Saturday, March 10, 2012

The World's Reddest Car

My Ferrari will find a new home next week, hopefully, and though I’ll be sorry to see it go, it’s time. 

It is certainly among the most beautiful cars ever created, and of all the automobiles designed by the Italian genius Enzo Ferrari, it was the one that most caught the public eye and sold in the largest quantity.  All told, some 8,000 Testarossas were manufactured and bought by enthusiasts between 1984 and 1991. How many are left is anyone’s guess, but a good estimate would be about 5,500. It has been called the world’s reddest car.
It’s low, brutish, a two-seater with minimal amenities, a coupe with a fixed roof that premiered at the 1984 Paris Auto Show. Power brakes but no power steering; 12 cylinders, a deep throaty rumble that winds to a scream as you put the car through its paces.  The Testarossa boasts a five-speed manual transmission; the rear mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout (engine between the axles but behind the cabin) keeps the center of gravity in the middle of the car, which increases stability and improves the car's cornering ability. The tires are huge, almost 16 inches across with razor-like treads.
For those readers who might care, the car sports a 4.9 liter (4,943 cubic centimeters/302 cubic inches) Ferrari Flat-12 engine. Each cylinder has four valves, with forty-eight valves total, lubricated via a dry sump system, and a compression ratio of 9.20:1. The Ferrari can accelerate from 0–100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) in 5.8 second and from 0–97 kilometers per hour (60 mph) in 5.2 seconds and on to 161 km/h (100 mph) in 11.40 seconds and can complete a standing (from stationary) quarter mile (~400 m) in 13.50 seconds or a standing kilometer in 23.80 seconds. The maximum speed is about 187 mph thanks to almost 400 HP at the rear wheel.
I bought the car when I had money a decade or so ago and for a year or two I drove it everywhere. It never failed to garner an admiring crowd of mostly young boys and for a while, I would let kids sit in it and have their picture taken, until one boy accidentally dumped his can of Coke on the floor mats.
I took it to the Summit Point race track in West Virginia and let the track pro drive it while I was in the passenger seat. He took it to 179 miles per hour, maneuvered a glide through a hairpin turn that broke the rear end loose, and pronounced it a satisfactory car. I almost peed in my pants. Then I drove it to 160 mph, euphorically passed a Porsche Twin Turbo driven by a new owner even less experienced than I was, and hit 165 on the straightaway.
People call it an ambulatory work of art and I agree. Even standing still it looks as if it’s doing 100. The interior is all tan leather, and the first 250 TRs built came with a matching set of luggage.
In the last few years I haven’t driven it much. I once calculated that, taking everything into consideration, each mile on the road cost me three dollars. Additionally, modern Ferraris depreciate steeply once the odometer passes 25,000 miles. I’m 5,000 short of that.
The day after tomorrow my Testarossa will be loaded onto a covered car carrier and transported to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, there to be sold at a car auction catering to collectors and owners of exotic automobiles.  I’ll be there, touting the Ferrari’s many good points and telling prospective buyers how much I will miss the car, which is true.  I will not, however, miss the maintenance. In 2009, the scheduled engine-out check-up cost me $10,000. Before that it was $5000 for a clutch. There are no cheap Ferrari parts. Should you want to see it in action, go to My friend Miles did a video and it’s worth watching.
I hope it finds a new owner who will appreciate it as much as I did, someone who will  take it for speed-limit-defying rides on curvy roads, enjoy the unbridled joy of its roaring engine, and at least once allow a small boy to sit in the driver’s seat and have his picture taken.

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