by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img via eBay ::: 1990 Ferrari Testarossa B12
THERE is a quality to 80s Ferraris – those low, wide, angular, and temperamental thoroughbreds – that just staggers the imagination and weakens the knees. I’m glad that Ferrari rediscovered much of that magic with the 458 Italia because for far too many years – really the entire last decade – Ferrari styling became soft and lardy and much too round for our viewing pleasure. Ferrari aesthetics became almost, almost… it’s hard to write this… conventional. Consider the 599 GTB as a case-in-point.
But let’s focus on this completely unconventional hot head red head. Like Cindy Crawford in her prime, the Testarossa was the pinup girl for the 1980s and now she has aged with eminent grace. By 1990 the Testarossa may have been starting to show a little grey in engineering terms, but that hardly matters now. Indeed, the buyer of this barely driven (5K mi) 1990 Testarossa B12 can enjoy all the little modifications that made a great car superb.
Apparently, this Arizona-based Testarossa has had its major service and comes with all the appropriate paperwork. And it’s no accident that the seller bothered to position the car that made side-straked air intakes a fashion statement in front of an avant-garde office structure with horizontal lines.
by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img via eBay ::: 1991 Ferrari Testarossa
GRAY on a Ferrari seems a paradox. On a Testarossa (remember: Testarossa = “red head” in Italian), a sacrilege. At least in theory. This Flo-Rida based, Euro-spec, slightly modified, grigio metalizzato sul rosso (metallic grey on red) 1991 Ferrari Testarossa has us rethinking our preconceptions. Challenging the rosso corsa norm, if you like. Having seen 57 kM over the course of its two decades, the gray Testarossa looks remarkably well preserved… okay, it’s actually stunning! Who’d have thunk it? But then, with a flat-12 powered prancing horse so singular, so sublimely unique, to have this Ferrari in anything less than aesthetically prime condition would be the real paradox.
by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img via eBay ::: 1986 Ferrari Testarossa
THERE’S a lovely 1986 Ferrari Testarossa for sale on eBay. The seller, Global Motorcars of Houston, is (along with Dallas rival Straightline Auto Group) an eBay powerhouse when it comes to selling special cars. Ferraris included.
Being thorough, they’ve posted the service records on the M.Y. 1986 Ferrari Testarossa with 21K miles. The service notes offer a tell-tale reminder that when cars sit and maintenance is differed, well, $#!t happens.
Gas, in particular, can go bad in as little as 6 months. In this instance, the owner’s Testarossa sat for so long and was only run periodically with old gas. To wit: the redhead ended up needing a new fuel pump which set the owner back more than three grand.
Chicken scratch in terms of most Ferrari bills, but still painful. Moral of the story – when storing your auto for long durations, remember to change the fluids and drain the tank or add fuel stabilizer.
Or let me drive it.
by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img Richard Wolf for ADLX ::: Ferrari Testarossa
YES, you’re seeing double. Our man Richard has one helluva an eye for a good shot. And an eye for beautiful cars, too. Above and below are shots of two, identical Ferrari Testarossas that R.D. took while visiting an Italian car rally at Autumn View Farms in Massachusetts. We covered this event last year and the sheetmetal present is stunning.
But about these photos – few can argue the Ferrari Testarossa’s inherent sex appeal. There’s something about that ultra-low profile, those wide hips that hug an enchanting thoroughbred V12, and pop-up gator headlamps that scream exotic.
And those Pininfarina side strakes…
Simply put: the Testarossa air intakes are the sports car styling cue to end all styling cues. The cars themselves are 80s icons which makes it particularly tantalizing two see twins compellingly staged as these have two redheads have been.
by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img via eBay ::: 1992 Ferrari 512TR (Testarossa)
FOR those who find the Ferrari Testarossa too much the 80s hit single (problema?) and take issue with the final styling modifications of the 512M (per che?) the 512TR steps in as the happy compromise.
Blessed with the magical 4.9 Liter flat-V12 heart and soul that made the Testarossa so memorable but with the softer 90s touches that blessed other Ferraris like the 348 and 355 (five spoke, starfish wheels, for example), the 512 represents la bella figura e la bella vita.
This particular M.Y. 1992 Texan car is for sale with a buy-it-now price of $93,980.
