Unfortunately, I didn’t experience the 1980s, but thanks to this passionate owner I got a taste of the decade from one its biggest icons: the Ferrari Testarossa.

Photography: Max Lammers

Some facts and numbers to start with: the Ferrari Testarossa was introduced as the successor to the Berlinetta Boxer at the 1984 Paris Motor Show. Over 7,000 units were produced between 1984 and 1991. The car is powered by a flat-12 engine with around 380 bhp, accelerates from 0 to 100 kph (62 mph) in 5.2 seconds and has an estimated top speed of 290 kph (180 mph).

Poster car

Writing about legendary Ferraris can be difficult from time to time. Though it’s a cliché statement to name the Testarossa an ultimate poster car, it really is. Every bystander knows what it is and appreciates its design.

I met up with Raja outside London. He picked me up from a nearby station and we soon arrived at his home and were greeted by some fantastic classics. Apart from the Ferrari Testarossa, the family also has an Aston DBS and the Mercedes 190 SL and 230 SL.

An icon

Seeing the Ferrari Testarossa at an event or on the streets is fun but talking with the owner and really taking in all the design elements always brings more value. As Raja grabbed some orange juice, we talked about the car, some upgrades and why the family bought it.

The most standout design elements are the side strakes and the rear design. I don’t think there’s another car where the rear lights are behind plastic fenders. This design was a big step up from the 512 BB, which had regular round taillights. As their other cars suggest, the family’s main interest lays with grand tourer cars.

They eventually bought the Ferrari Testarossa from Cheshire Classics and drove it home, which was a three-hour trip. At the time, they had the 500 SL and 190 SL and wanted to try something different – something from Italy. During the drive home, they got to know the car quite a bit. A family friend sat next to Raja and started pushing him to drive a bit faster. When the engine was warm enough, he gave it some throttle and was surprised by how fast the Testarossa actually was.

First impressions

Sliding into the tan leather of the interior, you realize it’s very dated. Finding out there is room for cassette tapes made me giggle a bit, and the mixture of leather, oil and petrol is a distinctive smell for a classic Ferrari. Turning the key, the flat-12 engine designed by Giuliano de Angelis and Angelo Bellei comes to life with a wonderful grumble. What came as a surprise to me was the amount of visibility you have. There’s a clear view out of all windows, something I didn’t expect beforehand.

Classics can be a handful to drive because they often don’t have the assistance of modern cars. The steering and braking are heaving and because of the triangular design parking is always going to be an awkward situation. When you align the front with the kerb, it doesn’t mean the car is straight. Though these things can be a bit annoying from time to time, the charm and nostalgia you get from the car beats those flaws.

The drive

When we pulled away from Raja’s house, I got the instant impression that this car is actually extremely stable and fast. The Testarossa is not what I expected it to be, in a positive way. The seating position is quite good, too, and the sound from the flat-12 is just addictive. It doesn’t scream like the traditional Ferrari V12 does, it has real ‘flat’ and linear sound to it. It gave both of us great joy once Raja was able to open the car up. The little engine-note pause while changing gears brings you back to the times when these cars were new. This was the ultimate car, apart from the F40, you could have back then. The Testarossa is certainly not a car to break any speed records, but it was built to bring passengers from A to B in an exhilarating way.

The car attracted a small crowd of admirers when we arrived at the first location to take some photos. Some older couple even asked if Raja wanted to trade the Testarossa for their VW Golf. He kindly rejected. We continued our drive and came across a smaller town where we parked the car alongside a road where I took some nice pictures. There’s just no wrong angle to be found on the Testarossa. It’s also easier to photograph because of the ‘boxy-design’. Modern cars have way too many curves, resulting in a lot of reflections.

We headed back, as I was leaving the city to spend the next few days at Goodwood, and I left London understanding the Testarossa better than ever. Thanks to Raja for bringing out the car!

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