Few objects capture the aura of the era they come from as completely as the Ferrari Testarossa captures the 1980s. The image of Don Johnson ripping around South Beach in Miami Vice is about as ‘80s as it gets, up there with Reebok Pumps, MTV, and neon windbreakers. The Testarossa is the embodiment of the ‘80s in car form — it’s wild and loud, fast and sexy, and above all, wholeheartedly committed to being cool. It never took to the track, but today the Ferrari Testarossa is considered one of the most important Ferraris ever made, which is why it’s our car of the month for October.
These days, the Testarossa has framed and mounted certifications as a cultural icon. It was Ferrari’s flagship supercar through the ‘80s, and is therefore the definition of the bedroom-wall poster car. Andrea’s 1987 Ferrari Testarossa, which is right at home in West Palm Beach, Florida, is painted black with two-tone leather inside and is a clean but driven example.
The Pininfarina-designed body has a pretty face, connected by slippery, swooping lines to a crazy wide rear (business in the front, party in the back). Its signature giant side strakes are groovy and rowdy but also functional, channeling air to side-mounted radiators to cool the engine. From the horizontal lines carrying through the rear brake lights, to the single-bolt wheels, to the quad exhaust tips, all the little details add up to a stunningly glamorous style that’s over-the-top in all the right ways and looks like nothing else on the road.
And we can’t forget the pop-up headlights, because pop-up headlights are the greatest invention in history. When hidden away, the car’s front looks sleek and clean. Popped up, the four circular headlights achieve a fantastic combination of dorky and ostentatious that amounts to just plain cool. They’re perfect.
While the styling was the chiefest concern during its development, the Testarossa is also a riot to drive. Its mid-mounted 4.9L flat-12 engine was the pinnacle of Ferrari engines at the time, making 380 horsepower and 360 lb-ft of torque in this North American spec model. A five-speed transmission (with gated shifter!) puts that power through the rear wheels to manage zero to 60 in 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 180 mph.
It’s fast, yes, but the Testarossa doesn’t really compare to modern Ferraris for performance — it holds its own on the road but it was never a race car. And though it’s relatively livable compared to its rivals (cough, Countach), the Testarossa still has the impracticality of an ‘80s supercar. It doesn’t have power steering, the layout of the interior controls is illogical, and the ergonomics are famously un-ergonomic. You have to manhandle the wheel, and the shifter, and the pedals to operate this machine.
Like most cars we deem classics, then, the joy of the Testarossa is not in sheer performance, but in the thrill of the experience. It’s the presence, the attitude that makes this such a special car. The Testarossa was owned by rockstars and princes and media moguls. People like Michael Jordan, Rod Stewart, Jordan Belfort, Mike Tyson, and Robocop, to name a few.
For many, the Testarossa was king of the ’80s. It’s got the right temperament, the style, the energy. If that sounds good to you, this is your chance to live out your Miami Vice fantasy — hit the beaches in Andrea’s Testarossa next time you’re in South Florida.