A Closer Look at the 1991 Ferrari Testarossa 512 TR
Initially intended to serve as a replacement for the well-acclaimed Berlinetta Boxer, the Ferrari Testarossa, which was introduced in 1984, slowly became a cornerstone of the retro culture that was popular in the 80’s. The vehicle, given its premium interior and quite radical design, closely compared to other sports cars built by the company. The coupe soldiered on as an icon until 1991, when Ferrari thought it wise to replace it with the 512 TR.
Even though the car was presented as new, Ferrari was keen to ensure that the 512 TR still maintained Testarossa’s design and the flat-12 power plant. Obviously, better machinery ensured that the 512 TR was more powerful and quicker than its predecessor, while reversed weight distribution made it stable under full throttle. The 512 TR was quite short-lived if you compare it to its predecessor. The car was only produced for about three years while the Testarossa soldiered through the market for about seven years. Consequently, the 512 TR was built in considerably fewer amounts: only 2261 vehicles had left the factory by 1994. Even though these numbers ensure that the 512 TR is rather scarce as compared to the earlier Testarossa – which had about seven thousand units produced – the 512 TR is not the rarest vehicle among the Testarossa’s.
Ferrari chose to retain most of Testarossa’s exterior characteristics such as the side strakes, the fenders, and the trademark wide rear track. In the front, Ferrari only altered the bumper and the fascia while leaving the pop-up headlights and the trunk lid rather unchanged. However, below them, the TR was featured with new headlamps with a redesigned grille and clear turn signals: the front grille had chrome slats placed in between. Additionally, the bumper, which had a black lower element, was substituted by vents under each of the headlamps. The vents had no character lines on either side.
The 512 TR on the sides, remained unchanged moving towards the C-Pillar, save for the updated five-spoke wheels and the body-colored skirts. Changes, however, became quite obvious towards the rear part – removing the short deck lid on its predecessor. Additionally, Ferrari opted to change both the bumper and the rear section of the fenders by making the bumpers a bit thicker. On the rear side, most changes were only limited to a reshaped bumper and new exhaust pipes with a grille in between them. The vehicle also got a 512 TR badge, while the Ferrari symbol on the deck was moved towards the fascia. Also, the engine hood gained an improvement which included a body-colored deck lid and black painted inner panels. The car’s dimensions remained similar since the new body was only about 0.2 inches shorter. Moreover, the 512 TR sat about 0.2 inches lower given its revised suspension.
The 512 TR’s interior also gained some improved on its interior with numerous design characteristics being updated to suit early 90’s standards. Even though the dashboard maintained its previous size and shape, Ferrari chose to drop the wraparound design feature and added some A/C ventilation below the stereo. The steering wheel took a modern design while the instrument cluster got some new light indicators and dials. It can be argued that the most significant alteration was adding the new console right below the dashboard. This new element integrated a three-gauge cluster, the steering column and did not include the vehicle’s old fashioned cassette rack. The console in the middle was revised to fit a cleaner design and moved a few centimeters towards the backside. However, the shiftier retained its previous position: on the console’s left side. The seats were redesigned to improve comfort. Other less significant alterations included a new handbrake lever, new door panels, reshaped A-pillars, and an updated audio system.
The flat 12 4.9 liter engine was greatly changed for the TR. The unit featured Nikasil liners, a better air intake system, larger intake valves, Bosch management system, and a new and better exhaust system. Consequently, the vehicle’s output improved to about 428 horsepower and approximately 362 pounds of torque – more than forty horsepower improvement over the predecessor. The Testarossa took about 5.2 seconds to move from zero to sixty while the new 512 TR only took about 4.8 seconds. The top speed was improved from 180 miles per hour to 195 mph.
The engine was well manufactured to mate well with an updated version of the company’s five-speed gear lever with sliding ball bearings and a single plate clutch for easier and more efficient gear shifting. The position of the gearbox and the engine was changed thus giving the TR a better weight distribution index of 41/59 percent – which ultimately resulted in easier handling.
More chassis improvements included bigger 14-inch brake rotors and cross drilling, lower-profile tires, quicker steering, and a revised suspension system.
The 512 TR, at launch, was priced at about 131,000 British pounds in the U.K and about 212,000 US dollars in the U.S – this represented a significant premium over the initial Testarossa. The predecessor was launched at 94,000 US dollars in the US but soared to over 150,000 US dollars by the end of production. More or less like its predecessor, the 512’s value reduced on the second-hand car market in the years that followed with most of them selling for a figure less than 100,000 US dollars. However, the TR has gained more value recently and low mileage examples have been sold for over 100,000 US dollars. The priciest model changed owners at an auction for 187,000 US dollars in 2014: the car came with about three thousand miles on the move, original documents, window stickers, and tools.
Even though Ferrari made a huge fuss about how the TR was a new model, most enthusiasts only considered it to be a face lift to the original Testarossa. Still, its significant importance to the company’s lineup cannot be denied: given that it was among the last machines to use Ferrari’s flat 12 power plant.