the front and rear bumpers and aluminium for pretty much everything else. Overall the Testarossa was 75mm longer, 146mm wider and 10mm taller than the outgoing 512i BB.


More spacious, better equipped and more luxurious than the BB, the Testarossa’s cockpit was completely redesigned. The dash, seats, door trim, instrumentation and switchgear were all new but still quintessentially Italian. Air-conditioning and electric windows were standard and unless an all-black interior was specified the leather used for the dash, transmission tunnel and armrests / door handles normally contrasted with the rest of the upholstery.

There was a small amount of storage space behind the seats but relocating the water radiators to the sides of the car meant there was dramatically more room underneath the front lid. Limited luggage space had been one of the key criticisms of the BB.

The Testarossa weighed in at 1506kg (up 7kg on the outgoing 512i BB). It had a top speed of 181mph and 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds.

First shown to selected Ferrari dealers in Modena during September 1984, it was then given a lavish presentation at the Lido Club on the Champs Elysees before making its public debut a day later at the Paris Salon.

Aside from interior and exterior colours the only option was a six-piece Schedoni luggage set.

Testarossas destined for the US and Japan came with a special Tipo F113 A 040 engine equipped with catalytic converters and Bosch KE-Jetronic fuel-injection (instead of plain K-Jetronic). A different exhaust was also installed along with an anti-evaporative emission control system, a secondary air pump and slightly different gearbox. Peak power of these units was a little lower: 380bhp at 5750rpm.

US cars also came with a host of other modifications that included rectangular side lights, all amber upper lights in the nose, an additional rubber bumper at the back, safety fuel tanks and slightly different instrumentation.

There was also a Tipo F113 A 046 motor for those cars headed to Switzerland and Sweden. These engines did not have catalytic converters but did come with the Bosch KE-Jetronic as fitted to US-spec. examples.


In 1986 one Testarossa (chassis 62897) was built as a Spider and presented as a gift to Fiat Chairman, Gianni Agnelli. Pininfarina reinforced the chassis, fitted a cut-down windscreen, a fully retractable roof and new engine cover. As Agnelli had suffered a leg injury in a car accident many years previously he struggled to depress a conventional clutch. 62897 was therefore equipped with a special Valeo gearbox that had a full automatic mode. When the Valeo button was depressed the clutch retracted and the car shifted gears automatically. 62897 was painted silver with a blue coachline and blue leather interior. It also came with a solid silver nose badge and twin wing mirrors.

Ferrari famously donated two US-spec. 1986 Testarossas to Universal Television for use in the popular American crime drama series, Miami Vice. The show had originally featured a black replica 365 GTS/4 Daytona as the main vehicle of leading man, Sonny Crocket (Don Johnson). However, Ferrari were unhappy with the presence of a replica in such a high profile show and supplied a pair of metallic black over cream Testarossas with the single mirror (chassis 63259 and 63631). To make them more visible when filming at night both cars were repainted white in the US. They starred from mid way through the 1986 season until the show’s demise in 1989.

During Testarossa production a number of developments were made.

At the Geneva Salon in March 1986 Ferrari unveiled an updated variant. Twin mirrors were fitted at the base of each A-pillar and the wheels were changed to imperial instead of metric dimensions. They were still the same single hub nut design but now measured 16 x 8-inches at the front and 16 x 10 at the rear. The engines in European market cars were switched from Tipo F113 A to F113 B to denote they now ran the Bosch KE-Jetronic fuel-injection. New Marelli MED 120B electronic ignition was also installed. Swiss and Swedish market examples switched from Tipo F113 A 046 to the Tipo F113 B 046 motor. They had always used KE-Jetronic but now came with catalytic converters and Marelli 120B/D ignition. US and Japanese Testarossas also got the Marelli 120B/D ignition. Additionally, those cars destined for America received a third brake light located on the body coloured centre section of the engine cover.

From 1987 US market cars came with a new Passive Restraint System. It comprised an extra safety belt for each seat that electronically travelled up the A-pillar and along the roofline until it was behind the occupants shoulder. A padded shelf was also added underneath the dash.


June 1988 saw the single nut wheels replaced by a new five-bolt design across the board. These were once again manufactured by both OZ and Speedline and led to slightly wider track: 2mm extra at the front and 17mm at the rear.

Soon afterwards some very subtle updates were made to the seats and mirrors.

From 1989 (at chassis 82967) catalytic converters became standard on all Testarossas.

Aside from some very minor changes the specification thereafter remained unchanged until production ended in early 1992 when the Testarossa was replaced by the 512 TR. By this time 7177 had been built of which 438 were right-hand drive UK specification.

Included in this figure were 11 Spider conversions executed by Pininfarina. All of these were right-hand drive commissions for the Sultan of Brunei. The Turin studio also designed a special-bodied Testarossa called the F90 for the same client. Additionally, the Brunei royal family ordered Pininfarina to build them several replicas of the Testarossa-based Mythos concept. The precise number of F90 and Mythos built is unknown but cars were typically ordered in batches of at least three units.

Text copyright: Supercar Nostalgia
Photo copyright: Ferrari -