Developed in the early 1980s and produced through 1991, the Ferrari Testarossa conceptualized 1980s retro culture through its use in shows like Miami Vice and arcade games like OutRun. Regarded for its ultra-wide rear track and side strakes, the two-door berlinetta derived its name from the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, the winning car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1958, 1960, and 1961. The name refers to the red cam covers of the vehicle’s 12-cylinder engine; Testa Rossa is also an Italian term that translates to “red head” in English. The Testarossa has the distinction of being Ferrari’s final 12-cylinder, mid-engine, mass-produced sports car. For that reason, the original version of the vehicle is highly coveted. Still, the original Testarossa is not so rare as the updated F512 M version, which hit the market in 1995.
The Ferrari F512 M production period lasted two years, during which time only 501 vehicles were built. By this measure, it is the rarest Testarossa model by a wide margin. In comparison, the previous attempt at an updated Testarossa, the 512 TR, had 2,261 units constructed. The original Testarossa, meanwhile, was built in 7,177 units. The “M” in the new model’s name stood for Modificata, which translates to “modified”. It referred to the significant exterior and engine upgrades from the 512 TR. The F512 M is particularly rare in the United States, as only 75 were built for right-side driving.
One of the primary objectives in creating the Ferrari F512 M was an improvement in power and driving capabilities. The 512 TR had an output of 428 horsepower and 362 pound-feet of torque. Whereas the F512 M had respective increases of 12 horsepower and 8 pound-feet of torque. Its engine was 16 pounds lighter than that of the 512 TR because of a new crankshaft and new titanium connecting rods. Overall, the car was not only about 40 pounds lighter than its predecessor. It was more than 100 pounds lighter than the first Testarossa.
The decrease in weight allowed the Ferrari F512 M to take reign as the fastest modern Testarossa, boasting top speeds of 195 miles per hour (mph) and an impressive 0-to-60 mph acceleration in 4.7 seconds. Its lighter, redesigned wheels, which were called the “best factory wheels of all time” by automotive journalist Doug DeMuro, also contributed to its decrease in overall weight. The wheels are unique in that their five spokes are curved to look like dancing stars as opposed to being straight, as is the case with most modern Ferraris.
The biggest noticeable difference between the Ferrari 512 TR and the F512 M, at first glance, is the headlights. The previous edition of the Testarossa was built to include pop-up headlights, whereas the F512 M has more conventional headlamps that include plastic covers. This design choice, like several others, was made for weight reduction and driving performance purposes. Other front-end changes included a redesigned front lid and cooling ducts.
Similarly, the rear of the vehicle included modifications to the taillights and grille. Other rear changes included a body-colored engine and slightly altered bumper. Alterations to the side of the vehicle were minimal, but did include a widened front bumper lower section and a simplified Pininfarina badge attached to the rear fenders. The Ferrari F512 M maintained Ferrari’s trademark muscular haunches, side strakes, and the roofline design featured on the original Testarossa.
The interior of the Ferrari F512 M remained relatively unchanged from its predecessor, save for a few additions. These included driller aluminum pedals, a chrome gearshift knob, and standard air conditioning; the factory version of the 512 TR wasn’t equipped with air conditioning, although it was available as an optional feature. There was also a F512 M emblem written onto the dashboard, as well as the option to have lightweight, carbon-fiber bucket seats installed at no additional cost. Like the 512 TR before it, the F512 M featured a three-gauge cluster underneath its center stack and a three-spoke steering wheel.
The Ferrari F512 M had a retail price of around $220,000 when it first hit the market, whereas the 512 TR was initially listed at $212,160. Neither are as iconic as the Testarossa model produced during the 1980s, but the F512 M has become substantially more valuable at auctions due in large part to its limited production run. It is rare to see a low-mileage Testarossa or 512 TR in perfect condition sell for more than $250,000. However, F512 M units recently sold for $357,000 and $401,000 at the RM Sotheby’s Arizona and Monterey auctions, respectively. The latter had only one owner and accrued fewer than 16,000 miles. The former was owned by two individuals and had slightly less than 25,000 miles.
However, the highest reported price tag for a Ferrari F512 M is $599,500. That particular vehicle had only 14,000 miles and featured the uncommon Canna di Fucile Metallico paint finish. Another unit with 11,000 miles sold for $462,000.