Nostalgia, invariably, rescues even the most maligned of eras, but the excesses of the 1980s might preclude full rehab.
The television series Miami Vice is a case in point. Often referred to as “MTV cops”, it typified the “style-over-substance” aesthetic that predominated in the 1980s and gave the careworn tropes of the US television police procedural a ridiculously glossy makeover.
For those of you too young to remember it (first time around, anyway), the two lead characters, Crockett and Tubbs (Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas), swapped Popeye Doyle’s old mac for Armani suits (sleeves rolled up to the elbows), gritty urban funk for overblown FM rock and power ballads on the soundtrack (often by Phil Collins, who co-starred in one episode), and powerboats as a primary means of transport. Well, it was Miami.
Then there were the cars. Not for these guys the ploddy Ford Crown Victoria or Plymouth Fury that had been staples on every US television show or movie throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. Context for these guys was all, and the central characters’ high rolling undercover work made Miami Vice a prime port of call for petrolheads.
In the first two seasons, Crockett and Tubbs drove a black Ferrari Daytona Spider, though the verisimilitude for which producer Michael Mann (himself a huge Ferrari fan) would later become known was undermined by the fact that the car was actually a Corvette-based replica.
By season three, the show was such a huge global phenomenon that Ferrari agreed to supply two Testarossas, originally metallic black, but soon repainted white. These were used for static shots, specially prepared stunt cars standing in for the more hazardous chase scenes.
Now one of those cars is among the more intriguing lots at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale, Arizona auction. Described as ‘the Miami Vice hero car’, it’s an early mono specchio (single mirror) car, showing just 16,500 miles on the odometer, with full and fascinating documentation, including the original title from Universal Studios, a City of Miami permit, and a letter from Ferrari North America. It’s also had a full, recent engine-out service.
How much is it likely to make? Like all these things, it’s worth as much as someone is prepared to pay for it. In this case, not just for a beautiful car, but for a genuinely unique piece of pop cultural history.
The Scottsdale auction takes place between 14-22 January.