You can no longer afford a Ferrari Testarossa. You used to be able to afford a Ferrari Testarossa, back about 8 years ago, when they were selling for $45,000. But now, nice ones are selling for $150,000 or possibly more, and so you can’t afford them anymore.
Which begs the question: How did this happen? I decided to investigate this whole Ferrari Testarossa value phenomenon the only way I know how: by driving a viewer’s Testarossa and giggling the whole time. And this is how I found myself at the house of a viewer named Michael, a Testarossa owner in the Los Angeles area, whose daily driver is a Volvo station wagon.
Michael bought his Testarossa a few years ago, before the dramatic price increase, and it has a few miles on it, a few dings and a few blemishes. To me, this makes it the perfect Testarossa, because you can drive it without worrying about whether a little tiny incline will cause a little tiny scrape on the little tiny undertray that can only be seen by a little tiny ant who gazed upward when it reached your front bumper just to admire your Testarossa. So I drove it. And I didn’t worry. Instead, I giggled.
But before I get to the driving experience, let’s talk about the styling. Here’s the first thing you think when you see a Testarossa: "Oh. My. God." It is absolutely amazing to me that this car’s values were ever anything but high, because, well, just look at it. When you see Michael’s car in a sea of normal cars, you’re drawn to how alien it looks and how special it seems: the wide rear end, the ridiculous side strakes, the unbelievable width, the low roof. When you think of an exotic car, this is pretty much what you have in mind.
And then you climb inside, and you’re confronted with the most laughably ridiculous, unbelievably hilarious Italian-car quirks you could possibly imagine. For example, the window switches aren’t arranged side by side but rather end to end, and you push them up to put the window down. And the door handles are hidden underneath the side strakes. The ashtrays are placed inside the door panels. And the seat belts move forward along a track — automatically, loudly and annoyingly — whenever you open or close the doors. I could go on (for ages), but I’ll let the video show you the rest.
Instead, I’ll get to the most important thing that’s making the Testarossa so valuable: the driving experience.
The Testarossa uses an excellent 4.9-liter V12 (arranged in a "flat" configuration) that makes just 380 horsepower, which isn’t much by modern standards. It does 0 to 60 in about 5.2 seconds, which isn’t fast by modern standards. It also uses a heavy clutch and unwieldy unassisted steering, which isn’t convenient by modern standards. And it’s for exactly those reasons that this thing is shooting up in value so rapidly.
The Testarossa isn’t about speed, 0-to-60 times or objective performance. People who own Testarossas don’t really care if YouTube commenters call it slow. People who own Testarossas could probably afford newer models, with their little point-and-shoot transmissions, their tremendously easy steering and their modern infotainment systems. But for people who own Testarossas, it’s not about all that stuff.
People who own Testarossas take their cars out on nice, winding roads on Sunday mornings with little traffic, and they listen to the unbelievable roar of the powertrain behind them, shift the gears and realize something: the driving experience is about a lot more than a few performance numbers. Am I saying the Testarossa feels slow? Yes, a bit. But I’m also saying the Testarossa feels unbelievably special, in a way most drivers who rattle off 0-to-60 times probably don’t understand.
Here’s a simpler way of putting it: The Testarossa may not be tremendously fast by modern standards, but it offers a driving experience that simply cannot be replicated in a modern vehicle. And as more people desire that experience, more people search for Testarossas — and suddenly, you can’t afford one.
So here’s my verdict on the Testarossa. The styling is truly exotic, special and unusual, in a way that doesn’t exist today. The driving experience is virtually unmatched. And while all the car’s weird quirks may sound annoying, idiotic or frustrating, that’s part of the charm of this thing. Modern cars — even modern Italian cars — are so neutered and so perfectly executed that you’ll never find yourself grinning at some ridiculous lever and cursing "the Italians." But this car still has those weird items from another era, an era where you can be sure Enzo Ferrari actually had his hand in this thing’s design.
And so, here’s the simple reality: The Testarossa is rising in value because it’s special, and it’s especially special compared to modern vehicles, which are increasingly similar, focus-grouped to the hilt, easy to drive and technologically adept. And every single time Ferrari puts out another new car, with another ergonomically perfect infotainment system and another transmission that can shift on its own faster than you can blink an eye… the Testarossa gets just a little bit more valuable. Find a Ferrari Testarossa for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.
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