a classic car enthusiast who absolutely loves driving his cars, and, over the last two years, he’s covered over 3000km annually — the Ferrari appears to be relishing this regular running.
“When I got the Testarossa, it had been used just enough to keep all O-rings, seals, and gaskets moist or safe. But, during my initial test drive, the brakes were dodgy. It also needed a new cam belt, tensioner, and bearings. That all means engine out — and a full service.”
This major service included fitting a new twin-plate clutch, new air conditioner belts and a re-gas, 15 litres of Penrite High Zinc 10- 60 oil and filter, plus draining and refilling both radiators with inhibitors. More cosmetically, the car also required a new bonnet cable, replacement of a faulty electric window switch, new gas struts for the engine lid, and having the tyres properly balanced. Also, new brake pads were fitted along with rebuilt wheel cylinders. The total parts cost (of the Ferrari items) for this major service was $2799, plus 26.5 hours labour at $2120.
“To my mind,” Neil said, “This was within the realms of reasonableness for a major service and recommissioning of a 25-year-old Ferrari by a respected Ferrari agent.”
Neil reckons that there’s lots of controversy about Ferrari cam-belt changes, with mandatory replacement every three years irrespective of mileage, according to the handbook. However, many global Ferrari service experts say five years (or even more) is fine. Evidently, the real issue with cam belts relates to cars being stored unused for years with the belts stationary at full tension, which is when belt weaknesses can develop.
As Neil said, “So, it’s best to run the engine up regularly, even if just to warm the oils and move the belt around. Anyway, with the lowish and regular miles I do, the cam belt will be done every four years. The Auckland Ferrari agent, Continental Cars, has just done a ‘normal’ annual service, and the cost was around $800.”
only stability control is the bit of mush between the driver’s ears!”
Tractability is assured by the engine’s Bosch K-jetronic fuel injection, but cold gearbox oil triggers a common classic Ferrari complaint — and that means taking time to shift from the dog-leg first gear, across the gorgeous alloy gate, to second. However, if you warm the engine for a few minutes and allow some heat to seep into the gearbox, it thins the oil just enough to allow it to ooze past the ‘ blind’ slider shaft hole, which then lets second gear slip in easily.
“What astounds me is just how gentle and fussfree the Testarossa is to drive,” Neil explained. “Yes, the steering is a bit heavy at low speeds, but it’s fine on the move. The clutch engages smoothly, with a wide sweet spot, and engine torque means you can drop to 1000rpm and still pull away in fifth without complaint. The brakes have great feel and are strong even by modern standards. The car rides smoothly, and, at any cruising speed, it’s relatively quiet — and cruising is what is does so well. It’s stable at tremendous speeds without the help of wings and spoilers.” Continued on page 42 ...
The Ferrari Testarossa has always been a car which has sat high on my ‘cars I’d love to own one day’ list, but, alas, as their prices climbed higher and higher and continually outstripped my diminishing budget, the possibility of owning such a car became, in reality, nothing but a dream.
Then, when Neil Tolich was kind enough to suggest that I take his glorious, low-mileage Testarossa for a decent drive, my immediate thought was, ‘I hope it doesn’t disappoint’. After all, I have held these cars in such high esteem for so long that it was with a feeling of nervous trepidation, combined with a high level of excitement, that I accepted his generous invitation — and what a surprise it turned out to be.
Our route took us through a few of Auckland’s North Shore suburbs, before heading onto the motorway northbound towards Albany. Neil drove the first leg of the journey and was keen to point out how civilized this ultra-wide low-slung supercar could be, even while tackling Auckland’s less-than-favourable driving conditions. To be honest, Neil — who many of you will know from his Targa New Zealand and racetrack exploits — is an extremely competent and skilful driver, and he made piloting the Testarossa seem so easy, tootling along at highway speed while the air conditioning provided a comfortably cool cabin. In fact, I was beginning to feel convinced that it could be used as an everyday driver. What a thought!
Once off the main highway, we headed into some nice, winding back roads, where Neil was able to give me a brief insight into this car’s impressive handling characteristics at pace, leaving little doubt in my mind as to why the Ferrari Testarossa was undoubtedly the Lamborghini Countach’s greatest arch rival.
Then it was my turn to get behind the wheel. Finally, the time had come for me to drive one of my all-time favourite exotics — and what a feeling.
The first thing one must realize when driving classic cars — in this case, a 25-year-old exotic — is that they aren’t going to perform in a way that your modern daily-commuter will. These cars deserve respect, and, yes, they all have their idiosyncrasies and odd quirks, but only when you’ve reconciled that fact can you enjoy what the car has to offer.
In the case of the Testarossa, compared with the Countach, my initial impression was how smooth and docile the prancing horse was to drive. Dig the spurs in a little further, and the big boxer engine bursts into life effortlessly as the deeper reaches of the accelerator pedal’s travel are explored, providing enough performance to equal many of today’s performance cars.
As my skill levels pale into insignificance next to Neil’s, I wasn’t about to start throwing this incredible machine into corners with reckless abandon; instead, I opted for a more cautious approach — but this still provided me with ample feeling for the car. I had even forgotten about the Testarossa’s oft-noted width. The steering, while heavy, was extremely direct, and the level of comfort when pushing closer to the limit was a sensation that I wasn’t expecting. The beautifully upholstered leather seats were comfortable and supportive, and there was more than enough headroom for someone who’s 1.85m tall. As for the gear changes, forget what you may have read — the Testarossa’s gear lever moves fluently through the open-gate system, allied to a clutch that makes the process both seamless and effortless.
Once back at base, and with time to reflect on my experience of driving both the Testarossa and the Countach, I came to the conclusion that, despite the fact they both originated in the same era, these two supercars are, indeed, quite different to each other.
For better or worse, our world has certainly changed significantly since the ’80s — today’s roads are heavily congested, speed limits are more irregular, and people generally take a dim view whenever thirsty, fast cars are involved.
That said, I’d happily park a Testarossa in my garage.