15 Things You Didn’t Know About the 1961 Ferrari 250GT From Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
For starters, it wasn't a Ferrari.
Next month marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. (Apologies if that makes you feel old.) To commemorate the occasion, the city of Chicago is hosting a three-day celebration this weekend which allows attendees to do all things Bueller—a Ferris-fest, if you will. If you don’t want to venture to Chi-town (or aren’t willing to spend $300 to honor the film), fret not. Today and tonight only, the flick will be returning to theaters, along with archival interviews with writer/director John Hughes and some of the cast.
For our money, the best cast member never said a word, had four wheels and met an untimely demise at the bottom of a ravine. That's the rosso corsa 1961 Ferrari 250GT SWB California Spider “borrowed” from Cameron’s dad. Today seems like the perfect day to share with the class. We promise it’ll be more interesting than a supply-side economics lecture. Who’s ready? Anyone? Anyone?
1. The original script called for a Mercedes.
The direction from Hughes’ first draft allegedly goes thusly: “The door goes up and light streams in to reveal Cameron and Ferris looking at a Mercedes AMG.” The marque was never specified, but given that Hughes finished it circa 1982, it may have been the 500SL.
2. Then Hughes spied a Modena Spyder California.
Modena founders Mark Goyette and Neil Glassmoyer had created a replica of the Ferrari 250 GT and were featured in an issue of Car and Driver—which claimed the car handled better than most sports cars—that came across Hughes’ desk. He thought it was high-quality enough to work, so he called the duo.
3. Glassmoyer thought he was getting pranked.
When Hughes called about seeing the Modena Spyder, Glassmoyer thought it was a friend playing a joke and hung up on the director. Hughes called back and convinced the duo to bring a Modena Spyder to the studio office. From Glassmoyer: “While we were waiting outside to meet Hughes, this scruffy-looking fellow came out of the building and began looking the car over; we thought from his appearance he must have been a janitor or something. Then he looked up at a window and shouted, ‘This is it!’ and several heads poked out to have a look. That fellow was John Hughes, and the people in the window were his staff. Turned out it was between the Modena Spyder and a Porsche Turbo, and Hughes chose the Modena.”
4. The Modena was built on a chassis made by an Indy car fabricator.
The Modena incorporated the Ferrari’s steeply raked windshield, the turn signals, the iconic grille, hood scoops, fender vents and same profile underneath a custom fiberglass body, reportedly modeled from an MG. The chassis was a rectangular steel tube frame that came from storied Indy car maker Bob Webb. Webb famously worked on Roger Penske’s Zerex Special.
5. The Modena featured a Ford Windsor small block.
It was powered by a 1963 289 ci V8, which was good for 195 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.
6. Three Modenas were ordered for the film.
“They gave us 4 weeks to build the movie cars,” Glassmoyer told reporters. “I always say we built two and a half cars; two were interchangeably used as Hero and stunt cars and one was a rolling fiberglass shell that was used in the destruction scene.”
7. However, for the closeup shots, they brought in a real Ferrari.
Hughes explains in the DVD commentary that while the Modenas were used in wide shots, “For the tight shots I needed a real [250GT], so we brought one in to the stage and shot the inserts with it."
8. Matthew Broderick couldn’t drive stick.
Allegedly, Ferris couldn’t handle a manual, so one of the replicas had an automatic transmission just so he was able to drive it.
9. The crew loathed the replicas because they were unreliable.
Alan Ruck, who played Cameron, told the media that the car was “universally hated by the crew because it didn’t work right.” The scene in which Ferris hands over the car to the garage attendant who ultimately takes it for a joyride had to be shot more than a dozen times because the Modena refused to start.
10. The replica that went out the window now resides in Cancun.
When Glassmoyer and Goyette delivered a kit to the Paramount studio for them to assemble as a secondary stunt car, the studio apparently did such a crappy job that it was horrible to drive and effectively rendered useless, aside from being able to roll backwards out the window of Cameron’s house. After it was rebuilt, it wound up in a Planet Hollywood in Minnesota until that restaurant closed, at which time it was sent to another Planet Hollywood in Cancun.
11. The whereabouts of a second, perhaps non-running, replica are murky.
According to Goyette, another kit which was only a shell to be used for the window scene never actually finished getting built, though no one can say for sure if it’s still in pieces on a Paramount backlot or was assembled and sold off.
12. The main stunt car took quite a beating.
The one that jumps the camera at the hands of the skeezy parking attendant was pummeled during the filming of that scene, because it took nine takes to get it right. By the time that shot was in the can, both front suspension bolts were shattered and the exhaust was smashed.
13. The Modena driven in most of the scenes ended up back in Glassmoyer’s possession for a full restoration.
And restore it he did. It took ten years and saw the V8 getting swapped for a bored-out 427 and fitted with an Eagle forged steel crankshaft, new forged pistons, Trick Flow wedge aluminum heads and roller rockers and a upgraded suspension with independent front arms, rack and pinion steering and nitrogen-charged adjustable coilovers. When he was done with it, the result was a 500-horsepower, 2,620-pound coupe that he claims outran a Dodge Viper in a street showdown. Glassmoyer reportedly left one tiny dent in the grille, in homage to the film.
14. That very restored car went to auction in 2013.
It sold for $235,000 at Mecum.
15. Ferrari was so pissed at Modena, they sued them out of business.
Because they never secured the rights to put the stallion badges on the replicars, Ferrari got quite litigious, quite quickly. Citing trademark design issues, Glassmoyer and Goyette had little choice but to fold up shop to avoid paying all the fines Ferrari would’ve won.
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