The True Story Behind Ferris Bueller's Ferrari

Credit: Everett Collection

Every decade has its one defining year in movies: 1939 had Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, and a handful of other films that usually sit near the top of best-ever lists; some might say 1967, with Bonnie And Clyde, The Graduate, Valley of the Dolls, In The Heat Of The Night, and a handful of French and Japanese films; as for the 1970s, that's a whole discussion in itself. For my money, 1986 rules its decade, with Top Gun, Labyrinth, Stand by Me, Big Trouble in Little China, The Transformers, Rodney Dangerfield going back to school, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, and Keanu Reeves playing hockey in Youngblood, and, of course, Ferris Bueller taking the day off of school, which happened 30 years ago this month. 

There's a lot that's being written about John Hughes' love letter to the city of Chicago and the last of his teen trilogy of films that he wrote, produced, and directed along with Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, but give me a minute to pay tribute to one of the best characters in the entire film: Cameron's dad's 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder. It is easily one of the sweetest cars in film history, along with Marty McFly's DeLorean and Steve McQueen's Mustang. The only thing is that it was actually never a Ferrari. In fact, the script called for a Mercedes. Thankfully that didn't happen. 

Mark Goyette and Neil Glassmoyer, a couple of car enthusiasts with design and architecture backgrounds, designed a replica of the Ferrari 250 GT California, a "Modena Spyder," in hopes that somebody would come around and buy it. They got a little more than they bargained for when somebody at Paramount Pictures saw a shot of the car, and the studio reached out to the duo to lease them the one they'd already built, and asked them to build and sell two more to Paramount. Goyette and Glassmoyer, smelling a big payday, agreed. The only issue was they had less than two months to deliver the cars. They had a lot of work to do in a short window of time. They rented out a space and got to work. 

So three fake Ferraris rolled up in Chicago, but only two made it out alive. Their fates? One of the two the studio purchased hardly worked, so that one took the famous leap out the glass window and onto the forest ground, inevitably ending up in the saddest car graveyard of them all: the ceiling of the Planet Hollywood in Minneapolis. Another, powered by a Ford motor, sold for auction in 2010 for $115,110, so that just leaves the third, the leased one. What happened to it? 

According to David Traver Adolphus of Road and Track, who was obsessed with finding out the answer since first seeing the film, Glassmoyer kept it. Call it a souvenir, but after Ferrari had enough with fake versions of their cars showing up in movies and shows like Miami Vice (Sonny Crockett's black 1972 Ferrari Daytona Spyder 365 GTS/4 is also one of the sweetest cars of the decade, but it's also a fake), the company brought several carmakers to court over the sale of kit Ferraris; Glassmoyer and Goyette stopped making them. The urban legend was that the third Modena Spyder was just collecting dust somewhere next to a bunch of other forgotten props from great movies.

Years after any threat of a lawsuit had died down, Glassmoyer revealed to Adolphus that he'd been spending the time after Bueller took the car for a spin perfecting the replica. According to Adolphus:

It is immaculately finished to concours condition. The 289 has been replaced with a 351W bored and stroked to 427 cubic inches and dyno'd at over 500hp; a T-5 manual replacing the automatic (Matthew "two-pedal" Broderick couldn't drive a stick); 13-inch disc brakes were fitted; and coilovers installed in place of a torsion bar suspension. Neil did leave one little dent in the grille, just for history's sake, and cleaned up some little details, like the MGB taillamps they used on the original. He says he outran a Viper on the street recently, because with 500 hp in a 2620-pound car, speed is limited only by skill and traction.

It seemed that Glassmoyer did have one more faux Ferrari to unload. The last of the Ferris cars, complete with the 500 horsepower provided by the 427 cubic inch V-8, sold at auction for $230,000. Whoever bought it can now spend every single day like it's the greatest day off ever.