Skip to main content
1984 - 1991
1984 Ferrari Testarossa
1984 Ferrari Testarossa
Image credits: © Ferrari.
1984 Ferrari Testarossa news, pictures, specifications, and information
The Ferrari Testarossa leaped to center stage of the automotive world in 1984 and remained there for 11 years as the world's fastest regular production car. It was the definition of 'supercar' in its era, the innovative benchmark against which all contemporary sports cars were measured.
When Ferrari set about creating a replacement for the Berlinetta Boxer, a V12 engine, high performance, style and exemplary design were assumed. Ferrari dictated that luxury and practicality befitting the world's premier production sports car were also to be encompassed. Even as the Testarossa exerted a pull on the hearts and minds of car lovers, not to mention designers, Ferrari did not sit on their laurels. 1984's Testarossa evolved into the 512TR of 1991 and the F512M of 1995. With each evolution the styling, interior, and drivetrain were enhanced in a car that was always capable of speeds exceeding 180mph, accelerated to 60mph in approximately 5 seconds, and attained almost 0.9G lateral acceleration.
In 1982 Pininfarina was commissioned to style a 12-cylinder Ferrari wîth radiators in the flanks like a racing car, GT-level luggage and storage space, extreme comfort, and performance to top the road-car line of the world's premier sports car manufacturer. The Testarossa was to be shaped partly by the wind tunnel to ensure clean airflow, low noise and high speed stability. Rear location of the radiators made the car's aerodynamics even more
important as passive direction of air to and from the engine bay had to be very effective. The result of Pininfarina's labors was easily the most recognizable and influential car of its time. The Testarossa is unmistakable at any distance, and impossible to ignore.
The shape was perfected without wasting space. The details are perfect and natural; the lines fit. This artistry is best seen by lòòking from a front corner to the opposite rear corner; the Testarossa's roofline exactly matches that of the straked flank below it. Amidst traditional Ferrari traits such as the egg crate grille were new stylistic touches such as rectangular rear lights and the broad, squared rear flanks. Early Testarossas had a single mirror located halfway up the driver's side A-pillar, on stalks. The Testarossa's most indelible image is of the five body color strakes that cover the side intakes and stretch between the ridges just below the door mirrors.
The Testarossa series was made from a variety of materials to appropriately maximize its functional form. Apart from the galvanized steel roof and doors, and various glass fiber pieces, the body panels were crafted entirely from strong but light aluminum.
The Testarossa chassis consisted of square section steel tubes arranged in a strong matrix, like a racing car. This was Ferrari's normal practice in chassis construction until the late 1990's. The Testarossa had a full tube-steel chassis wîth a removable rear sub-frame containing the low-mounted drivetrain and rear suspension. This gave the heavy rear of the car a double layer of support and simplified mechanical service. Vertical bulkheads at either end of the passenger cabin were of strengthened galvanized steel. The floorpan and front luggage bin were semi-monocoques bolted to the tubular chassis. The result was a passenger cabin wîth unsurpassed safety and an extremely rigid platform for a car wîth superlative performance.
The Testarossa's longitudinally mounted flat 12 was a 4942cc all alloy unit wîth four valves per cylinder actuated by dual overhead cams, and dry-sump lubricated. On North American cars, the engine's compression ratio was 8.7:1. The aluminum pistons moved in nikasil cylinder liners and rotated a seven main bearing, hardened steel, billet turned crankshaft via forged steel connecting rods. The combustion chambers were ellipso-hemispherical. Fuel was metered by two Bosch KE Jetronic systems, one for each bank of cylinders, and delivered to the injectors by two electric pumps. Spark was provided by twin coils through their own distributors, controlled by a Weber-Marelli Microplex system. The combusted mixture exited through tube steel manifolds, catalytic converters and a tuned exhaust system. The engine was cooled by a compact system of twin side-mounted radiators and a single water pump. The North American Testarossa made 380bhp at 5750rpm, and 354lbs-ft at 4500rpm.
The front suspension consisted of a coil spring over a Koni shock absorber located by unequal, length dual wishbones at each front wheel. At the rear, dual unequal length steel wishbones located a pair of coil springs over Koni shocks, one fore and one aft of each driveshaft. Front and rear anti-rollbars maintained stability in high speed cornering. The Testarossa's brakes were vented discs a little over a foot in diameter. The hydraulically assisted four piston calipers were controlled by separate circuits front and rear. The parking brake acted on small drums contained within the rear discs. The unassisted §teering was by a direct rack and pinion system.
