Movie Cars: Five Facts About That Ferrari in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

Spoiler Alert: They didn’t wreck a real Ferrari

If you’re a movie junkie, 1986 was a very good year. We cried when Goose died in Top Gun, we cried alongside Gordie in Stand By Me, and car enthusiasts everywhere were inconsolable when that 1961 Ferrari GT skidded off the jack, crashed through a window, and plummeted to its death in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But fret not, no Ferraris were harmed in the making of this film! In fact, it might surprise you to learn that no Ferraris were used at all.

Here are some interesting facts about the cars used in the movie, and the Ferrari GT they were based on.

1. Three cars were used in the movie, and they were all replicas.

Writer and director John Hughes had originally planned for the car to be a Mercedes until he came across a replica of the ’61 Ferrari GT in a magazine. The replica model was called the GT Spyder California, built by Neil Glassmoyer and Mark Goyette at Modena Design and Development.

And the “Ferrari” that flew out the window to its death? It didn’t even run. Glassmoyer and Goyette built a fiberglass shell specifically for the purpose of being destroyed for that scene.

2. The replica used in the jump scene was heavily damaged during filming, but later repaired.

If you’ve seen the movie, it’s almost guaranteed that you remember the scene. The Star Wars theme is playing in the background as the valets speed down Greenview Street and take the prized Ferrari airborne. The “jump scene,” as it’s come to be known, caused significant damage to the replica, which was thought to have been lost. But it resurfaced fully repaired, years later, and in 2010 it was auctioned in London for $122,000.

3. Even though it wasn’t a real Ferrari, the specs of the replica were incredible.

The GT Spyder featured a 1974 302 c.i.d. Ford V-8, C-4 automatic transmission. It’s rumored that Glassmoyer and Goyette built the car with an automatic transmission because Matthew Broderick didn’t know how to drive a standard. The front-engine, rear-wheel drive sports car was designed by Bob Webb and built with a fiberglass convertible shell on a custom tube-frame by David Turley. You may recognize Bob Webb’s name — he worked on the Zerex Special driven by Roger Penske and Bruce McLaren.

The drivable replica was designed to function as a high-performing sports car, and the designers sourced parts from several different cars to create the strongest possible resemblance to an actual Ferrari. It featured torsion bar suspension in both the front and rear, adapted to Ford Mustang A-arms at the front, and a Ford Mustang solid rear axle. The windshield was sourced from a Fiat Spider 124 and the taillights came from a VW Type 3. The movie has several closeups of the speedometer, which was sourced from a Jaguar E-Type.

4. The real Ferrari 250 GT California is extremely rare.

There’s a good reason why the studio used replicas. There were only 56 of the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California ever made. Destroying what amounts to a priceless piece of automotive history would not only have cost millions of dollars, but it likely would have angered everyone at Ferrari in addition to car enthusiasts the world over. For reference, a real 250 GT California was auctioned in 2016 for $17 million, and another sold for a record $18.5 million in 2015. Even adjusting for 1986 inflation, it’s easy to see why a fiberglass shell was much more palatable for the  studio budget and everyone who respects amazing cars.

5. Ferrari sued Modena Design & Development.

To make it realistic, Modena Design put Ferrari badges on their replicas. The problem? They did it without securing the rights from the automaker. Not surprisingly for a company as protective of their branding as Ferrari, a lawsuit citing trademark design issues was promptly brought against Modena Design. Glassmoyer and Goyetter were quickly put out of business due to the legal fees that piled up during litigation. 

The “Ferris Bueller” “Ferrari” has developed a cult following in the 30+ years since the movie debuted. It’s one of the most recognizable cars in the world, and even the replicas have been sold at auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Enthusiasts around the world have drooled over the Ferrari model, and wealthy collectors have paid record amounts to own such a significant piece of not only car history, but American cultural history.