The Story Behind The Miami Vice Ferrari Testarossa

The iconic ‘cocaine white’ Ferrari Testarossa in Miami Vice wasn’t the crew’s first choice for their hit 1980s TV show. Here’s how they ended up with the flat-12 poster car.

Photography: Barret -Jackson

Miami Vice ran for five seasons from September 1984 until January 1990. During the first two seasons, the show featured a replica 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 built on the chassis of a Chevrolet Corvette (C3). Speciality car manufacturer McBurnie Coachcraft fitted the American sports car with Ferrari-shaped body panels. It made a reappearance in the third season alongside a white Ferrari Testarossa, the latter of which stayed on for seasons four and five. But why? The reason behind the switch is quite interesting.

Ferrari’s lawsuit

Yes, you read that right. Ferrari filed a lawsuit against the show’s crew, Coachcraft and others to stop production. Why? Trademark infringement. Ferrari considered using and selling replicas to be an infringement on its brand name and creative IP (intellectual property). During the first episode of the third season, the crew sinned again by blowing up an empty Daytona body shell during an action sequence.

Ferrari 365 GTS4 Daytona Spider Miami Vice

As a solution to the lawsuit, Ferrari and the production crew collaborated on an interesting way to keep the marque front and centre. Ferrari actually donated two then-new Testarossa Monospecchios painted black with beige leather interiors for use on the program, but Miami Vice producer Michael Mann requested that the cars to be repainted white so they would be more visible during the show’s many night scenes.

The team still used a fiberglass replica based on a De Tomaso Pantera for stunt shots. This alternate car was built by Carl Robert, who also worked on the Daytona replicas. He decided to use the 1972 Pantera because it had the same wheelbase as the Testarossa. And because the show quickly elevated the new Testarossa to icon status, Ferrari backed down from their issues with the replica stunt cars.

Auctioned off

When the show ended in 1990, both cars went into retirement until one was brought to Ferrari Fort Lauderdale (Florida, USA) in 2015. Here, it received a Ferrari Classiche certification and an engine-out service valued at $8,000.

Ferrari Testarossa Miami Vice

The car was put up for sale through Barrett-Jackson Auction Company in 2017. This beautifully restored Testarossa featured a beige leather interior and had luxurious options such as power windows, locks and seats, cruise control and air-conditioning.

It was expected to auction for $1.5 and $1.75 million sadly only brought a top bid of $151,800.

Would you agree that the Miami Vice Testarossa is the most iconic Ferrari to appear on the big screen?

Written by Max Lammers.

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