As far as old, unreliable cars go, I think I’ve found the Mount Olympus of hoopties with this Ferrari Testarossa. Considering my love of Italian quirks, my passion for large and comfortable vehicles and my own strange automotive masochism, I can’t think of a more perfect car to own for less than $100,000. There really is so much to love about this car — but the one thing I hate about mine is also the reason I’m not keeping it.
Even though it’s 30 years old, the wow factor with the styling of this car certainly hasn’t died down. Recently, I was looking at a new Ferrari F12 — and the hood reminded me of the now discontinued Hyundai Genesis Coupe, while the entire car looked too much like a Corvette. One could argue Corvette designers should be blamed for copying the Ferrari — but I don’t recall any manufacturer attempting to copy the Testarossa, with its massive iconic side strakes. And unlike many styling elements in today’s cars, these highly stylized forms are actually functional, as they feed air into the side-mounted radiators.
Despite how highly crazy this car looks, nothing about this body is fake — which is something you rarely see with new cars. The wheels are actually racing-style knock-offs, not just a decorative plastic cover to make it look like knock-offs, and every single grill and scoop on the nose of this Ferrari — despite all the mechanical bits being in the back — is there for an actual reason. Fake air inlets have been a growing epidemic with cars for decades — so I find it even more refreshing to gaze upon this Testarossa’s ridiculous styling embellishments knowing they are fully functional.
Of course, owning any Ferrari comes with the worry of insane maintenance costs — but one thing I’ve never understood is why everyone freaks out about the engine-out service. These cars were designed to have the entire drivetrain and rear subframe unbolted and removed in an afternoon — and the only reason it’s ridiculously expensive is because of the high labor costs of a dedicated Ferrari shop. Testarossa owners, especially when these cars were really cheap to buy about a decade ago, have been dropping the motors and doing their own servicing from their home garage easily enough — and just about every job is documented with step-by-step instructions on Ferrari-dedicated technical forums. The only thing a competent mechanic, or handy enthusiast, has to fear wrenching on these cars, is fear itself.
So other than expensive parts prices, I’m not scared to keep this Ferrari on the road, nor am I scared to actually drive it. The Testarossa really hits a sweet spot in automotive evolvement, as it still delivers a very basic, analog experience — but without feeling old and lacking most modern comforts. There’s plenty of power coming from the glorious flat V12 engine, but not so much that that I can’t enjoy running it through the gears without hitting speeds that would send me directly to jail. Of course, the steering is very heavy for parking lot maneuvers, and it has plenty of mechanical and ergonomic quirks — but this all makes it very engaging to drive. Unlike any new Ferrari, driving normal speeds around town in this Testarossa will never feel boring.
I was also surprised at how functional, and comfortable, this car is. Unlike other 1980s car poster icons like the Lamborghini Countach and Diablo, it actually has very good rear visibility and plenty of interior space. There’s also plenty of luggage space up front, and owners report 20 miles per gallon if you gingerly cruise down the highway. If the car wasn’t so old and valuable, I wouldn’t mind taking it on a cross-country jaunt in the slightest.
So other than kicking myself for not being able to afford one back when they were cheap and the ridiculous parts prices, I really don’t have much to complain about. So why am I not keeping it? Well, sadly, the title showed up for my Testarossa last week with a serious issue. It was serious enough to completely void the title, to the point that I can’t register it in Kansas. Getting a replacement title is certainly possible, but it will take a lot of time and effort, as previous owners from years ago have to be tracked down — so the selling dealer has graciously refunded the entire purchase.
So for one brief, glorious month, I had the perfect hooptie. The stand-up seller did give me the option to wait and see if the title could get sorted — and I lost a lot of sleep thinking about it over the weekend. In the end, I chose to return the car, as constantly worrying about this problem would be very draining — especially if it takes months before I can legally tag the car. So I opted for the quicker, less painful death of a dream come true.
I honestly don’t know how I’m going to top this car, and honestly, I don’t think I’m going to even try. I can’t see myself getting another Testarossa and starting all over again with videos — and there really isn’t anything as interesting for the same (or less) money. I also seem to have bad luck with Ferrari purchases — and considering they are really expensive, perhaps it’s best I go back to the cheap hoopties that, until recently, have consumed my entire adult life. At least I now have a little money in my pocket — but thanks to my nightly ritual of browsing of Autotrader listings, that never lasts long.