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.
Ferrari 348 TS Serie Speciale
BEHIND your head an eight cylinder chorus is channeling Pavarotti as it crests towards a redline of High-C’s.
Off the throttle, exhausts crackling, you cut into a sweeping left-hander. Rear steps lively behind front. Tyres grip asphalt. Helm telegraphs everything while registering a meaty resistance. Corner’s dispatched with typical, mid-engined Ferrari poise.
– Si, Si, più veloce!
Back on the power.
An induction whistle! Like a turbo spooling – the 348’s chorus of eight breathes in deep to touch higher notes. Higher speeds! The tach races faster toward the 7800 rpm max. Snap ball-capped lever into third and torque takes you to triple digits and your furthest sight-line.
Nose lift’s perceptible and the non-assisted, all-natural steering lightens. Roof off, both the howl of wind and formula-tuned 312 hp V8 compete relentlessly for your attention. Your senses tingle. So this is what having fun while driving fast feels like? Gives sex on wheels a new meaning…
With 20/20 hindsight’s impartial lens, the world of automotive performance has long overtaken the 348. Indeed, when the world was new to the model, the Italian whip fell somehow short of expectations.
By the numbers: Zero to 60 – 5.3 – 5.6 seconds. Top speed – 171 – 175 mph. One owner posted claims online that his car reached 179 mph. Certainly possible. With limiter removed, a Subaru WRX STI can not only match that, it’ll arrive there faster.
There is another, more brutal element to the 348’s story that continues to plague 348 owners like Tosca’s curse on Rome. It’s an aspect that to this day weighs upon the 348’s legacy and, possibly, value$.
The story is that not long after Enzo’s death in 1988 and Luca di Montezemolo’s ascent, the new chairman had a mind to clean house and breathe fire back into the flagging sports car maker.
For Sr. di Montezemolo, part of mission critical meant trash-talking the 348. In a now infamous interview with Automobile, Ferrari’s boss dispassionately wielded a cleaver to a lovely limb in Ferrari lineage.
“[…] with the exception of its good looks I was utterly disappointed. This was clearly the worst product Ferrari had developed for some time.”
This despite the fact that the 348 succeeded the relatively simple 328 and was sold alongside the controversially styled Mondial.
Some years later, in an interview with Motor Trend, Sr. di Montezemolo expounded on his rationale for distancing Ferrari from the 348. Per MT:
He’d finished the World Cup flushed with its success and decided to reward himself with a yellow Ferrari 348. But just after taking delivery, he was beaten away from the lights by a Fiat Strada hatchback-the hot Abarth version admittedly, but an indignity nonetheless.
“So, at my first meeting as Ferrari chairman, with the MD of our road car division,” he asked, ‘How is the 348? Fantastic?’ “I said, ‘Listen, don’t say this to me because I’m a customer.’ I knew well the problems with the car, and I made a list of them.'”
That list included not only a lack of gusto (the first 348s’ 3.4 Liter V8 advertised 300 hp) but also pointed to a wooden gearbox, instability at high speeds, unyielding ride, and the 348’s bad habit of backstabbing the driver at the limit.
Stereotypical behavior of a temperamental Italian sports car, certamente.
Sr. di Montezemolo charged Ferrari boffins with extracting some Diva from the machine. Hence, this nero su nero 348 TS Serie Speciale.
One of one hundred 348s slotted for the North American market in 1993, among the Ferraristi this evolution of the 348 design marks something of a patch fix in the run up to the 1995 launch of the popular F355.
The Series Speciale compensated for stability issues with a revised suspension and adjusted aerodynamics. Stylistically, the slats over the rectangular tail lamps were removed, a chrome Cavallino added, a new grille in front, but the signature straked side intakes (“cheesegraters”) remained. To improve function and reliability, Ferrari added a new gearbox, Bosch engine management system, a Made-in-Japan starter, and, for good measure, a new AC system.
Ask Lane Baker if he’ll ever sell his 348 (with 40K on the clock) and he’ll answer you with a laugh, “This is my coffin. I’ll never sell it.”
Mr. Baker is an engaging car enthusiast.
An engineer by trade, he can list, point-by-point, the adjustments that he and other Ferrari owners have made to their 348s. He chalks it up to the experience of hands-on ownership and the bond between man and machine. More to the point, owning the 348 has been his dream come true.
“It’s my baby,” he confides. He shows pictures of the car being delivered off a truck all the way from somewhere west of the Mississippi and jokingly points, “it’s the truck’s giving birth to my car.”
Mr. Baker is an active member of the online forum FerrariChat. He describes the community of 348 owners as a “brotherhood” and notes that there’s a healthy rivalry which exists between 348 and 355 owners. In one instance, he recalls exchanging choice words with another member over acid remarks made about the 348’s design.
He and the 348 community are similarly vexed by Luca di Montezemolo’s remarks. It’s as though the full merits of Ferrari ownership are, in some important way, being denied them. Imagine Porsche execs publicly discrediting the 996 generation as a misstep in 911 evolution.
Which brings us round back to time behind the wheel. Fortunately for the 348, actions speak octaves louder than words.
After miles of piloting through corner after dip and straightway after onramp, you conclude that the 348 exudes a kind of charisma that only Maranello seems to procure.
The 348 is a monocoque bodied marriage of traditional driver-centric values and the first taste of technological modernization. For instance, press on the 348’s firm brake pedal and you have not only the value of true stopping power, but the added assurance of ABS. That said, overplay your hand and there’s no electronic safety-net to keep you from casting a line into the great unknown.
To wit: the 348’s from a golden age when you as driver are responsible for your actions.
Likewise, the 348 summons your active engagement, not passive participation. You cannot help but savor the machine’s Italian bravado which is matched by a technical finesse that’s absent in something so blunt as an American muscle car or so aseptic as a Japanese sports car.
Add to that organic character all the functional idiosyncrasies of two-decade-old Italian sports car design (entry and exit are a challenge) and what you have is an original car with genuine charisma. It’s as complete a package as one could ask for.
Which leaves you to happily forget 0-60 times and allow your senses to embrace the finest pipes this side of La Scala. The 348 and Mr. Baker’s TS Serie Speciale, in particular, represent in their fallible form, quintessential Ferrari virtues.
In the automotive context, there’s no higher compliment.
-Dilegua, o notte! Tramontate, stelle! All’alba Vincero!
Many thanks to Lane Baker.
“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.
by Gunnar Heinrich ::: img ADLX ::: Ferrari 512M on the Connecticut shoreline
IT’S been something of a 90s week here on automobilesdeluxe.tv. And that trend’s set to continue into next week as we’ll look at Ferrari’s bridge between the 80’s Testarossa and the 90’s 550 Maranello – the 512M – “M” for Modificata.
Paul McCollam who owns a rosso corsa 512M was kind enough to drive down to the Connecticut shoreline and have us review this gorgeous prancing horse.
A preview to Italian power then ~ the 512M has a 4.9L flat-V12 engine that makes 440 horsepower @ a raging 6750 rpm. Torque? Three hundred and sixty nine pounds feet @ 55oo rpm. Weight: 3200 pounds.