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The Red-Headed League

2 weeks ago

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Ben Oliver | Journalist


4 June 2024

In Italian it’s la Testarossa, or le Testarossa in the plural. Despite the fact that almost 10,000 were made over 12 years, you don’t often get to refer to more than one of them. Seeing just one is an event. The idea of having the three major iterations of Testarossa at my disposal, a key in each ignition, would have fused the mind of the 10-year-old who first saw one from the window of his school bus. Yet here they are, parked side-by-side, waiting for me in the fierce Ligurian sun. La Testarossa turns 40 this year, and I turn 50, and I suspect this will have been worth the wait.

A brief history, not that you need it. The Testarossa replaced the last of the Berlinetta Boxers, the BB512i, in 1984. It addressed some of the criticisms of that car by moving the nose-mounted radiators to the rear, making room for a decent-sized frunk and preventing the heat collected from the 4.9-litre, 335bhp flat-12 from escaping into the cabin as it passed through. Mounting the radiators behind the doors required a much wider rear end: at almost two metres across, the Testarossa was 35cm wider than a contemporary Porsche 911 and remains 20cm wider than the average European new car.

Leonardo Fioravanti and his team at Pininfarina put those famous side-strakes over the air intakes and gave the car a rising hip line which meant no spoiler was required, and were unapologetic about the width, carrying it through to a square-cut rear end rather than tapering it away. The Testarossa was and remains an extraordinary visual spectacle, emblematic not only of 1980s car design but the decade as a whole.

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