While that’s less than advertising $94K, the number, particularly for an early 90s Ferrari with 18K on the clock seems somewhat high. Many Testarossas can be had for $50K-$60K. No word on whether any major service was completed (perhaps reason for the inflated price point).
This rosso corsa 512TR still strikes that gorgeous balance – the exotic cocktail that’s Pininfarina styling bridging the 80s and 90s. Almost irresistible…
“YOU break it, you buy it.” Famous last words?
Nothing instills instant dread quite like the specter of cracking up another man’s Ferrari. I mean, I’d always wanted to buy a Ferrari – just on happier terms.
The owner, Paul McCollam, a level headed car collector who graciously (some might say bravely) agreed to drive down to the Connecticut shoreline so that you, dear reader, could have a vicarious spin in his rosso corsa on beige F512 M was, up until the moment I sat behind the wheel, rather jovial. He’s now a little tense.
And rightfully so. This is a gorgeous machine. Irreplaceable, really. The old saying – they don’t make ’em like they used to? Very true.
Earlier, when Paul pulled up in his red prancing horse with flat V12 thundering through quad exhausts, he seemed as electrified as a rock star running onstage. I’m quite certain that I would have done my best Beetles’ fan imitation – tugging at my own hair and screaming loudly – were it not for some preserving shred of self respect.
A Ferrari gives you both instant celebrity and a carpe diem outlook.
Lucky then for Paul, he has two. The 1995 F512 M (née Nov., 1994) is his more recent Italian acquisition. Previously, he purchased a gray ’76 308 GTB that’s certified as being one of the most authentically preserved 308s extant. In point of fact, Paul’s 308’s run only 1,200 miles. This mint 512 has more than 17K.
It’s clear which Ferrari Paul actually drives.
Aside from the disparity of age and rarity of condition, the F512 M – “M” for “Modificata” – has an advantage or two over its older stablemate that make it the more attractive driver. For one, that Ferrari V12 whose sound alone is said to make some gear heads weep tears of joy, is incredibly potent.
Four hundred forty horsepower @ 6750 rpm and 369 lb-ft of torque @ 5500 rpm. Zero to 60? Four point five seconds.
That bar’s been past, you sniff. And you’d be correct.
I’ve driven the 2011 Rolls-Royce Ghost which boasts an “adequate” 563 hp and 575 lb-ft between 1500-5000 rpm! But here’s the catch – the Rolls weighs 5,445 lbs and is the length of a small yacht.
The 512? A relatively scant 3,200 lbs. That’s 7.2 lbs per horsepower versus the Ghost’s 9.6 lbs. Needless to say, the weight-to-power ratio makes the 512 feel so much fleeter on its feet than the Rolls and certainly more capable than the vintage, V8 powered 308.
Tut, tut, say you. Apples, pears, and oranges. Quite right.
Which brings us nicely to where the F512 M actually fits, you know, in the cosmic scheme of automotordom. Fact is the 512 was just a blip on the radar.
FIVE HUNDRED AND ONE
Maranello made 501 in less than two years; 75 of which were sold Stateside (at roughly $220K each) and none were sold in Canada. Sorry Canadians. The F512 M was the last iteration of the fabled Testarossa line; following the 512 TR. The Testarossa’s an exotic whose power coupled with iconic cheese grater side air intakes and low/wide proportions made it the pin-up car of the 1980s. It’s one of those sports cars that hardly needs introduction.
Sour-grapes critics slight the F512 M with its NACA hood ducts and integrated lexan covered headlamps (instead of the gator pop-ups) as way too much of a good thing. Personally, I tend to take Mae West’s view that too much of a good thing is always wonderful. And in the 512’s case, her maxim couldn’t be more true.
To wit: the F512 M has the nicest ass of any car anywhere.
The 512’s bow starts low and narrow and ends wide and slightly higher; culminating with a ridged rump that’s punctuated by four sweetly circular tail lamps (as opposed to the Testarossa’s 80s rectangles). The vertical and horizontal wedge effect trumpets the message that power heralds from the back, not the front. Both proportions and “the look” have become the signature blueprint for super cars ever since.
