Dreaming of a white Christmas

For the festive season, a Ferrari Testarossa in white suits me just fine, says Jules Christian

Throughout their history, Ferrari have always used numbers in their model descriptions. If you said, however, 512TR it would mean little to many, but it is in fact the number of one of Ferrari’s best selling and most famous models: the Testarossa.

When introduced in 1984 as a replacement for the Boxer 512i, the blunt Pininfarina styling and ostentatious side strakes compared with the curvaceous lines of its predecessor, caused a great deal of consternation among Ferrari devotees. Although it was only 180cm wider, it also made the Testarossa look so much larger.

In fact the Testarossa had an excellent design throughout and resolved many of the problems of the earlier 512i. The aerodynamics were so good that it did not need a rear spoiler, unlike its competitor the Lamborghini Countach. The much-needed additional interior space even allowed for some luggage behind the seats, and the absence of a spare wheel gave workable load space under the bonnet. Ferrari had decided that Testarossa owners would never change a wheel themselves but would call a tow service, so they simply didn’t provide one. And you had to fit a radio/stereo – they didn’t provide one of those either.

One of the problems with the mid-engined 512i was that the radiator was in the front of the car with pipes running inside down the sides to the engine at the rear, which made the cabin uncomfortably hot. I can vouch for this as I had to deliver one from North London over to Heathrow Cargo in heavy jammed traffic on a hot summer’s day with no aircon – it was a nightmare.

The side strakes on the Testarossa, which caused so much consternation, were a part of resolving this, and were lead-ins to the air ducts for the radiators, which were moved to the engine compartment.

The Testarossa was powered by basically the same flat-12, 4943cc mid-engine as the 512i, but with four valves per cylinder head which were actually painted red. The upgraded engine punched-out 385bhp and gave it a 0-100km/h acceleration time of 5.5 seconds and a top speed of around 290km/h.

Between 1984 and 1991 nearly 10,000 Testarossa models were sold, only 500 of which were the later F512M, 1994 version, which apart from some cosmetic changes, had a modified 434bhp engine, revamped handling and sorted out the stiff gear-change issue, which had always been annoying. All the models were coupes, with only one Spyder built made especially for Fiat and Ferrari boss, Gianni Agnelli, to celebrate 20 years of chairmanship.

Agnelli was not the only famous Testarossa owner – Elton John, Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan and Rod Stewart all owned one. But the only star who was actually given one for free by Ferrari was Don Johnson who starred – driving a white Testarossa – in the 1980s TV hit Miami Vice.

Fine, so I know the Ferrari colour is red, but if Santa is kind, in this case, I might just make an exception. Have a merry Christmas and here’s to a better 2021 for all.

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