With a pedigree as exalted and refined as any Arab stallion, the Ferrari Testarossa is one of the most beautiful and memorable cars ever made. Its name honoured the spirit of Ferrari’s fabulous 1957 sports racer, the Testa Rossa (Red Head’), and it replaced the 4.9 litre 512 BB (Berlinetta Boxer) of 1973, with the engine of which the Testarossa shared the capacity and a passing resemblance, but very few actual parts.
But the Testarossa wasn’t motivated just by evolution: it was built to cock a snook at Lamborghirti, whose visually amazing Countach had surprised Ferrari, and at Porsche, whose creations threatened what Ferrari had always felt to be its pole position as supercar supremo. The Testarossa shows Pininfarina at his most inspired and lateral-thinking. He kept the rear mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout, lengthened the wheelbase, and increased the width to a mighty 1,976 mm (78ins).
Then he added the Testarossa’s signature feature, the side-strakes that changed car design for ever, and simultaneously solved three major technical problems. Instead of a single radiator in the front, there were twin radiators at the back, cooled much more efficiently via the strakes. The arrangement also solved the Boxer’s problem of cabin overheating at a stroke. Thirdly, the strakes made the car wider at the back than at the front, improving its handling and stability.
With its balletic balance, aerodynamics that gave negative lift (obviating the need for external spoilers), and despite its size, the Testarossa was fingertip light and agile to drive. In an age of decadence, the Testarossa became synonymous with a social revolution, too. Everyone drooled — but Yuppies made it their ultimate status symbol as an icon of style, speed and plain wealth. Long after they got their come-uppance, the Testarossa remains immortal, a landmark among the best sports cars of all time.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Italy
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1984 (until 1991)
ENGINE: 4,943 cc Flat twelve
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 181 mph (291 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.2 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: A unique, official, Testarossa Spider (convertible) was created as a present for Gianni Agnelli, then the head of Fiat. It was silver, with a white magnolia leather interior featuring a dark blue stripe above the black sills, and a silver Ferrari logo. Despite thousands of pleading requests, Ferrari refused to make any more.