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This Is The Story Behind The Ferrari Testarossa In ‘Miami Vice’

To save money, the white Testarossa in the TV show was once a replica 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 built on the chassis of a Chevy Corvette.

There were several iconic television series in the 1980s, but none advertised a city, its sexy lifestyle and vibe better than Miami Vice. Producers perfectly cast Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas as the slick, charming detectives that worked undercover in a city that occasionally seemed too fascinating to be real. Everything about Miami Vice was too cool for TV, and unsurprisingly, the series popularized various trends. Remember the Ray-Ban Wayfarer and the pastel-colored suits and shirts?

But it wasn’t just the fashion that was appealing in this series. In fact, producers created a cinematic vision of Miami for the series, and they chose everything from the boats to the interior decor to the cars with great care. When it came to automobiles, none was more impressive than the “cocaine white” 1986 Ferrari Testarossa driven by James “Sonny” Crockett.

Miami Vice fans will remember that Crockett got the car from Detective Lieutenant Martin “Marty” Castillo. After the destruction of Crockett’s Daytona Spyder, the detective had to drive unimpressive vehicles until he received the Ferrari Testarossa from his boss. Simply put, this has to be the best employee gift of the century. To be sure, the Ferrari’s storyline in the movie is pretty cool, but the reality beats the cinematic reality and the movie. The story of how the Testarossa ended up in the iconic television series is even more impressive.

The Replica Ferrari And The Lawsuit That Got The Testarossa In The Movie
White 1986 Ferrari Testarossa – Miami ViceVia: Barrett-Jackson
Hard to believe, but initially production didn’t choose the white Testarossa, and they went with a replica 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 built on the chassis of a Chevrolet Corvette (C3), according to Rosso Automobili.

The crew hired McBurnie Coachcraft to fit the Corvette with Ferrari-shaped body panels. The reason behind this move is understandable, considering how expensive Ferrari cars were, even back then. While product placement in movies and TV shows was a successful marketing strategy even back in the 1980s, no one wanted to risk trashing a real Ferrari while filming Miami Vice. Let’s not forget that the budget for filming a TV series in the 1980s was far lower than now, so using Ferrari cars could prove an expensive endeavor.

Just to put things into perspective, Miami Vice had a budget of about $1.3 million per episode that had to cover the salaries of the actors, soundtrack, costumes, and settings. Today, TV shows have insane budgets. The first Game of Thrones (Season 1) had a budget of $6 million for an episode, while the House of the Dragon cost a staggering $20 million per episode. Meanwhile, Stranger Things Season 4, reached $30 million for an episode and.

The Big Bang Theory, Season 11, which featured no special effects, dragons, or flying objects came in at around $10 million per episode, according to BuzzFeed. Unfortunately for Miami Vice, the strategy of using a replica backfired horrendously. Enzo Ferrari was furious, and he pursued Ferrari to file a lawsuit against the show, demanding that they stop misrepresenting the Italian brand and kill production. As you know, the United States treats trademark infringement seriously, so the crew had to comply.

But they didn’t do it on the spot and in the third season, Miami Vice made another mistake when they destroyed “an empty Daytona body shell during an action sequence,” as per Rosso Automobili. Luckily, the Italian automaker found a way to work with the Miami Vice crew and agreed to donate two Testarossa Monospecchios for production that were then painted white.

“I proposed that they let us use the new Testarossa and that I needed it in white to fit in with the Miami palette and that I needed two,” Miami Vice producer Michael Mann told The Hollywood Reporter. “One was dedicated for dialogue scenes, the other for stunt work. They were pleased to do it.”

During his talk with The Hollywood Reporter, Mann also pointed out that he was a huge Ferrari fan. Basically, he never wanted to disrespect the Italian automaker, but wanted to protect the beautiful cars. “I would never beat up a real Ferrari Daytona in the grueling stunt work involved in filmmaking,” said Mann. “That’s why we used the Corvette-based, fiberglass-bodied replica in Seasons 1 and 2.”

This Is What Made The Testarossa Special

The 1986 model of the Testarossa made for the U.S. market came equipped with a 4.9-liter 12-cylinder engine that generated 380 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. The engine helped the Testarossa reach the top speed of 180 miles per hour and race from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 6.1 seconds.

Definitely, an impressive performance considering that this was a giant that weighed 3,700 lbs. HotCars contributor Tijo Tenson mentions the various Easter eggs that came with the Testarossa, like the hidden door handles and bendable key. Tenson also raves about “those gorgeous pop-up headlamps,” the driving dynamics and the comfortable cabin.


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