It’s one of the most iconic movie cars of all time. Appropriately enough, and like much of what comes out of Hollywood, it isn’t real. In fact, the “fake Ferrari” in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has as much in common with Frankenstein’s monster as it does with Enzo.On the heels of the Historic Vehicle Association’s four-part documentary about the world-altering Ford Model T (which is now available as a full 23-minute production), the HVA has released its first text-based, story-telling Up Close video about a vehicle in the National Historic Vehicle Register, the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California … which isn’t a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California at all. It’s a 1985 Modena Spyder made to look like a 250GT. And oh, does it ever.
Ferris Bueller director John Hughes wanted an expensive sports car to be used in the film and gravitated to the Modena Spyder because it was far cheaper than the Ferrari it replicated. (A ’61 250 GT California Spider sold for $17 million at auction in 2016, so you can see why Hughes didn’t want to roll the dice with an actual 250 GT.)
Built by Modena Design and Development in El Cajon, California, and leased to Paramount Pictures, the car has a steel tubular frame and fiberglass body and is a conglomeration of a wide variety of cars. Starting with an ’85 Modena Spyder, the “Ferrari” is powered by a 302-cubic-inch Ford V-8 engine, which is mated to a C-4 automatic transmission—automatic because actor Matthew Broderick, who played Ferris, couldn’t drive a stick. It also has torsion-bar suspension in the front and rear.
Other Frankenstein additions include a windshield from a Fiat 124 Spider, taillights from a Volkswagen Type 3, speedometer from a Jaguar E-Type, front bumper and trunklid from an MG MGB, and a rear bumper from a VW Karmann-Ghia.
The “Ferrari” was sold to its first private owner in San Francisco and later ended up in the UK. It has since been restored to its exact movie specs.
Keep watching the HVA’s Up Close series; new videos are released every Wednesday. We’ll keep you posted about new episodes, and you can also stay in the loop by following the HVA on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube.