Ferrari lover Scott Chivers jumped at the idea of saving an exceedingly rough but rare Testarossa that had been converted into a roofless Spider, but he didn’t turn it over to a shop for a full restoration. He’s been bringing it back to life in his own garage, leaving the exterior rough to make what might be the only rat-style Ferrari on the road right now.
Ferrari only made one official Testarossa Spider, and it was a special commission for then-Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli. Chivers’ purchase was not that car. Rather, this one had been converted to look like that Testarossa Spider at some point in its life, which still made it an extremely rare find.
“It’s believed there are around 15 Testarossa Spiders that exist or were converted worldwide, making it a pretty rare [sight] to see,” Chivers told Jalopnik via email. “It’s also the car that many believe Ferrari really should have made and put into production.”
The Testarossa’s clean lines just look cool with no roof, and it reminded him of the drop-top Ferrari from the old Sega game Outrun, so Chivers plans to keep his that way.
“I also grew up in the 80s and the Sega game Outrun has a lot of responsibility for my obsession with Ferraris and supercars,” Chivers told us.
Chivers owns eight Ferraris including the “Ratarossa,” so he has more stock examples to drive if he so wishes, including a 360 Challenge Stradale that’s been his daily driver for eight years. He’s never been one to leave his cars as garage queens, though. For this build, though, Chivers told Jalopnik that he’s taking a page from the Volkswagen scene in embracing the “rat look:”
The plan with this project is to create a unique ‘Rat Look’ (VW Splitty/Bettle scene) Ferrari Testarossa Spider that is fully restored and mechanically perfect under the skin but externally a real unfinished bare bones warts and all look that will turn a few heads on the road and at the Ferrari events. It is being built solely by me in my garage using genuine factory parts being sourced wherever I find.
Chivers wants to make his Testarossa as mechanically sound as possible but leave the visible parts as scuzzy as they came. If there ever was a perfect antithesis to That Guy who never drives his Ferrari out of fear of getting bugs in the front grille, this is it.
He imported this Testarossa to his home in the U.K. from the United States a couple years ago, and it’s been a rolling restoration project ever since.
It isn’t his first Testarossa. In fact, Chivers told Jalopnik that he found the car three years ago while trying to find some replacement heat shielding for the rear engine lid of his 1990 Testarossa, which was a more standard example with a fixed roof and Ferrari’s signature bright red Rosso Corsa paint:
I jumped onto to web and tried to research the engine heat shielding that my coupe car was lacking. Then, very strangely, one of the first hits that my search brought up was this very unfinished Testarossa project across the pond, located in California (I’m based in the UK). Being the rather nuts guy I am the more I read this small advert about this Testarossa where someone had chopped the roof the more I fell in love with it.
The advertisement for the Testarossa Spider was about three years old by the time Chivers responded to it, but it hadn’t been marked as sold, so Chivers fired off an email to the seller.
When that didn’t work, he texted the guy, who then confirmed that the car was still for sale—it’d just been sitting around with no progress made to it. Chivers then called the seller to chat, noting that while it was likely worth more to part it out, he wanted to put the Testarossa Spider “back on the road where it rightfully belongs.” Hear, hear!
Chivers’ said his new project car arrived in pretty sad shape, as “literally a rolling empty shell with an engine and gearbox that had not been run or on the road for over 20 years, maybe even longer.”
The car didn’t have a floor, wheel arches, carpet or anything when it arrived. The Testarossa’s iconic side strakes were even missing.
Those side strakes were added back on in short order—in Rosso Corsa, because of course. The missing parts in the front end and interior were sourced and replaced as well.
But as Chivers got more and more into the build, he realized that he wanted to do something different with it, telling Jalopnik:
As mentioned I already owned some nice gleaming Ferraris and didn’t want to go the same route with the TR spider. Also because the roof had been chopped off this would never be a car for the Ferrari “purists” who want their cars exactly as they came from the Maranello factory. Part of the enjoyment of this project was that it didn’t have to be perfect being a “rat” look, so I just took my time and had fun with the build.
It did arrive with two huge wooden crates of spare parts, which helped kickstart the project somewhat. Chivers estimates that around 80 to 90 percent of the parts he ultimately used came with the car. Some were good to use, and others had to be refurbished first.
