Pin-Up Mod­els

We bring the ul­ti­mate bed­room wall poster cars to­gether to find out whether 2017 re­al­ity lives up to the 1980s fan­tasy

Motor (Australia) - - PAST BLAST - by NIGEL BOOTHMAN pics NEIL FRASER

THIS IS the 1980s as peo­ple would have you re­mem­ber it: Big hair, shoul­der pads, loud colours, Du­ran Du­ran and yup­pies with mas­sive mo­bile phones climb­ing into show-off cars to pick up girls who look like Elle Macpher­son. Unob­tain­able dreams, in other words. Un­til tonight, that is. We’ve got the chance to find out what those cars were ac­tu­ally like (though sadly Elle Macpher­son was oth­er­wise en­gaged at the time).

The Lam­borgh­ini Coun­tach, the Fer­rari Tes­tarossa and the Porsche 911 Turbo were so ex­cit­ing in two-di­men­sional form on Athena posters that you could barely look away, so what are they go­ing to be like in re­al­ity? Can they pos­si­bly live up to a 30-year-old fan­tasy? And like the hair in the ’80s we’re go­ing big and head­ing to the streets of Lon­don with a trio louder than the jump­suits worn for Olivia New­ton-John’s Phys­i­cal mu­sic clip. It’s time to bring child­hood dreams to life.

Tes­tarossa – it’s a won­der­ful word. As kids, we didn’t know it re­ferred to a red-headed en­gine with scar­let cam cov­ers. Who cared? Here was a new con­tender for the ti­tle of fastest car on the road. In those days, ex­ag­ger­ated claims were the norm. It seemed odd to us that so many su­per­cars (like the pre­ced­ing Fer­rari Ber­linetta Boxer) topped out at 186mph, un­til we re­alised this was 300km/h, which was im­pres­sive to Con­ti­nen­tal ears. Even if it wasn’t al­ways true.

In the case of the Tes­tarossa, the claim was a mere 291km/h, but for once it was ac­cu­rate. There’s a 4.9-litre, four-cam, fuel-in­jected flat 12 with a peak out­put of 287kW. Pin­in­fa­rina tweaked that par­al­lelline styling in a wind tun­nel and the TR is prob­a­bly 16km/h faster than the Boxer. But it’s per­sonal pos­ture more than per­for­mance that’s your first con­cern.

There are three cryp­tic lit­tle grey catches on the side of the Tes­tarossa’s seat base, two of which ap­pear to do ex­actly the same thing, but in the end you fit into the cabin with a re­clined su­per­car slouch. The wheel is a long reach away, and be­yond that is a fab­u­lous pe­riod-piece of a dash­board in­scribed in an ar­cadegame font. It gets your heart beat­ing just to sit here, but you won­der whether the Tes­tarossa’s rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing user-friendly is de­served. Per­haps a fee­ble fly-off hand­brake jammed be­tween the door and the driver’s thigh is noth­ing to whinge about, or maybe that ma­trix of knobs and but­tons be­tween the seats equals good er­gonomics by 1984 stan­dards. And do you dare com­plain that the ped­als are so off­set the clutch in this left-hand-drive ex­am­ple is si­t­u­ated di­rectly un­der the steer­ing col­umn?

At least you have Bosch KE-Jetronic in­jec­tion and healthy Marelli Mi­croplex elec­tronic ig­ni­tion on your side. Af­ter a sur­pris­ingly fast spin from the starter, the Tes­tarossa bursts into life. It’s a charis­matic sound­ing car, even at idle – flat-12 Fer­raris in­stantly sug­gest a 1970s For­mula One pad­dock, thanks to a kind of raw, ear-fill­ing blare from the ex­haust. With 90°C soon show­ing on the gauge (a fig­ure this car never ex­ceeds, even in the thick­est traf­fic) the on-ramp of one of Lon­don’s ar­te­rial roads presents it­self and we can probe that throt­tle travel... It’s ridicu­lously ex­cit­ing, with a soar­ing whoop of noise send­ing the car spear­ing down the road and each change be­com­ing slicker and quicker. That F1 blare is still with us, but there’s a rasp­ing, tear­ing snarl to it, mak­ing it all highly ad­dic­tive.

It’s set up for three-fig­ure mo­tor­ing, no doubt – think of the Testa’s five for­ward speeds as be­ing a mod­ern six-speed ’box with first gear am­pu­tated. Sec­ond will eas­ily send you over the le­gal limit and you feel that this car’s nat­u­ral ter­ri­tory is be­tween 110 and 220km/h, where you’d get the best use of third, fourth and fifth.

How­ever, this is busy Lon­don. The brake is more im­por­tant than the ac­cel­er­a­tor and it’s get­ting plenty of use. It’s not the car’s best fea­ture and they are overly touchy. There’s also a stab of panic as I glance over my right shoul­der and see a huge red thing about to col­lide with the rear quar­ter. Then I re­alise that lump is the rear quar­ter – this Fer­rari, at 1976mm across the butt-cheeks, was the widest pro­duc­tion car of its day.

