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The Truth About the Ferrari From “Ferris Bueller’s Day’s Off” Flickr: 7th Street Theatre
Flickr: 7th Street Theatre

Quick show of hands: How many people have seen the enduring John Hughes film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?

If you haven’t seen it, and you identify as somewhat of a gearhead, the time has come for you to check your streaming media sources for this classic film about a classic car.

Why Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Is the Ultimate Car Movie

This 1986 film from director John Hughes tells the tale of a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT that is living its very best life in Chicago, Illinois. This low-mileage, high-horsepower classic car is strategically stored in a glass-walled, temperature-controlled altar of a garage, until one day, when the titular character Ferris Bueller, played by Matthew Broderick, makes a series of choices that lead to tragedy for the sports car. No spoilers, but let’s just say any good Ferrari enthusiast is going to need a few hankies to get through this one.

But, if there’s one fact you need to know about Cameron’s dad’s prized Ferrari, it’s that it wasn’t an actual Ferrari. Hughes had almost decided on using a Mercedes, but fell in love with a replica of the prized ’61 model — a model created by Neil Glassmoyer and Mark Goyette at Modena Design and Development. This model was dubbed the “GT Spyder California,” and several of them were created for the film. The one in the car’s final tragic odometer scene (we said no spoilers!) doesn’t even have any engine. It’s just a fiberglass shell.

So, with that tragic tidbit cleared up…let’s take a look behind the scenes with the Ferris Bueller Ferrari!

Faux Ferrari? No Problem.

If you’re a sports car purist, it might be a little heartbreaking to know that Ferris and Co. didn’t actually tool around Chicago in a real Ferrari. But, let’s be honest with ourselves: There are only 56 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Californias in the whole wide world. Regardless of the movie’s plot and grand finale, no one in their right mind is going to let a group of teenage actors drive their incredibly rare collector car. Period.

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Enter the Modena GT Spyder California. It stands in well for a Ferrari — to the point where the real Ferrari company sued Modena Design, ultimately putting founder Neil Glassmoyer and Mark Goyette out of business thanks to legal fees. But, the only thing about this car that fits the Ferrari marque is the badging that got Glassmoyer and Goyette in trouble in the first place.

What Makes a Spyder California?

While Hughes and his crew were able to take a few close-up shots of actual Ferraris, Modena produced three replica movie cars. One, as mentioned, was just a shell.

But the drivable version is what really deserves a double take. Remember, Modena Designs made this car up. So, while the real Ferrari 250 GT California has a V12 engine, the Frye’s version is equipped with a 302-cu.in Ford V8 engine dating back to 1974, along with a C-4 automatic transmission. Matthew Broderick couldn’t drive a manual transmission, you see.

The Ferrari replica took many of its parts from real-live sports cars, including A-arms and rear axle from a Ford Mustang, a Fiat Spider’s windshield, the speedometer of a Jaguar E-Type, and the trunk lid of an MGB. Volkswagen brings up the rear, with a Karmann Ghia bumper and Type 3 taillights.

This version of the Modena GT Spyder California was apparently heavily damaged in the parking lot attendant’s “jump” sequence, but appeared some years later, patched up and ready for London auction in 2010.

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The Ferris Bueller Ferrari Today

Interestingly enough, the Modena GT Spyder California came up for auction in January 2020, at a Scottsdale event. Besides being a significant piece of Hollywood memorabilia, Neil Glassmoyer himself stepped up to make it 2020-ready with a few significant updates.

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That includes a new 427 cubic-inch V8 engine with the correct five speed manual transmission, Bluetooth connectivity, Blaupunkt amps, along with QA1 adjustable coilovers, independent suspension, and custom-crafted 16-inch chrome wire wheels. There has been no confirmation on whether this version would fare better in the “jump” sequence.

Final price at the 2020 auction: $396,000.

Compared to the typical $11-17 million price tag on an actual 1961 Ferrari California, that seems to be a bit of a bargain. Should it come up for auction again in the near future, this is definitely a car to keep your eyes on. Just read up on how an odometer works before you take it home. No spoilers!

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