The Ferrari immortalised in 1986 cult classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off remains the whisper of urban legend. Ask any film buff or cinematic petrolhead and they’ll inform you that the car used for filming John Hughes' staple of the 1980s was a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California. Well, they’d be wrong.
That’s because the film car looked an awful lot like one. Quotes from the film don’t really help the cause: ‘The 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California. Less than 100 were made. My father spent three years restoring this car. It is his love. It is his passion’.
However, even back in 1986 the Ferrari 250 GT California was too valuable to employ for stunt work. The solution was to use three vehicles; a real Ferrari for close-up shots, a mock-up for the final crash and an American-made Modena GT Spyder California Replica for everything else. This is that very car – and it's heading to auction on August 25, during Monterey car week.
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Some say the Modena’s showcasing fell into the producer’s lap purely by chance, but in fact, the vehicle won the role on its own merits. Car and Driver magazine had given the Modena a glowing write-up, even stating that it handled better than any rival. Landing on Hugh’s desk, the report caught his immediate attention.
Initially planning to use a Mercedes-Benz for the film, speculation pointing to a 500SL or a Porsche 911, the Modena was chosen to star on screen. Except, upon phoning Modena themselves, the firm promptly hung up; believing the film request to be a joke.
After much persuasion, the Modena team agreed to build three cars – two identical vehicles for filming and a shell for the infamous ‘Ferrari vs trees’ climax. The act brought the American replica maker straight into the public limelight.
Why is the Modena so revered?
Unlike the majority of Ferrari California replicas stalking the 1980s, the Modena wasn’t based on Datsun’s 240Z. It was instead a bespoke car from the ground up, featuring a rectangular steel tube frame designed by Indy car maker Bob Webb.
Power came from a 289 Ford Mustang V8, mated to a 5–speed gearbox for complete control. Churning out 195bhp, the low kerb weight allowed for hard acceleration akin to the Ferrari that inspired it.
Sadly, although the film made Modena’s vehicle a legend in its own lifetime, when Ferrari got wind of what was going on they legally had the firm shut down.
The car up for auction is one of the two replicas used for filming. Having undergone a recent refresh, the replica is now presented in rude health. If it weren’t for the badges, you wouldn’t be able to tell this wasn’t the real thing.
Given the current price of a Ferrari 250 GT California, this Modena Replica is the next best thing. Get a closer look with the auction lot preview.