Written by Marqued Staff, Photography by Shayan Bokaie
Dec 16, 2022
There are eye-catching cars, and then there are eye-popping cars. The Ferrari Testa d’Oro you see here is, well, both. A whimsical expression of design by industrial designer Luigi Colani, the Testa d'Oro appears to be an object from an alternate reality at first glance.
The Testa d’Oro, which Colani built in the early 1990s to chase the land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats fell off the radar nearly ten years ago before being rediscovered by the team at Morton Street Partners (MSP) earlier this year. MSP (previously featured on Marqued here) is an automotive advisory for collectible automobiles, specializing in one-offs, design studies, and concept cars based in NYC.
“There are designers and then there are world-builders. Colani was definitely a world builder." explains Jake Auerbach, Founding Partner of Morton Street Partners. "Taken individually, his designs seem like something out of a fever dream or psychedelic trip. But when you include the full body of his work, not just the cars but the fashion, interiors, and everyday objects, you see a cohesive vision that was about much more than just the aesthetics of his designs.”
Colani’s signature ‘biodynamic’ designs demonstrate his reverence for organic shapes in nature - rarely a straight line, and always a curve. The Testa d’Oro is one of the finest examples of Colani’s aerodynamic expressionism. It started life as a Ferrari Testarossa before Colani took his carving knife to it, applying an elongated, stripstream body and protruding features.
It was his vision of the future and philosophy on design, life, the world around us, and how we could improve it.
The flat-12 engine was dialed up to 750 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque by Lotec, the German tuning house, who also added twin turbo chargers. Peeking through the engine cover, you’ll notice its gold camshaft covers and thermal insulation which were applied to protect the engine at high operating temperatures. This is also where the car received its name, Testa d’Oro, or ‘head of gold’ in Italian.
Colani ultimately brought the car to Bonneville, where the Testa d’Oro achieved a top speed record for a car with a catalytic converter. Its legacy today, though, is much more than a land speed car," according to Tom Hale, Founding Partner of Morton Street Partners.
“The contextual ability to agree with Colani’s mind can be found in 1971 when he published his manifesto, Ylem (the title itself was a reference to a term from quantum physics referring to the substance from which all matter originated)," says Hale. "It was his vision of the future and philosophy on design, life, the world around us, and how we could improve it. Carefully written down during a two-month flow of thought, it was there that, in my mind at least, his head stayed permanently until his death in 2019. He proudly refused to let anything compromise the world of Colani design."
"This is why things like the purpose-built Testa d’Oro are so important, so original, so majestic in their blindingly determined vision. They are fantastical alternate realities that Colani actually brought into our world. And hey, this one broke records! The fact that it’s an important piece of Ferrari history as well, that it has a totally insane Lotec twin-turbo Testarossa 12 propelling it across the salt flats of the early ‘90s...could it literally get better than that for the biodynamic future we were promised? Or 1971? Or 2022? This is what we want to reintroduce to the world. It’s here. It’s now."
It's cars like this that can excite a new trend in the ever-evolving world of collector cars. A long-forgotten but significant piece of automotive history like the Testa d’Oro can shift the collecting world’s focus to the entire world of Luigi Colani - and not just his cars - while serving as a welcome reminder that incredible cars that you might have never heard of are still out there.
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