The Testarossa's one piece cast alloy wheels are dull silver. On early cars, the wheels were secured by large closed nuts, but these soon gave way to five hub bolts. The wheels have five spokes in the shape of a star. The front wheels measure 16'X8' and carry a 225/VR50 tire. The rear wheels measure 16'X10' and carry tires 255/VR50 in size.
The Testarossa's cabin was bounded on either side by wide sills to accommodate the doors. To the rear, the firewall wîth integrated luggage shelf separated the cabin and engine bay. The Connolly hide covered, electrically adjustable seats were snug and well bolstered. Ancillary controls and switchgear efficiently nestled easy to hand, and the shallow dashboard containing guages fell into a center console containing all the requisite items for touring enjoyment. Commanding the console was the traditional slender gear lever in its polished gate.
The low rectangular instrument binnacle was dominated by a large speedometer and tachometer and smaller auxilliary gauges in a split black facia. Various indicator lights were offset around these orange and white on black readouts. Beneath the instruments the adjustable §teering column extended a thin rimmed, leather covered, three spoke Momo §teering wheel towards the driver.
Along wîth the luggage shelf behind the seats, the Testarossa offered carpeted cargo space beneath the front hood. This compartment was a deep cruciform, providing room for shopping or luggage. The carrying capacity of the Testarossa in the front and passenger compartments was maximized by use of fitted Schedoni luggage, an option available from Ferrari dealers.
Source - Ferrari
Receiving an incredibly warm welcome when it arrived on the scene, the impossible to ignore Ferrari Testarossa made the cover of Road & Track magazine not once, but NINE times in only five years. Priced at a steep $181,000 in 1989, plus a $2,700 'gas-guzzler' tax, the Testarossa was a 12-cylinder mid-engine sports car manufactured by Ferrari.
Succeeding the Berlinetta Boxer, the exotic two-door coupe was designed by Pininfarina and was originally produced from 1984 to 1991. The Italian designer was commissioned to style a 12-cylinder Ferrari with radiators in the flanks like a racing car, plush comfort, extreme performance and GT-level luggage and room for storage. The end result of his labor was a truly remarkable car that would easily be the 'most recognizable and influential car of its time'. Two model revisions followed the Testarossa production, and the 512 TR and F512 M were produced from 1992 until 1996. Despite its hefty price-tag and truly exotic look, nearly 10,000 of these models were produced which made it one of the most-produced Ferrari models ever. The F512 M retailed at $220,000 in 1995.
Debuting at the 1984 Paris Auto Show, Testarossa, which stands for 'red head' in Italian, was not to be confused with the GT sports car TR 'Testa Rossa' of the late 1950s. Its name was inspired from the red-painted cam covers on the flat-12 engine. Since Ferrari and Pininfarina regularly modeled their car designs from the shape of a woman's figure, the double entendre was intentional.
The Testarossa and all of its versions were powered by a rear-mounted, five-speed manual transmission. The center of gravity was maintained in the middle of the car by the rear mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout that increased stability and enhanced the vehicles corning agility. The standing weight distribution was 40 percent at the front and 60 percent at the rear.
In 1992 the original car was re-engineered and debuted as the 512 TR at the LA Auto Show, effectively as a brand new car. The weight distribution was improved and now had 41 percent front and 59 percent at the rear. Two years the later the F512 M was introduced at the 1994 Paris Show with the 'TR' initials dropped and the additional of an 'M' which stood for 'modificata' or modified in Italian. The F512 M would be the final version of the Testarossa and featured an even more improved weight distribution of 42 percent front and 58 percent rear. This model would also be Ferrari's final mid-engine 12-cylinder car, apart from the Ferrari Enzo and the F50, featuring the marque's last flat engine. In 1996 the Testarossa was replaced by the front-engined 550 Maranello coupe.
The Testarossa was designed as an upgrade to the 512i BB from 1981. The new sports car would be much larger, at least half a foot wider than its predecessor the Boxer, and would have increased wheelbase to accommodate plenty of luggage in a carpeted storage area beneath the front forward-opening hood. The Testarossa featured a luggage shelf behind the seats and carpeted cargo space beneath the front hood. This section was deep and had room for luggage or shopping. An optional available from Ferrari dealers was the use of fitted Schedoni luggage. The length now made room for extra storage space behind the cabin seats and increased the headroom by nearly a half an inch compared to the Boxer.
The body styling of the Testarossa lost some of the curves from the Boxer, which was criticized by some. Rather than a single radiator at the front, the Testarossa had twin radiators in the back with the engine. The side strakes were called 'cheese graters' by some, or 'egg slicers', and they stretched from the doors to the rear fenders and were necessary for various countries rules that forbade large openings on cars. The strakes also pumped cool air to the rear-mounted side radiators, which kept the engine from overheating. The strakes also increased handling and stability by making the Testarossa wider at the back than in the front.