“I was like a kid again with a giant puzzle, figuring out where bits went and each time finding a small part and working out its location was like Christmas and very satisfying,” Chivers explained.
The first big project Chivers tackled was getting the 4.9-liter flat-12 Ferrari engine running again. The wiring harness was either missing or disconnected, so he had to sort that out in order to merely start it, and it hadn’t run in many years. Worse yet, as the Testarossa is now pushing 30 years old, Ferrari doesn’t stock many of the parts he needed.
Chivers explained that he had to get resourceful about finding parts he needed:
I had to source items from around the world wherever I could find them. It’s amazing with a little time what pops up on these auction sites around the world. For example, I picked up a brand new original dash in the correct brown color that my car [was] clothed in for £180 shipped. If Ferrari still made the part, the retail figure was over £5,000.
Some of his scores—like the dashboard—inspired him to refurb more of the car than he originally planned. He rejuvenated the rest of the dashboard and center console in that original brown to match his new dashboard as a result.
Some of his other interior refurbishments came courtesy of the original tan leather headliner, which came in the crates of parts with the car. Chivers fashioned several parts from this headliner, including the upper screen trim and the padding behind the seats.
Yet working on a limited-production 30-year-old car is always going to be tough, as there’s few specialists left in the world who are truly familiar with all the ins and outs of the Testarossa.
Chivers says his mechanic skills were mostly self-taught, with no formal background or training in wrenching on cars. He consulted YouTube and forums to learn as he went along just like the rest of us would with any other old car. A lengthy FerrariChat build thread for other owners and mechanics to chime in on was invaluable whenever he was stumped.
Having another Testarossa was a huge help as well for whenever he got stuck, as Chivers noted:
[F]or a while I still had my red Testarossa coupe so [I] was lucky enough to use that car as the blueprint to figure out where the majority of parts around the car were located, be it interior, engine, wiring—down to the correct little bolt.
Sometimes his problems were unique to the Spider he had, though. For one, there’s the problem that plagues most convertibles: rigidity. Steel bars were originally fabricated and welded into the Ratarossa’s midsection to prevent it from flexing, however, this added extra weight in the middle that caused the front end to lift.
To fix this front end lift, Chivers swapped the factory pre-set suspension system for coilovers, which had the added effect of lowering the factory stance somewhat. He had to work with a suspension company to get custom shocks and springs made to fit the car and went through three sets of springs to figure it out, but it worked.
“Other than the suspension I have tried hard to use mostly original parts and keep the car as genuine as possible,” Chivers told Jalopnik. “The ‘Ratarossa’ is quite an eco car in that many of the parts have been recycled.”
Occasionally he would come across a part that needed to be modified to work in Spider trim, such as the anchors for the original luggage straps that go behind the seats, and the safety belts. But for the most part, he’s kept things fairly stock.
People often look at Italian exotics as cars that can only be serviced by high-priced specialty shops, so it’s refreshing to see an owner take matters into their own hands and get a complete basket case of a Testarossa back in working order themselves. Believe it or not, Chivers says the car isn’t even that hard to work on, as it came in right before computers started to complicate things.
“Most people are scared off because these cars have a prancing horse badge on the bonnet, but in reality it’s just another car and even shares lots of similarity engine-wise to such things as a early Golf GTI,” Chivers explained.
Chivers even lived up to his promise to the car’s previous owner, as the Ratarossa is now road-legal (complete with custom “123 TR” plates), and is breaking necks all over England with a healthy dose of “what is that?!”
Even though it’s running and driving now, Chivers says it’s not done yet. It’s a constant work in progress, with projects being taken on as Chivers notices them or changes his mind. Eventually, he’d like to have some kind of roof so he can drive more freely in the unpredictable British weather, as currently it doesn’t have one.
He is staying with the goal of keeping it ratty on the outside but like new underneath, with the short-term goals of refurbishing the rear suspension and engine bay next.
The full FerrariChat build thread is here, and while you’ll have to register to view the photos, it’s worth the couple minutes to do so for this one. You can also keep up with Chivers’ build at Ratarossa.com, or on his Instagram here.
We’re featuring the coolest project cars from across the internet on Build of the Week. What insane build have you been wrenching on lately? Drop me a line at stef dot schrader at jalopnik dot com with “Build of the Week” somewhere in the subject line if you’d like to be featured here.