Despite the overall design’s palpable air of age back in 1995, we can with hindsight now see how the F512 M beautifully bridges Ferrari design between the 80s and 90s; between the Testarossa and the 550 Maranello (bear in mind that the 550 was powered by a front engine V12).
What makes the F512 M more of a purist’s machine and sexier than some of its successors is that the design is so brilliantly lean. Further, there’s just enough amenities but not enough to larden the Ferrari into a big, fat, cushy GT.
We have power windows, door locks, a leather lined cockpit, AC, and a radio and that’s it, mi amici. Oh, and a nice touch: the manually adjustable seats have leather covered pull-handles.
For the driver, there’s no electronic launch modes. No wiz-bang safety nannies. No flappy paddles. No power steering. No dead pedal either. There’s just three small pedals in a tight row, a meaty helm, a chrome-gated standard shifter that is as God intended, your wits, and all the power you can handle mounted right behind your head.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
And now, back to Paul’s offer/warning.
Nod. Breathe in. Insert thin metal key into the right side of the steering column. It has an oddly flexible plastic fob which momentarily distracts. Twist ‘n pray.
Tweeee, barroum! Bubububububub…
You stare out of a sharply raked windshield. The wipers seem strangely poised as if to swat at a moment’s notice. The edgy slant of the red hood appears briefly than disappears into the tarmac. There’s precious little front ground clearance, so mind the bumps.
Orient yourself – it’s crucial in this car as the Italians did not design this space for drivers over six feet and the confines do impose a bit on vehicle operation. Size 11 Docksiders seem to want to cover two pedals at once and you have to keep your left knee bent, such is the prevalence of the wheel well into the footwell.
That said, once you’ve found your position, the leather seat provides the right amount of comforting support and with that you can forgive the F512 M its limited ergonomics.
Find first by moving the ball shifter all the way to the left and backwards. Unlike an old Porsche, there’s zero play with the lever and the engagement is a precise and beautifully sprung action.
FERRARI SWITCH GEARS
Feed a little gas and the car wants to move forward but seems well tempered. Still, in no time at all you need second. That’s a forward push of the lever, then a brief right turn and then straight home. Man, that feels good!
And with that you’ve experienced the infamous dog-leg 1st-2nd shift of which R&T and C&D staff used to grouse. Loudly. It’s a design that lends itself to racing but not to the blistering one-two swaps needed for traffic light showdowns. You can master the action with practice and it does feel natural with time.
Funny thing – in the twists, second’s all you really need – that sonorous V12 wants to rev high and loud all the way past 7000rpm which means you can travel way faster than road conditions and sanity permit.
Approach the inside of a corner. It’s a right hander that begins with a subtle trajectory only to wind into a tight bend. Here’s where you once again adjust – and quickly – to the F512 M’s unique dynamics.
TURNING THE CORNER
Turn-in seems strangely non-linear. That’s not to say the steering’s sloppy. Far from it – it’s one of the most directly engaging helms you’ll steer.
But odd as this may seem, you find yourself correcting your angle of entry as the car seems to run wide of the apex. It’s almost as though you need to use big, elbowy motions to get round tighter bends; twisting the wheel further than you originally had anticipated.
Porsche’s original 911 provides a similar sensation. It’s much to do with the fact that there’s so much at work behind you, driver. Push harder into corners and both Ferrari and Porsche feel like the front end will eventually run wide and understeer. But in truth unlike the 911, the F512 M’s is much more forgiving.
This is thanks largely to the engine being mounted midship before the rear axle which in turn allows for much more balanced handling.
The traditional RWD 911 gives the driver a more hair raising (read: alarming) cornering experience.
Hit the brakes and swift progress is taken by the scruff and yanked back hard. Remember – there’s no ABS to help keep them from locking. It’s you and Physics mono e mono.
Take it into second (or third, doesn’t much matter) hit go and the V12 explodes each time, every time into an F1 car. The engine note soars high and shrill as tach and speedometer both race upward in relation to your liquefying horizon.
It’s addictive. It’s thrilling. Paul, who’s now enjoying himself, wants you to push harder into that next bend. Felt that? Yeah! Seat-of-your-pants fun. You and Ferrari are one, melding with Connecticut asphalt. You want more and more of it. You’re thinking this is automotive heroin.
