What Car Does Ferris Bueller Drive: The Real Story

June 9, 2024

The film "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off," a beloved 1986 comedy, prominently featured a striking car that many believed to be a classic Ferrari. However, the car in question was not an authentic 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder but rather replicas ingeniously crafted to play the part.

Replicas Used in the Movie

In the movie, three cars were used, all designed to replicate the '61 Ferrari GT. Filmmakers decided on using replicas instead of the real model due to the extreme rarity and value of an authentic 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California, which can fetch prices up to $18.5 million at auction.

Creative Decision for Car Choice

Originally, a Mercedes was under consideration, but director John Hughes chose the Ferrari GT replica after being inspired by a magazine feature. The replicas were meticulously crafted by Neil Glassmoyer and Mark Goyette of Modena Design and Development.

Destruction Scene

A notable scene involves one of these replicas crashing through a window, falling dramatically to its destruction. This particular car was a non-functional fiberglass shell constructed specifically for this purpose.

Jump Scene

The famous jump scene took a toll on another replica, which sustained considerable damage. Remarkably, it was later repaired and went on to sell at auction for $122,000 in 2010.

Technical Specifications of the Replica

These replicas, known as GT Spyder Californias, were not merely superficial copies but had significant modifications:

  • A 1974 302 c.i.d. Ford V-8 engine paired with an automatic transmission, likely chosen because Matthew Broderick couldn’t drive a manual.
  • The car featured a fiberglass shell on a custom tube frame, incorporating parts from various car models to closely mimic an actual Ferrari.
  • Components included torsion bar suspension, Mustang A-arms, a solid Mustang rear axle, a Fiat Spider 124 windshield, VW Type 3 taillights, and a Jaguar E-Type speedometer.

"Ferrari F430 Spider" by Simon Lieschke is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/.

Rarity and Legal Issues

Rarity of the Real Ferrari 250 GT California

Given the extreme rarity—only 56 units of the 1961 model were ever made—and high auction values of real Ferrari 250 GT Californias, the use of replicas was a practical choice for filmmakers.

Legal Issues

Modena Design & Development faced legal troubles for adding Ferrari badges to their replicas without Ferrari's permission. This led to a trademark lawsuit from Ferrari, which ultimately caused Modena Design to cease operations due to overwhelming legal fees.

"ferrari" by altotemi is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/.

Cult Following and Auction History

Despite their artificial origins, these replicas have garnered a significant cult following since the movie's release. Their appeal has not waned over the years, evidenced by high auction prices and global interest from collectors and car enthusiasts. For example, another movie-used replica, now a non-functional but well-preserved display piece, sold for $377,000 at a recent auction.

Ownership and Legacy

After their scenes were immortalized on screen, the replicas transitioned to private ownership, often changing hands at notable auctions. Their blend of cinematic history and classic car appeal cements their status as valuable collector's items. These replicas, though not genuine Ferraris, continue to be celebrated for their place in pop culture.

"FERRARI LaFERRARI" by Eddy Clio is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/.

The story of the Ferrari replicas in "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" serves as a unique intersection of film history and automotive culture, highlighting how even replicated icons can achieve legendary status.

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