The best old but actually not that old Ferraris

The mid 90s is a bit of a sweetspot

1y ago

When people think of Ferrari what do they imagine? A red car, obviously, but also something low, wide and probably wedge-shaped. A Testarossa. Ferrari's 80s flagship really defined the image of the supercar, it's an iconic car and with an iconic shape.

The Testarossa would evolve into the 512 TR in 1991 and then the 512M in 1994. While you would think the more developed F512M is the best of the bunch my pick would be the 512 TR.

512 TR

The 512 TR was a modernised Testarossa. Power from the 4.9-litre flat-12 went up by 38hp reaching 428hp. They also dropped the transmission by 30mm to lower the centre of gravity to improve handling. Bodywork was altered to improve aero but the overall shape remained the same. It retained the pop-up headlights which the F512M did without a few years later, which is certainly an era defining feature.

These cars are defined by looks and the boxer engine and Ferrari kept the Testarossa design and improved the engine to make something really special. The engine sings in a way Ferrari's current V12s can't and the gated manual gearbox make it very desirable cars, all while keeping its mad 80s design. The model that replaced the 512s, the 550, got a V12, became front-engined and has a much more modern look.

However during the 512 TR's last year of production (1994) Ferrari launched another car that was a real peach. The F355.


This is the nicest car i have ever, ever driven.

Jeremy Clarkson on the Ferrari F355.

The F355 replaced the 348 and preceded the 360. This car can be seen as the platform for a transitional phase at Ferrari. The car kept the wedge shape but rounded off some edges a bit which resulted in a seriously pretty car. In 1997, three years after its introduction, Ferrari offered the option to equip the F355 with an 'F1 style' gearbox. This was the beginning of the end of manual Ferraris. Like the 512 TR it was still very much an old school supercar before being replaced by a much more modern car.

However unlike the 512 TR the F355 had a V8 and was much smaller and nimbler. The mid-mounted V8 produced 380hp from its 3.5-litre engine, that's 109hp per litre! Peak power was achieved at 8250rpm so you know it liked to rev and it did so with an exquisite exhaust note. While it was an evolution of the 348, a car which is often regarded as one of the worst Ferraris, the F355 saw greatly improved handling and was considerably faster.

Both the 512 TR and F355 are evolutions of their predecessors and both precede much more modern models that introduced more electronics. Essentially they are the best of the old school, the most developed pre 'modern' Ferraris. Of course one can debate when Ferraris became 'modern' but their design and lack of electronics certainly suggest they are from a past era. The 512 TR and 512M accommodated Ferrari's last flat-12 engine and were also their last mid-engined 12 cylinder cars. The F355 marked the end and beginning of an era. People often talk about GTOs, F40s and F50s but the 512 TR and F355 are also very special cars.

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