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Friday, November 21, 2014

Hot Wheels and Matchbox Ferrari Testarossa and 512M

Each Ferrari model has its own unique styling and execution; however, that wasn't the case in the 1970 to early 1980's when almost all Ferrari models shared the same wedge-shape exterior.  Then the Testarossa came along and brought an end to that.

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The Red Head

Designed by Pinninfarina, the Testarossa takes a different step from the previous Berlinetta Boxer.  The Boxer has the 12 cylinder arrangement in a flat setup for lower center or gravity and better handling.  Problem is the radiator was at the front so the hot coolant passes through the passenger compartment and making the interior rather warm and uncomfortable.  The Testarossa uses the same 12 cylinder boxer motor with red valve covers (hence Testarossa, Italian for Red Head), but the radiators are now mounted to the sides of the engine at the rear.  This created a car with a wider rear end and more scoops from the side to the engine cover and to the rear valence panel to send cool air in and hot air out, all without affecting the interior.  This required a new design that while shares the same wedge profile, is much different with a smooth front with integrated foglights and signal lights, quad pop-up headlights, and side NACA ducts.  The engine cover has a higher central bulge to make room for the air cleaner and the taillights are hidden behind the rear valence panel.  Since air passes through the radiators passage there is no need for a rear spoiler.

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The engine is a 4.9L DOHC H-12 producing 390 hp. and 361 Ib-ft. torque through a rear 5-speed manual transaxle and can make 0-60 in 5.2 seconds.  The interior was simple, yet efficient with gauges behind the 3-spoke wheels and radio and HVAC controls closer to the driver.  The rest of the dash was flat and smooth just like the Lamborghini Countach or Lotus Esprit S1.  Luggage space was also improved.  The car ran from 1984 to 1990, then was replaced by the updated 512 TR, then followed by the 512M in 1994.  The latter has a smoother bumper similar to the 456 GT and the upcoming F50 and F355, exposed headlights, and rear quad taillights.  The interior has more content and features than the first Testarossa's.  The boxer 12 now makes 440 hp. and 380 Ib-ft. torque through the same 5-speed manual.  1996 would be the final year for the boxer 12 car as the return to the typical front-engine V-12 two seater in the 550 Maranello.

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The fine Matchbox

My first run with the Testarossa by Matchbox was the awful Tyco-era version in yellow with black zebra stripes.  Yuck!  So finding the original release in red with red metal base, prancing horse on the hood and sides, and the original 8-dot wheels.  The casting has some good lines from the front grille and lights, the side scoops, the vents on the rear trunk, and the rear panel with the detailed taillight lines.  The lower trim, rear taillight panel, and trunk vent is part of the interior piece.  Inside is not much, but does feature the typical seats and dash layout.  The base shows much of the flat 12 at the rear.  It's not that exciting, but it is rather wide (especially at the rear) and handles like a typical Ferrari, though it seems a bit slower than the typical Ferrari's that I review.  Last known whereabouts of this casting was in 2000.

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Two sides of Hot Wheels

Hot Wheels also released their Testarossa in 1987, around the same time for the Matchbox casting, also in red.  This version shown here comes in two variations of the black with tan interior and Ferrari logo's.  The first one has regular basic wheels and a lighter tan interior, while the other has gold lace wheels and a darker tan interior.  This version has the same metal base and body, taillight panel that is part of the interior, but is narrower and interestingly enough the metal base fills in the inner seat padding for a cool two-tone look!  Then Hot Wheels, rather quietly, released the 512 M later on.  The front-end has the revised bumper with new foglights, new hood scoops, and the new quad taillights that sit higher than the Testarossa's unit.  The interior eliminates the seat inserts of the Testarossa for a more contemporary setup.  While not as dimensionally correct as the Matchbox version, the Hot Wheels version wins with more variations over a longer lifespan and even including the evolution in the 512 M casting.

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