We Drove a Trio of Classic Ferraris, and Now They’re up for Grabs

On June 8, Monaco Car Auctions will hold the second of its Ferrari-only “L’Astarossa” sales by means of both an in-person event in the Principality and online. Last year’s top-seller was Fernando Alonso’s personal Ferrari Enzo, chassis No.1, which fetched €5.4 million (roughly $5.86 million). This year’s auction will feature 32 cars and will again feature only one example of each major model iteration represented. The Ferrari Testarossa, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, is a particular focus, with all five versions of the iconic 1980s supercar crossing the block.

We were given exclusive driving access to the vehicles already consigned, and chose the following three—at very different price points—as our top picks of the sale.

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1965 Ferrari 275 GTS (estimated at about $1.62 million to $1.95 million)

A 1965 Ferrari 275 GTS.
The Pininfarina-bodied 1965 Ferrari 275 GTS on offer.

Your perception of the Ferrari 275 GTS will flip twice, should you be lucky enough to get behind the wheel. As you first approach it, Pininfarina’s dolce vita–inspired bodywork leads you to expect a lithe, light driving experience from this roadster. But then you climb in, notice the speedometer calibrated to 300 km/h, feel the almost truck-like weight of the clutch, and remember that the 3.2-liter Colombo V-12 engine ahead of you was also the one that powered the Ferrari Formula 1 cars of the day, as well as some of its greatest (and most valuable) sports-racers, such as the original 1957 Testarossa and the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO.

Driving a 1965 Ferrari 275 GTS.
At speed, the 275 GTS is remarkably docile and tractable.

Admiration quickly transitions to mild trepidation as that mighty mill fires up instantly with a glorious, multi-cylindric thrash. Your first few yards behind the wheel deliver a far more physical experience than the car’s delicate appearance suggests, with the vehicle’s steering requiring real muscle at low speed and a classic Ferrari open-gate gear change which calls for a confident hand.

The 3.2-liter Colombo V-12 engine under the hood of a 1965 Ferrari 275 GTS.
Under the hood is a 3.2-liter Colombo V-12 engine.

Yet the engine is detuned very slightly, compared to the 275 GTB coupe, to produce the more relaxed manners favored by roadster customers. The GTS is remarkably docile and tractable, and you won’t embarrass yourself by stalling it in Monaco’s Casino Square. Interestingly, there are two grooves cut out of sight into that gear-lever to nestle your fingers into when shifting: the extra grip is useful.

Like most other early, manual Ferraris, once the GTS is up to cruising speed, those heavy control weights lighten and resolve to produce a car which you can drive surprisingly quickly and confidently given its age and value. It’s not long before you forget both and just revel in the privilege of being able to pilot that work-of-art bodywork through the scenery, and fully extend the mechanical masterpiece of an engine which it clothes. You might sometimes wonder if multimillion dollar classics can justify their valuations: drive one as good as this and you’ll be in no doubt.

1985 Ferrari Testarossa Monospecchio (estimated at about $163,000 to $195,500)

A 1985 Ferrari Testarossa Monospecchio.
This 1985 Ferrari Testarossa Monospecchio is the first of five versions of the model.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Ferrari Testarossa, the supercar which came to define not only 1980s car design, but the decade as a whole. To celebrate, Monaco Car Auctions will offer five examples of the Testarossa, each representing a different stage in its 12-year lifespan. This 1985 Monospecchio (“single mirror”) example is the earliest. While arguably not the best version to drive, it’s the poster car of the model that many young enthusiasts of the day had hanging on their walls. And rightly so, as it’s the purest expression of that crazy shape.

Four decades later, those mad side strakes, the broad, rising hipline, and the massively wide, square rear end have an undiminished visual impact, enhanced in the case of this early example by the weird asymmetry of that long, high, single door mirror and the offset air intake in the chin, both later replaced.

A 1985 Ferrari Testarossa Monospecchio.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Ferrari Testarossa.

