Obsessions #2 - Ferrari Testarossa

| 9 Jun 2011

I have always wanted a Ferrari, but I have never wanted to be a Ferrari owner. I imagine a lot of prancing horse fans are now suitably offended, so please allow me to explain. There is such an inverted snobbery about Ferraris, such a stigma, that I am sure all owner-enthusiasts have suffered the insult of having the sincerity of their passion questioned, or worse, being assumed to be some fair-weather fan chasing badge or lifestyle kudos more than motoring nirvana. Solely because they own a Ferrari.

It is not the Ferrari owners' fault of course, it is everyone else who lugs that perception around on their shoulders in between the monkey and the chip.

Horribly shallow and supremely superficial I know, but I guess that is why so many other people plump for often inferior Maseratis for more money: the Trident car enhances your cognoscenti credentials whereas the Ferrari throws them into doubt. It may not be nice to face up to, but it's true.

If I had any balls, of course, I would say "to hell with what anyone else thinks" (and there will be two maybe three more Maranello cars in this series), but there is also the small matter of the money that I don't have.

Given my wimpish failure to display the courage of my convictions, what is really weird is how pathetically enamoured I have become with the Ferrari that even the Ferrari fans don't seem to want.

The Mondial may have been ripped apart because it didn't drive like a Ferrari should, but the Testarossa was ripped apart by everyone, for everything. I won't mention how sadly it encapsulated the 1980s by mentioning a certain TV series in which the most convincing acting came from a crocodile called Elvis, but I will confess that I, too, ridiculed the Fatboy's girth and, despite being a teenager for a big lump the 1980s, never lusted after the Testarossa at all.

There was something unprecedentedly gauche and outré about the Testarossa: it was wide, fat, obnoxious; bling before bling existed; a prototype footballer's car.

I realised I was mellowing, warming even, towards them when, on visits first to the US and Australia my blinkered dismissal transmogrified into an altogether more reasonable: "Well, I guess they are all right, a bit nice actually, in countries that have the space to accommodate them."

That was maybe six or seven years ago and, ever since, the Testarossa has been gnawing away at me, digging its canines in ever more as the prices have steadily fallen. In the past year this has turned into utter desperation to own one, possibly because that little classic car missed opportunity sensor has gone off in my head saying that they will never be cheaper. Never.

Speaking to an owner who paid £18,000 for his – they were £62k at launch and a helluva lot more at death remember – just turned desperation into weeping regret.

Of course, there aren't many out there at that price, but add £15k and you'll have yourself one, though maybe not one I recently found lurking in the Silverstone paddock (above).

Yes it is still fat and always will be, though I am warming to the shape daily even it's a half a foot wider than my previous obsession,  yes it is still trimmed by the bad-taste magpies, and yes, it still won't get me across Hammersmith Bridge or anywhere else with road width restrictions en route.

But it would not only be a Ferrari, my Ferrari, but the biggest "statement" Ferrari of the modern era. If you want the balls to say "Sod you and your jealousy masquerading as taste" to the rest of the world, to all the anti-Ferrari apparatchiks, nothing says it with more of a two-fingered salute than a Testarossa. And I guess that at heart I am a two-fingered salute kind of punk.

Not one entirely bereft of common sense, though. Who wouldn't want a mid-engined "mass-produced" – they cranked out 10,000 in total – flat 12 5-litre Ferrari that revelled in the excesses of the 1980s, passed into the 1990s still raving when everyone else had crashed out, and has enjoyed a filthy retirement ever since.

Filthy is a good word actually: to me the Testarossa no longer looks like a wannabe-playboy-but-not-quite-rich-enough-kid car, but more resembles an ageing prostitute – a redhead naturally – walking the streets in her ripped fishnets, still a looker, but a little bedraggled in the rain, and offering you with absolute conviction the best time of your life. And you know you'll get it, because the experience is written all over her face.

I don't really want to delve my own pysche to see where that "performance-related" analogy came from – and if I did, I doubt very much whether I would want to share my findings – but I do know that 180mph and 0-60mph in 5 seconds can't be bought much cheaper without involving quite a lot of plastics.  And think about that mid-engined 12 configuration and what has shared it since – Enzo and F50 – before trying to tell me that it's not good value!

Sadly, on this one more than any of my obsessions, I don't need to see the wake outside the harbour to know that I have already missed the boat. To those who have just clambered on, I offer my heartiest congratulations and heartfelt jealousy.