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Any colour as long as it’s black: Five Testarossas at RM auction

Words: Nathan Chadwick | Photos: RM Sotheby’s

Ford famously only offered the Model T in any colour as long as it was black – but if you’re a Ferrari fan with an affection for the dark side, RM Sotheby’s has a selection of Testarossa variants up for grabs at its Villa Erba sale in late May.

At the time of writing is it unclear how the so-called Back on Black Collection came to be, but it’s rare to see any black Testarossa, let alone five in one place. “As a marque that is synonymous with the colour red, black Ferraris are not only fewer in number but it is also a colour that gives Ferrari cars a highly purposeful look,” says RM Sotheby’s Stephan Knobloch. “For me, a black Testarossa is the ultimate specification, and these five cars present a very rare opportunity.” 

1986 Ferrari Testarossa ‘Monospecchio’ 

This 1986 Ferrari Testarossa ‘Monospecchio’ has an estimate of between €120,000 and €180,000. 

Working through the collection chronologically, we begin with a 1986 Ferrari Testarossa ‘Monospecchio’, so called because it features a single high-level side mirror. This design decision was due to an interpretation of European regulations at the time. It retains the earlier cars’ magnesium ‘knock-off’ wheels, although as a 1986-spec car the rim sizes measure 16in in diameter, with a width of 8in at the front and 10in at the rear, an increase over the earlier cars’. It’s estimated at between €120,000 and €180,000. 

1987 Ferrari Testarossa ‘Monodado’

This 1987 Ferrari Testarossa ‘Monodado’ is estimated at between €120,000 and €180,000.

The Monodado models are known for their 16in knock-off wheels, but with the helpful addition of an extra rear-view mirror, and at a height that isn’t near your scalp. This particular example has an estimate of between €120,000 and €180,000.

1989 Ferrari Testarossa

This 1989 Ferrari Testarossa is estimated at between €100,000 and €150,000.

In 1988, the first major revisions started to be seen; while the wheel design still resembled that of the original car, the ‘knock-off’ style had been replaced with a five-stud pattern similar to those of other Ferraris of the time. The suspension was also revised, but the introduction of the mandatory catalytic converter in mid-1989 took power down from 385bhp in non-cat European spec to 376bhp, although this was an improvement on the 365bhp in Euro cat-spec models from 1984-89. This particular car was originally delivered to Italy, via Concessionaria Autoterminal SpA. It’s estimated at between €100,000 and €150,000.

1992 Ferrari 512 TR

This Ferrari 512 TR has an estimate of between €180,000 and €250,000.

Ferrari extensively reworked the Testarossa for 1991, giving it a new name in the process. The exterior changes are subtle but effective, with a reprofiled nose, new light units and spoilers, plus other subtle tricks from Pininfarina’s Pietro Camardella. However, it is the engine that got much of the attention, with Nikasil liners, a revised air-intake system, a new Bosch engine-management set-up, engorged intake valves and a refreshed exhaust system.

While the headlines were all about the peak power cresting at 422bhp to deliver a 4.8-second 0-60mph time and a 195mph top speed, the engine was tuned for greater driveability, too. This was a major theme of the development programme, with a new single-plate clutch, sliding ball bearings and relocated gearchange knob implemented to deal with complaints about awkward shifts. The brakes were also revised with larger cross-drilled front discs, and there was a quicker steering rack, lower-profile tyres and revised damper settings as well. However, the critical factor was the repositioning of the engine and gearbox to improve handling and make the car more usable day-to-day. This particular example is estimated at between €180,000 and €250,000.

1996 Ferrari F512 M

This 1996 Ferrari 512 M is estimated at between €230,000 and €300,000.

The final version of the Testarossa lineage was also the last of the mid-engined mainstream-production Ferrari two-seat flagships, because its replacement, the 550 Maranello, returned to the front-engined layout abandoned in the 1970s. The styling revisions were perhaps divisive, largely concerning the loss of the beloved pop-up headlamps, but the car was revered by journalists as the best of breed at the time.

The taillights and wheels were also revised, while the interior was further tweaked over the 512 TR; carbon bucket seats were a no-cost option. The engine was revised again, with titanium connecting rods and a revised crankshaft. Power grew to 434bhp, while the 0-60mph dash was cut by 0.1 seconds and the top speed enhanced by 1mph. It’s one of the rarest of all the production Testarossa variants, with just 501 built between 1994 and 1996. This particular example was originally sold to Germany, and is estimated at between €230,000 and €300,000.

Further details

Which one is your favourite era? Let us know…

The auction takes place on May 20, 2023 at Villa Erba on the shore of Lake Como, Italy. More details are available here.

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