You reach deep into those side strakes to locate the door handle and open it to find that most of Pininfarina’s visual creativity was expended on the exterior, the cabin being mainly assembled from plain black slabs of plastic and leather. The ergonomics are odd too. The pedals are offset massively to the right, the steering wheel is angled away from you, and even if you are under six feet tall, your head might still brush the roof.

As with the 275 GTS, the control weights are extremely heavy, and the manual, open-gate five-speed gearbox is actually trickier to operate in this younger car. But similar to the GTS, it all coheres at speed, and you can (almost) forget that you’re driving something a whole foot wider than a contemporary Porsche 911. That sensational 4.9-liter, 385 hp flat-12 engine sounds symphonic and still feels properly fast by modern standards, especially when it hits its stride above around 5,000 rpm.

A close-up of the gated gear shifter in a 1985 Ferrari Testarossa Monospecchio.
We found that the Testarossa’s open-gate gearbox is actually trickier to operate than that of the 1965 Ferrari 275 GTS.

The chassis (and the brakes) are not as scalpel-sharp as the car’s looks would suggest: the Testarossa is really more of a grand tourer. But you soon get into a rhythm with the machine, going cautiously into corners but hard and fast out. And again, as with the 275 GTS, you revel in the fact that after decades of lusting, at last it’s your turn to give movement to this iconic shape.

1998 Ferrari 456M GT (estimated at about $81,500 to $108,500)

A 1998 Ferrari 456M GT.
Soon to cross the auction block, this 1998 Ferrari 456M GT has close to 37,300 miles on it.

There are few auction lots at the upcoming sale with estimates starting in five figures, but this gorgeous four-seat grand tourer is one of them, and its growing “modern-classic” status offers plenty of upside. The Pininfarina styling was acclaimed when first revealed in 1992 and is aging beautifully. The 456 model was the last Ferrari to feature pop-up headlamps, and it marries that classic and now-vanished sports-car aesthetic to modern and spacious accommodation. Just don’t dent the hood that those lamps pop up from: it’s a gigantic single piece of carbon fiber, and Ferrari no longer produces spares.

This example is the version to have: the 456M (the “M” for “Modificata”) from 1998. It features a series of detail improvements over the first iteration and, in this case, the more desirable manual gearbox. With 60,000 km (nearly 37,300 miles) on the odometer, this car may have been used, as intended, to cross continents: the “crema” Conolly hide shows some patina commensurate with use, but the seats are still ultra-firm with no signs of sag.

The interior of a 1998 Ferrari 456M GT.
Some patina on the Conolly upholstery is the only sign of aging that these seats present.

Put the tiny key in the ignition and the 436 hp, 5.5-liter V-12 leaps to life with a sonorous, cultured “woofle.” There are clear echoes of the 275 GTS and Testarossa here: the clutch is heavy and the gearchange physical and deliberate. The 456 is worth the estimate for the pop-up lamps and that open-gate gearbox alone. The latter, once a Ferrari hallmark, is now a thing of the past. With its long lever—topped with a massive aluminum ball—and a precise, positive action, this was one of the best.

A 1998 Ferrari 456M GT.
Pininfarina’s styling on this model was acclaimed when first revealed in 1992, and it’s aging beautifully.

As with the 275 and Testarossa, once the 456 is on the move, those heavy controls lighten and cohere. The 456 is a big car, but it seems to shrink around you. This example has been well-driven but also well-maintained: it’s not hard to imagine that it rides and steers as sweetly and fluently as when new. You can just as easily use it now for its intended purpose back then: driving from the office in Geneva to the yacht in Monaco for the weekend, in the greatest comfort and at the maximum pace.

Click here for more photos of these three classic Ferraris.

The steering wheel and dashboard of a 1965 Ferrari 275 GTS.
The steering wheel and dashboard of a 1965 Ferrari 275 GTS.

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