And it is.
And then, just as soon as the day with the 512 had begun, it’s done. You watch as that fabulous tail burbling that brilliant V12 music drives off into the distance.
So this is what the fuss was all about. Ferrari V12s, Testarossas, Italian performance. Paul about buying your magnificent car, can I have the right of first refusal?
Ed. Note: Many, many thanks to Paul McCollam who proved himself to be fun, friendly, and game.
Bentley’s elegant hommage to a certain former stablemate at Crewe.
By Gunnar Heinrich
DEFINING what constitutes the C-Pillar (or C-Post) is simple: it’s the bit of metal (or other material) that supports the aft section of a car’s roof and rear windscreen. How automotive designers pen a C-Pillar on a given model will in turn determine much of the car’s structural purpose and overall character.
For this reason, the C-Pillar is something that immediately catches the eye.
The Rolls-Royce Phantom’s C-Pillars are more than two feet in width. Their thickness register to a Victorian method that carriages once employed to obscure the inward view of occupants. Needless to say, it works. It’s so effective, in fact, that mirrors are on the inside walls of the pillars are used to deflect the sense that you might otherwise be riding in a leather padded cell.
The iconic Ferrari Testarossa’s flying buttresses must have taken flight from any of Europe’s gothic cathedrals…
Or perhaps from Jaguar’s XJS coupe. The 2+2 GT was a cat whose sly shape owed much to the two flamboyant arcs that extended from roof to cat eared taillamps.
Benz’s “Pagoda” SL (W113) seems to be hiding the fact that it even has a roof. The last pillar is relatively wide at the roofline then narrows to an improbably thin width where it meets the trunk. “Wispy” seems to be the moment’s descriptor.
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz (C216) CL-Class benefits from a series of complimenting arcs. That the rear windscreen mimics the car’s semi-circular profile glass is a nice visual coup.
The 90’s Cadillac Eldorado or ETC (WTF?) features a retro “rocket fin” that partly cuts through a right triangle. It looks sharp until we consider the uninspired rectangular rear window.
Arguably the most famous and copied series of C-Pillars; here we find BMW’s hoffmeister kink as displayed on the newest 7er. The F01 generation takes the hallmark concept further with a raised edge to the surrounding sheetmetal.
The slightly skewed block that separated the miniscule cabin from the acres of trunk on the Continental is a study in design simplicity.
Bruno Sacco’s proportionally strong yet fluid sheetmetal creates the perfect bow from the stately roofline to the boot of the W126 generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class. This most pleasing shape is lined by chrome and echoed by a lip of plastic window trim in the rear window. Genius.
[Img: Ferrari Club of Las Vegas]
Lists tend to get the readership revved and make for some interesting tallying. The subsequent discussion, of course, is the best part.
So, when the New York Times‘ own “Collectible Cars” section published a list of would-be collectibles whose values have plummeted rather than appreciated in the intervening years, you know the discussion could have been good.
Except this was the online section of the old school print edition. Not the Wheels Blog which readers can and do comment on.
So, I’ll skip the less interesting cars on the list like the ’76 Chevy Cosworth Vega and get to what was good – the Ferrari Testarossa.
–from the NYT–
1985-91 FERRARI TESTAROSSA
The Testarossa was the car to have in the late 1980s, so desirable that it took some luck to find one for sale at its 1987 window sticker of $134,000.
“People were ready to pay $30, $40 or $50,000 over list ” to buy one, said John Levy, a sales consultant with Shelton Ferrari in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “The more people saw them go up in price, the more they were willing to pay.”
“Then the music stopped,” Mr. Levy said, adding that “a good early Testarossa could be had today for around $50,000.”
I can think of few cars from the 1980s that are now worth more than a $50K Testarossa. The only exceptions that readily come to mind are the Lamborghini Countach and Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible; fine examples of each can exceed $100,000.
But we must remember that even the oldest Testarossa from M.Y. 1985 is not yet a technical antique. It’s possible, nay, likely that with another 10 years added on to the clock, Ferrari’s former icon will appreciate.
That having been said, I remember seeing one pristine, tutto rosso Testarossa on the showroom floor of Scottsdale Bentley back in 1999. The dealership was asking $60,000.