Ferrari Testarosssa: A Legend Reimagined

On the eve of the 1984 Paris Motor Show, making its debut at an exclusive press preview in the glittering surroundings of the world famous Lido Nightclub, a Parisian cabaret that pioneered the concept of a dinner-and-a-show and hosted guests like George Clooney, Angelina Jolie and Beyonce over the years, was the Ferrari “Testarossa”. The name Testa Rossa is Italian for red head and refers to the racing models which featured red painted camshaft covers.

The 1980s were a time of great style and innovation, a perfect for the Testarossa and with the help of Italian auto design firm, Pininfarina, a legend was born. The design was originated by Emanuele Nicosia with the guidance of Pininfarina chief, Leonardo Fioravanti. As a trained aerodynamicist, Fioravanti created the aerodynamic layout of the vehicle. The long side strakes, arguably the most iconic ever applied to a Ferrari, were not only beautiful but fully functional as well. They drew in air to cool the side radiators and then went upward to exit the vehicle through the ventilation holes in the engine lid and open tail. Although widely recognized today as an impactful design statement, initially they were controversially received and earned the Testarossa some derogatory nicknames like “cheese grater” and “egg cutter”. This feature was a breakthrough in design as strict regulations made it challenging to incorporate innovative features that were in compliance, but somehow the team at Pininfarina got it done.

Beneath the sleek hood of the Testarossa, lies a 4.9-liter Tipo F113 flat twelve engine becoming the first four valve per cylinder flat twelve cylinder configuration unit fitted into a Ferrari road car. It had two belt driven overhead camshafts per bank driven directly off the crankshaft instead of idler gears on the previous model. The Testarossa’s engine was longitudinally mounted in unit with a five speed transmission, similar to the previous model and equipped with a Marelli Microplex MED 120 B electronic ignition system and a Bosch KE-Jetronic fuel injection system which helped the car produce a claimed 380bhp @ 5750 rpm for US market models. The previously mocked “cheese grater”, was proven to be no joke accelerating to 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds and reaching speeds as high as 180 mph, earning its respect as one of the fastest cars in the 80’s.

For many, the love for the Ferrari Testarossa originated from watching the popular 1980’s American crime series, Miami Vice. There were several notable television series produced in this time period, but none advertised a city, its sexy lifestyle and vibe better then Miami Vice. The first season was launched in 1984 and originally featured a replica 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS built on the chassis of a C3 Chevrolet Corvette as its main vehicle due to budget constraints, but unfortunately this backfired. Enzo Ferrari, the founder of Ferrari was furious, and ended up pursuing legal action against the show demanding they stop misrepresenting the brand and stop production immediately.

While in the midst of a lawsuit, the show continued production and made another mistake in season 3, when destroying the replica Ferrari Daytona in a scene where Eddie Kaye, an illegal arms dealer, fired a Stinger Missile at the vehicle to prove that it works, damaging Ferrari’s reputation even further. Fortunately, the Italian automaker found a way to work with the hit series, and donated two white Ferrari Testarossas, one for dialogue scenes and one for stunts. The vehicle made its debut in season 3, when undercover agent James “Sonny” Crockett received the Testarossa from Detective Lieutenant Martin “Marty” Castillo after having to drive unimpressive vehicles following the loss of his Daytona.

Over the next 30+ years, we can find the Testarossa’s footprint engraved all over pop culture, like in Sega’s hit video game “Out Run” in 1986, Michael Jackson’s Pepsi commercial in 1987 and in the successful “Wolf of Wall Street” film in 2013 to go along a star studded list of those who got a chance to own one like Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson and Elton John.

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