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Video | Here’s Everything That’s Broken on My Cheap Ferrari Testarossa

When you buy the cheapest running and driving Ferrari Testarossa for sale in the USA, you certainly can’t expect perfection. Even if you’re buying the most expensive one, perfection is impossible — as these cars had weird quirks even when they were new. Other than the normal gripes, I thought I had purchased a really nice example — until I took it to my mechanic for its first inspection.

You can’t hop in a Testarossa and cruise effortlessly to a fine Italian dinner for two at the Olive Garden — as it really needs to warm up before you can actually enjoy it. Cold and hot starting issues are rampant with these cars, mostly due to their complicated fuel injection system — but mine is pretty tame. On the first cold start of the day, it’s almost like the engine has to learn how to idle all over again, but it settles down within a minute or so. Once you’re moving, the transmission also feels lethargic, and really doesn’t want to shift from first to second. It takes several minutes of driving before the fluid in the transmission is warm and circulated enough to feel normal. Thankfully, once I’ve gone through this process of rousing my Testarossa, it drives great for the rest of the day.

Considering it takes me longer than the Testarossa to get going in the morning, and considering we are about the same age, this car is aging much better than me. Other than still looking fantastic, everything electronic works inside — including the automatic seat belts that startle occupants like a snake attack. I’m also fortunate enough to not have any of the normal Testarossa gripes to worry about either, like very slow power windows — and even the air conditioning works perfectly.

I was pretty proud of myself, but also nervous, because when I did my own inspection before purchasing, the car is way too low to get a good look underneath the engine. Perhaps it’s better that I don’t know what’s going on, since ignorance is bliss — but given what happened to my last Ferrari, I wanted to be very careful. The Car Wizard was happy to oblige my request for an inspection — especially since he just finished the work on my Rolls-Royce Phantom, which netted him enough money for another luxury cruise vacation.

Unfortunately, it appears I’ll continue to make the Car Wizard Oprah rich, as once we got the Testarossa on the lift, we discovered three different fluids leaking. The biggest leak was coming from where the shifter rod connects to the transmission — which appeared to be an easy fix. Another leak was coming from the oil drain plug — which is even easier to repair. The death blow to my wallet came from the final, smallest leak we discovered — which was coolant coming from a mysterious area.

Since the Car Wizard had never inspected a Testarossa before, he was unsure of the culprit, but assured me this very slight seepage wasn’t something I needed to worry about right away. He called me later after doing a little research, and explained it was common for the water pump to weep from a seal just as its doing with my car. The good news is that it probably won’t get worse anytime soon — and I should be fine if I pay attention to my coolant level. The bad news? Fixing it would require dropping the engine. Considering this car had its last major engine-out belt service less than 2 years ago, I was hoping I wouldn’t need to drop the engine again for several more years.

So it didn’t take long for my Testarossa to deliver its first major gut punch — but since it’s not urgent, I plan to enjoy the car through the fall, and help the Wizard tackle the job this winter. Obviously, it could have been much worse, since I bought a vintage Ferrari without a professional pre-purchase mechanical inspection, so I’m still very happy with my purchase. At least when I tell people I have a Ferrari Testarossa, they won’t confuse its name with a Ford Mustang GT.

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  1. Great choice in cars, if I must say. I happen to own a 89 myself. I hope the guy from RSS redid the clutch. I saw him driving that car, along with a red one he had for sale at the time, to the cars and coffee on Santana row back in April 2017. He fried the H*** out of it, up until it was sm King and the car wouldn’t move. He obviously had no idea how to drive it.

    Then, either he or his partner, decided to do something stupid and winded up crashing it into the red one they had there as well. Nose to nose.  

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