A single high mounted rearview mirror on the driver's side was part of the new design. For US cars in 1987 the mirror was lowered to a more respectable placement and also received a passenger side rearview mirror. These were extremely helpful in aiding the driver to make safe lane changes.
An evolution of the BB 512i, the Testarossa drivetrain used nearly identical displacement and compression ratio, but in contrast from its mentor, the Testarossa had four-valve cylinder heads finished in red. The car used double wishbone front and rear suspension systems and had 10-inch-wide alloy rear wheels that greatly improved traction.
During its seven-year production span a total of 7,177 Testarossa's were produced. The sports car weight 3,320 pounds, had a length of 176.6 inches, sported a width of 77.8 inches and had a height of 44.5 inches.
The engine powering the Testarossa was a 4.9-liter Ferrari Colombo flat-12 engine that was mid-mounted. Each cylinder featured four valves with the grand total being forty-eight valves that were lubricated through a dry sump system and a compression ratio of 9.20:1. Together these produced a maximum torque of 361 ft/lb at 4500 rpm and a maximum power of 390 hp at 6300 rpm. Initially the U.S. model featured the same engine but with less power at 380 hp.
With a top speed of 180 mph, the Ferrari Testarossa was a formidable beast able to achieve 0-60 mph in just 5.3 seconds. It achieved 0-100 mph in 11.4 seconds and the quarter mile in 13.5 seconds.
The Testarossa was launched in 1985 with magnesium single bolt 'knockoff' wheels with a 415mm diameter. Standard tires would never fit this odd size and these wheels used the Michelin TRX system and could only be fitted with TRX tires size 240/45 VR 415 for the front and TRX 280/45 VR 415 at the back. For 1986 the wheels retained the current design but were changed to a standard 16-inch diameter with an 8-inch width at the front and 10 inches at the rear. At the front were Goodyear Gatorback 225/50 VR 16 front tires and 255/50 VR 16 tires at the rear.
The suspension was made up of independent, unequal-length wishbones, coil springs, an anti-roll bar and twin telescopic shock absorbers on each side. The whole drivetrain and suspension was developed to be removed as a unit entirely from beneath the car so that the engine timing belts could be serviced. The suspension was revamped for the 1988 model with the wheels changing from the single bolt knockoff setup to the standard Ferrari five-bolt pattern. The wheel design kept the look from the beginning. The front brakes had a diameter of 12.17 inches while the rear brakes had a diameter of 12.20 inches.
Unlike its predecessor the BB 512i, the Testarossa wouldn't be found on the racetrack. The Testarossa was all Ferrari even despite its complete lack of racing heritage. It did make its debut in various video games, most famously the arcade games OutRun. The Testarossa appeared in the TV series Miami Vice.
The only official convertible variant of the Testarossa was the Spider. Designed by Pininfarina, the Spider was specially commissioned by Ferrari and made as a gift for the late Gianni Agnelli, the head of Fiat at the time. The Spider sported a sleek silver exterior, an easily stowed white top, a dark blue stripe that ran above the matte black sills and a white magnolia leather interior. In 1986 the Spider was delivered to Agnelli with a silver Ferrari logo on the hood rather than a aluminum one.
Though plenty of customers were introduced in their own Testarossa Spider, Ferrari wouldn't produce any others due to structural and spatial issues that would be too much to fix. Pininfarina and other conversion firms would produce unofficial Spider conversions. Mechanically the Spider was no different from the Testarossa in the European market and came with a standard 4.9 L 390 hp flat-12 engine. The Spider was a convertible though and the front window and door windows were shorter than a normal car.
Produced from 1991 through 1994 the 512 TR was the successor to the Testaross and featured a maximum speed of 195 mph. A total of 2,280 units were produced and cost $212,160 in 1992 with luxury items, 'gas-guzzler' taxes and destination freight. The 512 TR had a wheelbase of 100.4 inches, an overall length of 176.6 inches and a curb weight of 3,243 pounds. Powering the 512 TR was a 4.9-liter Ferrari Colombo 180° F-12 engine that was longitudinally mid mounted. A total of forty-eight valves, each cylinder had four valves that were lubricated through a dry sump system with a compression ratio of 10.00:1. This combined to a maximum torque of 362 ft/lb at 5500 rpm and a maximum power of 428 hp at 6750 rpm. The 512 TR could hit 0-60 mph in 4.9 second and 0-100 mph in 10.7 seconds. The car could complete a quarter mile in just 13.20 seconds.
