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The evolution of the Ferrari Testarossa

Updated: May 3, 2023



Whether you first saw it in Miami Vice, whether you had it as a poster above your bed or

whether you just love the iconic design; every petrolhead knows the Ferrari Testarossa.

Despite that it’s one of the most famous models ever made in Maranello, it often happens that the wrong name is given to the “Testarossa”. Many people still find it difficult to recognise the right generation of what began as the original Testarossa. We will explain the three generations to you: Testarossa -> 512 TR -> F512M.


In 1984, Ferrari introduced the now iconic Testarossa at the Paris Auto Salon as the

successor of the 512 BB. Especially with its striking side air intakes, the design was a redical departure from the classic lines Pininfarina normally applied to Ferrari’s. “Testa rossa” translated to English means “red head”, referring to the red painted cylinder heads. These red cylinder heads were fitted on a 4.9L flat-12 engine with 385 hp and a topspeed of 290 km/h (180 mph). The early Testarossa’s are now also called “Monospecchio” which means “single mirror” referring to the high, “flying” mirror on the left side of the car. Later years got two mirrors positioned lower on the car. As Ferrari’s flagship model during the 1980’s, the car made numerous appearances in pop culture, most notably in three seasons of the famous movie Miami Vice, which contributed to the 1980’s retro culture icon status it now has.



By the beginning of the 1990’s, curves and clean design were suddenly back in fashion,

angular designs began to look outdated so the original Testarossa had to be replaced. With this in mind, Ferrari presented an updated Testarossa called “512 TR” at the Los Angeles Motor Show in 1992. The 512 TR had a more clean design and the flat-12 engine improved with 30hp which made the car could reach a topspeed of 314 km/h. Unfortunately, the 512 TR was launched in a global recession which caused less expensive sportscars were sold. Ferrari produced only 2261 examples of it, which is way less compared to the original Testarossa with 7177 examples made. At least the 512 TR outsold the at the time all new Lamborhini Diablo by around three times more during that period of time.


In October 1994 at the Paris Auto Salon, the last generation of the Ferrari Testarossa was introduced. What makes this car even more iconic today, is that it was also the last flat-12 engine to be found in a road going Ferrari. Besides the 12hp extra, most of its technical engineering is the same as used in its predecessor, the 512 TR. The biggest changes were to be found at the exterior of the car, for example: a new F355-style front bumper, fixed headlights to replace the heavier pop-up headlights, but ofcourse the striking side air intakes that made the Testarossa so popular in the first place were retained. The “M” in its name stands for “Modificata”, which as you would probably have expected, refers to the modifications the car got compared to the 512 TR. With just 501 examples produced, the F512M is the most rare generation of Testarossa’s made which it probably owes to its in many cases not particularly loved design. At least it was dynamically the best variant of all.


So, if you ever see a Testarossa and you are not sure which generation it is, just think back to this blog.


Photo credits:

- AutoStorico

- Gallery Aaldering

- WeAreCurated



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