Luck­ily it steers with great pre­ci­sion and, once on the move, a very pleas­ant weight. The over­sized go-kart feel com­mon to lots of big-league, mi­dengined cars is present, but that’s qual­i­fied by some well-judged spring­ing and damp­ing to make it sur­pris­ingly for­giv­ing of dodgy sur­faces and mid­corner bumps. None­the­less, it’s a car that re­quires re­spect. The steer­ing ra­tio is quick; a clumsy in­put can re­mind you how far back the cen­tre of grav­ity lies.

Yet, in the Porsche 911 Turbo (930), the cen­tre of grav­ity is even fur­ther back than the Tes­tarossa, but at least you’re al­lowed to sit up and look out. And although the ped­als are crazily off­set like the Fer­rari, at least Porsche’s ex­cuse in­volves 40-odd years of tra­di­tion. That’s the only com­mon fea­ture with the Ital­ian car. Ev­ery­thing else is ut­terly at odds. Where there was an open-gated dog­leg shift, the Ger­man car has a long, light­weight wand in a po­lite leather gaiter. Where there were tight lit­tle foot con­trols de­mand­ing

It’s hard to imag­ine a pub­lic road on which you could safely ap­proach the han­dling lim­its

both brawn and con­cen­tra­tion, here is a friendly, floor-hinged set with a light­weight clutch that feels joy­ful af­ter the work­out you get in the Tes­tarossa.

Per­haps there is one more sim­i­lar­ity – that throt­tle, it has a touch of the heft and stick­i­ness that seems com­mon to all su­per­cars of a cer­tain age. And this one has rather more power than a stan­dard 3.3-litre 930. When it was about six months old, the car went back to the fac­tory on the or­ders of its first owner, who put it through the Spe­cial Wishes depart­ment for an up­grade that cost him nearly 40,000 Deutschmarks (or about $21,000 in 1984).

That turns out to have in­volved a whole host of changes that in­cluded a dif­fer­ent tur­bocharger and a much larger in­ter­cooler, a waste­gate that kept the boost go­ing to 14.5psi rather than the stan­dard 11.6psi, a new front air dam con­tain­ing driv­ing lights and the oil cooler from an RSR, plus air vents in the rear wings for duct­ing to the brakes.

The car sat lower, wore larger tyres and, most in­trigu­ingly of all, gained a four-branch ex­haust that op­er­ates only through the driver’s side pipes un­til on boost, when the ex­haust is di­verted from the waste­gate to the pas­sen­ger side. In­ter­est­ingly, th­ese changes are al­most ex­actly what were of­fered on the fi­nal run-out edi­tion, the 930 Turbo LE of 1989.

The LE’s 0-97km/h time was reck­oned to be 4.9 sec­onds and this car must be ca­pa­ble of sim­i­lar. Com­pared to the al­most clumsy, mus­cu­lar lunge from a stan­dard 3.0-litre model, it’s sur­pris­ing how dif­fer­ent this is. Those tweaks have given it a smoother power de­liv­ery, yet also made it sav­agely, thrillingly fast. The car’s cur­rent owner thinks the power out­put is 22kW more than the 243kW on the pa­per­work, and from the way it springs from 3000 to 7000rpm, with as­so­ci­ated blur­ring of scenery and g-forces, it’s hard to dis­agree.

Be­cause of the 930’s ori­gins, as ex­pected it’s em­phat­i­cally bet­ter in mixed con­di­tions than our Ital­ians. There’s more ground clear­ance, more com­pli­ance with to­tal docil­ity be­low 3000rpm and no fuss­ing in hot, stop/start traf­fic. And thank god for de­cent brakes when the road opens up.

The 911’s lovely, tac­tile steer­ing is alive and well here, shoul­der­ing a lit­tle more weight and not as fid­gety as, say, a 3.0 Car­rera. There’s a sense of se­cu­rity on dry roads from the wide Pirelli P-Zeros, but it’s hard to imag­ine a pub­lic road on which you could safely ap­proach the han­dling lim­its.

Which leaves the Coun­tach. Mar­cello Gan­dini’s wild styling has made it prob­a­bly the most fa­mous su­per­car of all time. This makes the mo­ment you fi­nally slide over that enor­mous sill and into the driver’s seat a ma­jor life event. It’s about meet­ing a hero – and you know what that can lead to. When I was about 12, I as­sumed the Coun­tach would be great to drive, just as I as­sumed Clint East­wood was per­fect. Now I know Clint and I might dis­agree and I’m ter­ri­fied the Coun­tach is go­ing to be a dis­ap­point­ment.

But those doors. Pulling the han­dle and send­ing one sky­wards is a child­ish thrill that prob­a­bly never gets old. We’ll ig­nore the fact you have to lim­bo­dance round them to gain en­try, be­cause once you’re in­side you reach up and slice them down again. Very sat­is­fy­ing. There is even less head­room than in the Tes­tarossa. The ped­als are gath­ered near the

Once on the move, you soon for­get the in­te­rior er­gonomics. It’s taut, but sup­ple. And of course, it goes like stink. The Testa’s flat-12 lay­out also means there’s much more space for cast alu­minium plenum cham­bers and in­let tracts that have an alien...

The 930 Turbo’s most ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ence from con­tem­po­rary 911s was its wider track – 1501mm com­pared to the stan­dard 1380mm – hid­den by sprawl­ing arches. This car also fea­tures brake-cool­ing vents (out of sight) in the front of each arch

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