Why is the Ferrari Testarossa so iconic?

And it may all be due to Enzo's favourite TV show.

10w ago


For some, the 80's were the best decade. It was a time of emancipation, and everything from fashion to music and films was eccentric. Automobile manufacturers understood this very well, and cars like the Lamborghini Countach or the DeLorean DMC-12 had very fitting designs. And so did the Ferrari Testarossa. Is there an even more iconic Ferrari? Right, you have your F40s, 288 GTOs, Daytonas, 250 GTOs. But take a closer look at this one. It looks like nothing else. A perfect representation of the 80s. The American dream (Italian way). A car that will make you want to go back in time. Times when wearing a tight T-shirt under a white blazer was cool. Perms were mandatory, and your pants very slightly too large.

The Testarossa's name comes from its great ancestor the 250 Testa Rossa race car. Everything sounds more fancy in Italian, and this car is the perfect example because Testarossa literally means redhead in English ("I drive a Ferrari Redhead" doesn't sound very exotic to me). But, back to the "redhead". It came out in 1984. Music hits like Madonna's Like a Virgin were all over the place, The Terminator movie was in every cinema, and men were wearing the moustache like porn stars and Tom Selleck. So why did this car end up being so iconic?

First things first, it starred in a mythic TV show called Miami Vice. You may have never heard of it, but everybody was watching this. Enzo Ferrari himself was a huge fan and was the one who personally handed the keys of the white Testarossa to the show's main character, Don Johnson. I can't imagine the "commendatore" with his sunglasses on watching this American show dubbed in Italian.

The American dream (Italian way)

Jonathan Yarden

Well anyway, the car was not just here for the show. It was also a true Ferrari. Which meant, awesome design, big engine, and high emotions. Did it have all of this? yeah.... Not really. The 80s were all about showing off. The Testarossa's design is very eccentric and some say it looks grotesque with its enormous rear-end, and its horizontal lines that look like a cheese grater. It is true that it lacks a little bit of finesse. But that's what makes this car so unique. And what about the engine? Being a Ferrari, it had to be powerful. And being the flagship, back in the days, it had to be a 12 cylinder. Centrally mounted, the heart of this redhead develops 390hp, and will take the car up to 290km/h (180mph). But don't think of it as the perfect track car. The TR is more like a GT. Being quite heavy with 1640kg, it will not have the character of a more nimble and more focused 288 GTO. But that is not what this car is trying to be, so don't blame her for not liking to be thrashed around.

Final question. Does it bring you high emotions? Listening to this screaming flat-12 is like going to the opera, and stepping inside a Testa' will take you back 30 years ago. This car feels timeless. It may not be the ultimate driver's car, but who cares? You are driving an icon, a myth, a piece of Ferrari's golden era.For a long time, the TR was forgotten. At some point, you could find one for $40'000. Now, you will find one in perfect condition like these ones for around $120'000. And we expect this car to be a perfect investment. Because in a near future, finding a 12 cylinder Ferrari with a manual gearbox, and perfect spec, will be complicated. Hate it or love it, the Testarossa is forever.

I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Drivevintage.ch and V. Luzuy for making this possible. Drivevintage.ch is car conciergerie that takes care of some of the most exclusive cars ever made, and we can't wait to do some more work with them. http://drivevintage.ch & https://www.instagram.com/drivevintage.ch/

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Comments (26)

  • Children, listen to Grampa here. It's all about 'Merica. In the 70's the US instituted emission controls and safety features big time, waaaay before Europe did (Back then it was the US at the vanguard of the environmental movement). Many European makes did not bother to meet them, and thus their cars could not be imported into the US, or they did not bring over their top of the line cars and just brought over what they thought could sell enough of to cover the costs of "federalization." The 512BB and Countach could only be bought through "gray market" importers, who fastened rudimentary emission controls and safety features to the cars, and sold them as used vehicles. Most owners immediately stripped them off and bribed the state inspectors to get them licensed. As you can imagine, this was not a cheap thing, flirting with illegality, so these cars were rarer than hens' teeth. I never saw either car until mid-80's at least, and trust me, I was looking for them.

    Pop musicians, actors, sports heroes, etc. drove Cadillacs. I kid you not.

    By 1984 America was made great again, and Ferrari recognized the massive untapped market, and "federalized" its new top of the line vehicle, the Testarossa. They hired some bright marketers who did some product placement (you could see it on TV) and it captured the Amercan public's imagination. I'm not going to look up the production numbers but I would not be surprised if Americans bought more of them than the rest of the world combined. The money poured into Maranello, and it went from being a race car manufacturer that issued a few horrible, but fast and beautiful, road cars, to what it is today. I went from being the only kid in his high school who even knew what a Ferrari was, to seeing little girls tool around with their "Barbie Ferrari's" in the space of about 10 years. So you see folks, it was the Testarossa that started the trend that now has Ferrari being worth more than Ford, instead of being something Ford could write a chump-change check for.

      2 months ago
  • Of course it is. It's a bedroom wall poster, it's Miami Vice, it's Outrun.

      2 months ago
  • @tribe Do you think this car is iconic?

      2 months ago
  • The pictures are sick, and the article is equal to it !!

      2 months ago
  • I used to play a lot of Outrun in the arcades back in the 80's that's how I know the Testarossa. I always thought they were an attractive car. Nice post!

      2 months ago