Remember one thing when it comes to Ferrari prices: they’re not cars, they’re collector’s items, and collectors quite understandably rarely want something there’s plenty of. Which makes anything with slotted sides a veritable snip. The flat-12 Testarossa series was Ferrari’s best seller ever; from the beginning in 1984, badged simply as Testarossa, through the renamed 512TR and on to the final F512M, almost 10,000 were built. By way of comparison, total production of the Daytona coupé was some 1300 units.
From a collectable standpoint, the Testarossa is therefore the Ford Fiesta of Ferraris, and basically subject to ordinary mortal market forces. Older models sell for less than newer models, and you can shop around for price and condition. Outstanding examples of the early Testarossas can be had for around £35K, surely the cheapest possible way to go 180mph-plus regardless of brand, and the gorgeous late F512M from Bob Houghton we’re driving here is bang on sixty thousand.
Maintenance and repairs, however, can be a major trap for the unwary; the Testarossa’s mid-engine and tight drivetrain packaging make any job back there a pain, and cambelt changes are an engine-out procedure, to the tune of about two grand every three years. I know you’ve heard this before, but for God’s sake don’t get sucked into a ‘needs minor work’ in an effort to save money.
It never turns out that way on anything, much less a Ferrari, much less still a Testarossa. On the up side, Russell Smith, service manager at Bob Houghton, says a sound example with a clean service history usually makes a pretty reliable vehicle, and continued regular maintenance should keep it so. Ignore those cambelt changes, though, and you’ll be the one trying desperately to flog on a ‘needs minor work’.
Driving a Testarossa is very much an ’80s supercar kind of experience – Götterdämmerung performance levels are design priority one, and oh yeah, now where shall we put the people? The old AGIF rule of thumb (Arse Goes In First) doesn’t work so well when entering one of these, and the Italian driving position is too pronounced for even my normally Italo-sympathetic tastes, although I should add the accommodation changed several times during the series, your experiences may vary, and the interior was typically miles ahead of its contemporary competition. That still won’t give you any more headroom, though, or put the pedals in front of your feet instead of the passenger’s.
Not that any of it matters after I turn the ignition key. First there’s the patented zing of Ferrari starter motor, then the engine catches, going instantly from nothing to effortless baritone hum. Click the shifter through the slotted gate into the dogleg first, bring clutch and throttle together gently and I’m off to a surprisingly easy start. So easy, really, that I might as well just nail it and see what happens...
In the space of a deep breath the landscape is insanely flashing by, the polite wee hum is now a manic bellow immediately behind my left ear, and that needle rushing across the top of the dial as the rear tyres fight for grip isn’t the rev counter, it’s the speedo. Umm, think I’ll back off a bit now, enjoy the comfy seats, maybe try out the radio.
While I’m waiting for my heart rate to stabilize, I learn that exploring country lanes isn’t exactly the Testarossa’s strong suit; factor in the marginal rear quarter visibility and it isn’t really a town car, either. Find yourself an open road, though, and there is no doubt it’s the fastest thing available for anywhere near the price. Unless, that is, Miami Vice makes a comeback. Now let’s try that loud pedal again, shall we?
4942cc all-alloy 180-degree flat-12, dohc, four valves per cylinder, Bosch fuel injection
390bhp @ 6300rpm
361lb ft @ 4500rpm
(F512M: 369lb ft)
Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Coil and wishbone, telescopic shocks, anti-roll bars; double springs/shocks at rear
Four-wheel vented discs with servo assist
1506kg (3313lb) approx
Top speed 181mph