In 1995 unfortunately a recall was issued because of fitting issues with fuel hoses. More than 400 models suffered with this issue caused by variances in environment and temperature. Another issue arose from the passive restraint system on seat belts not functioning corrected on more than 2,000 models. The lap belt would be the only occupant protection if the restraint system suffered either a mechanical or electrical failure.
Numerous engine modifications were made to the 512 TR's engine. A new air intake system was added along with Nikasil liners, larger intake valves, an updated exhaust system and Bosch engine management system. All of these modifications not only upped the peak power but it delivered a more broad power curve for enhanced acceleration. The 18-inch wheels had an 8-inch width at the front and 10.5 inches at the rear. The diameter of the front brakes were 12.40 inches while the rear brakes had a 12.20 inch diameter.
Many critics had bemoaned the gear-shifting effort of the Testarossa. The 512 TR fixed this issue with a new single-plate clutch, sliding ball bearings and a better angle for the shifter. The braking system featured larger front rotors and cross-drilling all around. Handling was improved with new shock settings, quicker steering and lower-profile tires. To improve the center of gravity and assist the handling, the engine and gearbox position was rethought. On the inside the center console was split from the dashboard and the climate controls found a new home. In an attempt at mimicking the recently released 348, Pininfarina modified the 512 TR to better integrate the spoilers and engine cover.
Ferrari introduced the F512M in 1994. The final Testarossa version, 500 models were produced with 75 of these being right hand drive. The front and rear lamps were revamped from the 512 TR with the front lamps becoming square framed lamps that were no longer hidden and the rear lamps now round. The bumpers were restyled to give them a mode unified look and a new front lid with twin NACA ducts was introduced.
The engine in the F512 M was a 4.9-liter Ferrari Colombo flat-12 engine longitudinally mid mounted. Producing a maximum torque of 370 lb/ft at 5,500 rpm, the maximum power was 440 hp at 6,750. Like the other models it replaced, each cylinder has four valves with a total of forty-eight valves. These were lubricated through a dry sump system with a compression ratio of 10.40:1. The engine has a 7500 rpm electronic rev limit and new titanium connecting rods a new crankshaft weighing 16 pounds less than the previous ones. The wheels of the F512 M were 18-inch with a width of 8-inches for the front, and 10-5-inches in the rear. The tires were Pirelli P Zero, the front brakes measured 12.4 inches in diameter, and a 12.2 inches at the rear brakes.
The 512 M had a top speed of 196 mph and could hit 0-62 mph in 4.7 seconds, and 0-100 mph in 10.2 seconds. It would complete a standing quarter mile in 12.7 seconds. Several updates were made to the interior from the 512 TR and included carbon finer racing bucket seats for no extra cost. These seats weighed only 33 pounds, a huge difference from standard seats. Pininfarina and Ferrari flags were featured on the dashboard and the gearshift knob now featured a chrome finish. Other updates included air conditioning being a standard option and aluminum pedals drilled.
In 1989 Luigi Colani designed the Testa d'Oro. Based on a Testarossa powered by a 5.0 Ferrari-Lotec twin-turbo on its flat-12, the Testa d'Oro was created to break land speed records. It output 750 hp at 4000 rpm and produced 660 lb/ft of torque at 5000 rpm. The Testa d'Oro achieved success breaking the record in its class in 1991 as it reached 218 mph with catalytic converters.
Ercole Spada designed a follow up to Zagato's series of Ferrari specials, the FZ93 or Formula Zagato '93. Ferrari produced six F90 supercars in a special design for the Sultan of Brunei in 1988. The top secret project with managed by Enrico Fumia, the head of the Research and Development department at Pininfarina. The F90 name was supposed to refer to it being a 'Ferrari of the '90s'. All six of these supercars utilized a Testarossa chassis that Pininfarina used to create a completely new body and interior on top of. The stock engine unit produced 390 bhp to the rear wheels and the radiators were relocated to the front of the car.
One of the most popular Ferrari models ever, the Testarossa was the definition of a 'supercar' in its era.
By Jessica Donaldson
Ferrari 126 C4
Ferrari 288 GTO
Ferrari 308 GTS
Ferrari 512 BBi
Ferrari Mondial Quattrovalvole
1984 Ferrari Concepts
Ferrari 412 Prototipo
Similarly Sized Vehicles from 1984
Chevrolet Corvette C4
Other models by Ferrari
Monthly Sales Figures
© 1998-2015. All rights reserved. The material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.