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The Ferrari Testarossa: History, Generations, Models, and More

All things Ferrari Testarossa on Automobile.

Ferrari Testarossa Essential History 

Looking over the past 23 years of range-topping Ferraris with their massive front-mounted V-12s, it's easy to forget that prior to the debut of the front-engine 1997 Ferrari 550 Maranello, we had 24 years of mid-engine twelve-cylinder sublimity. Nowadays, a new mid-engine twelve-cylinder Ferrari is a momentous event, but back in the days of the neon-drenched, drug-laced 1980s, it was the status quo for high-end exotica.

Some think the Testarossa was Maranello's response to the paralyzingly avant garde Lamborghini Countach, but regardless of the reason for its production, the Testarossa myth started in 1973, with the Ferrari 365 GT/4 BB and the following Berlinetta Boxer supercars that nipped at Lamborghini's heels through 1984. The BBs were fast, extremely pretty, and sounded excellent. But a sweltering cabin, sketchy handling, and a lack of storage inspired Ferrari to build the bigger, wider, more accommodating Testarossa in 1984.

The mechanicals mostly carried over from the BB, including that fabulous 4.9-liter flat-12 engine, now tuned to 380 hp and 361 lb-ft of torque in U.S. spec. That's more power than the older BB, but the extra size and weight meant performance remained the same, with a 0-60 mph run in the low five-second range, and a top speed of 180 mph.

Ferrari Testarossa Becomes 512 TR

Officially, only the original supercar manufactured between 1984 and 1991 carries the "Testarossa" badge on the rear decklid, but the platform and general flat, straked-side wedge design continued with the updated 512 TR (TR stands for Testarossa, of course) right after the original car left production. Wearing smoother, rounder lines aped from the contemporary Ferrari 348, the TR updated the Testarossa's transmission, brakes, steering, suspension, and reworked the flat-12 engine with a new intake, upgraded ECU, larger intake valves, and freer-flowing exhaust system, all of which brought output to an impressive 428 hp and 362 lb-ft of torque.

Performance improved dramatically, with a 0-60 mph time of 4.8 seconds and a top speed of a lofty 195 mph. The engine and transmission were repositioned for a lower center of gravity, and much care was put into refining both the shifter and clutch for easier driving, as was the refreshed interior.

Ferrari 512 TR to F512 M

In 1994 the Testarossa family turned ten, and before the 550 Maranello arrived in 1997, Ferrari sent one of its most polarizing and iconic cars off with a bang. The rare 1994-1996 F512 M (M for modificata, or "modified") signaled the end of the illustrious Testarossa lineage, incorporating major aesthetic changes and minor mechanical updates. Visually, the F512 M took inspiration from the both the contemporary Ferrari 456 and 355, going to far as to purloin the taillights from the 355, the front "smile" grille from the 456. The iconic pop-up headlights were swapped for fixed units with clear protective glass covers.

Weight was down slightly, and power creeped up to 440 hp, the engine upgraded with a new crankshaft and titanium connecting rods. By the time the F512 M left production in 1996, only 501 had been made, a major fall-off in demand compared to the 7,177 Testarossas and 2,261 512 TRs built over their runs.

Ferrari Testarossa Highlights

It's not the first mid-engine twelve-cylinder Ferrari, nor is it even the first to wear the Testarossa name. The 1957-1961 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa's red valve covers on its V-12 earned it the testa rossa (Italian for "red-head"), and the later 1984 Testarossa payed homage with red covers of its own on its flat-12 engine. Speaking of that engine, there's a bit of a quirk surrounding the design, stemming all the way back to the first 365 GT/4 BB. The name "Berlinetta Boxer" implies the pancake engine out back is of boxer configuration, but in reality, the Tipo F113 flat-12 is closer in design to a 180-degree V-12.

If you're hoping to drop the top to hear that twelve, you're out of luck. Save a special one-off Testarossa Spider commissioned for legendary Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli, Ferrari never officially chopped the roof off of any Testarossa variant. Feeling brave? Seek out one of the many aftermarket roadster conversions carried out in-period.

Ferrari Testarossa Buying Tips

When looking to enter the Testarossa market, you have to first decide what you want from the car. If it's a nostalgic cruiser, you'll love the original Testarossa. More of a driver than a show-off? The 512 TR and F512 M are large dynamic leaps from the original car, though you'll pay for the privilege.

In today's restore-everything climate, you'll be hard pressed to find an unmodified original example, but you will find plenty of roached examples. If you can't manage a pre-purchase inspection by a qualified technician, keep an eye out for these things:

  • Corrosion often hides under the more dramatic portions of the bodywork, including wheel arches, side strakes, and wheel wells
  • Extensive maintenance records are key. Make sure the engine has new-ish belts, filters, and fluids, as the larger stuff often times requires an engine-out service to replace. If one of those aforementioned belts snaps, expect to spend somewhere in the deep five figures on a rebuild.
  • No car likes to sit for very long, Testarossas even less so. Leaving one in the garage too long leads to dry rubber, weak seals, and gummed-up fuel componentry. Don't want to spend a mint on service? Drive it often.

Ferrari Testarossa Articles on Automobile 

It's not exactly the type of car we regularly get handed the keys to, so we've not covered the Ferrari Testarossa much in the past, but we've done a few things you should check out.

For when you want more than just hard facts

Here's a concept design study based on the Testarossa.

Ferrari Testarossa Recent Auctions

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Ferrari Testarossa Quick Facts  

  • First year of production: 1984
  • Last year of production: 1996
  • Total sold: 9,930
  • Original price: $102,500 (1986)
  • Heavenly flat-12, oh-so-'80s looks

Ferrari Testarossa FAQ

You have questions about the Ferrari Testarossa, Automobile has answers. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked Testarossa queries

Is the Ferrari Testarossa a good investment?

Values of 1980s sports cars and supercars have steadily climbed for the past few years, and the iconic Testarossa is one of the best ways to slide into this upward trend for less than six figures. However, keep in mind they made a lot of these between 1984 and 1996, so stick to good condition cars in rare colors and with desirable options to maximize your value.

How much is a Ferrari Testarossa?

For most well-kept Testarossas from the 1980s, expect to pay between $75,000 and $110,000, or more if you find one in an unconventional color. For 512 TRs, the range jumps to $125,000 to $150,000, and anywhere between $275,000 to $400,000 for the much rarer F512 M.

How many Ferrari Testarossas are left?

We can't say for sure, but the market certainly isn't hurting for choice, as there's always a handful to be found on various auction houses and private dealers.