This car appears to be a Ferrari California Spyder from a few dozen paces, but it’s actually one of the Modena GT Spyder Californias built for the iconic 80s film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This car was used for driving scenes in the movie, transporting Matthew Broderick and friends as the cameras rolled.
The cars used in the film were nicknamed Fauxarris, they were built by Neil Glassmoyer and his team at Modena Design, and thanks to a series of chance occurrences they were commissioned to build the cars for Paramount Pictures.
Fast Facts – The Ferris Bueller Modena GT Spyder California
- The film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was released in 1986, it was a teen comedy film starring Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara, and Alan Ruck that became a cultural touchstone of the age.
- The central non-human character in the film is a bright red Ferrari California Spyder which is actually a replica made by Modena Design & Development, of El Cajon, California.
- Either three or four of these cars were made for the film, one specifically to be crashed. The car you see in this article was built to be used for driving scenes, and so it has a full drivetrain and a detailed interior.
- The car is now due to be offered or sale at the Bonhams Amelia Island auction in early March with a price guide of $350,000 – $450,000 USD.
The Modena GT Spyder California
The use of the Modena GT Spyder California in the filming of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off came about entirely by accident. The magazine Car and Driver had written a glowing article about the Modena, explaining that the car handled far better than most sports cars, and the magazine somehow ended up on the desk of the film’s writer/director John Hughes.
Hughes had initially intended to use a Mercedes for the film, possibly a 500SL. Eventually the only two cars left on the short list were the Modena GT Spyder California and the Porsche 911 Turbo. Hughes called Neil Glassmoyer at Modena and explained that he needed to see a car to perhaps use it in a forthcoming feature film, and Neil hung up on him. He had thought it was a practical joke.
Fortunately Hughes called him back and convinced him he was the real deal, and arranged to have Neil bring the car to the studio office. Once Hughes saw it in person he knew it was the right car, it was a decision that would shoot the small American replica car maker into the global spotlight.
Once the deal was signed, Mark Goyette and Neil Glassmoyer had just 4 weeks to build the cars. There’s some debate about how many were made, three or four, but we do know that at least two for identical cars were made for filming duties and one rolling shell for the famous scene where the car rolls backwards out of the window.
The good handling of the Modena was partially down to the chassis, it was a rectangular steel tube frame designed by Indy car maker Bob Webb – the same guy who’d worked on Roger Penske’s Zerex Special. Unlike many period kit cars, the Modena wasn’t based on a Datsun 240Z or a Fiero, it was a bespoke car from the ground up.
Under the hood there was a high-performance 289 or 302 cubic inch Ford V8 mounted to a 5-speed manual transmission (an automatic was available), the engine was fitted with four downdraft carburetors, and it had valve covers that featured the name “Modena” using the Ferrari font.
This engine was capable of 195 hp and 258 lb ft of torque, doubtless giving the car spritely acceleration figures due to the low kerb weight, partially thanks to its fiberglass body.
The decision to use the Modena GT Spyder California during filming was both a blessing and a curse for the small company. Their cars became icons in their own right, something very rarely enjoyed by replicas, but the fame resulted in the company being shutdown by Ferrari.
Decades later in 2018 Modena was inducted into Smithsonian Historical Vehicle Association Hall of Fame as just the 22nd inductee – largely based on the iconic nature of the car’s appearances throughout the film.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a 1986 comedy film directed by John Hughes. The film follows the mischievous Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) who fakes being sick to skip school, he then spends the day exploring the city of Chicago with his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara).
Above Video: This is the official trailer for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it includes extensive footage of the Modena Spyder including that famous ending scene where a specially prepared car (without a drivetrain) gets destroyed.
The film opens with Ferris faking a fever to convince his parents that he’s too sick to go to school. His parents buy his act and leave him home alone while they go to work. Ferris takes advantage of his freedom and plans a day out on the town with his friends.
Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane “borrow” Cameron’s father’s prized 1961 Ferrari California Spyder and drive into downtown Chicago, the plan being to “unwind” the miles on the odometer by jacking the car up and placing the car in reverse once they bring it back.
Ferris, who is determined to make the most of his day off, leads his friends on a series of adventures. They visit the Art Institute of Chicago, catch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, and even sneak into an exclusive restaurant by pretending to be the “Sausage King of Chicago.”
Meanwhile, Ferris’s strict and cynical high school principal, Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), suspects Ferris is faking his illness and becomes obsessed with catching him in the act. Rooney spends the day tracking Ferris down, but his plans are foiled by Ferris’s quick thinking and elaborate ruses – a theme throughout the film.
As the day comes to an end, Ferris races back to his house to avoid getting caught by his parents – he makes it home just in time to fool his parents into thinking he’s been in bed all day.
The film concludes with Ferris addressing the audience and emphasizing the importance of living life to the fullest and not taking yourself too seriously:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller
The Ferris Bueller Modena Spyder California Shown Here
As noted in the introduction, this is one of the Modena Spyder Californias built for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Of the cars one was built without an engine for the famous ending scene with the car flying out of the plate glass windows.
The other three were developed to varying degrees for the roles they would play in the film, the car you see here is one of the cars set up specifically to be driven on camera in the film, and so it has a fully detailed interior and a functioning drivetrain consisting of a Ford 302 V8 sending power back through an automatic transmission to a live axle rear end.
Interestingly the car was passed along in 1989 to a Los Angeles plastic surgeon from a Paramount Picture Cars employee as partial payment for services. The doctor would keep the car for thirty years before it was discovered by the current owner in storage.
The car is now being offered for sale with a letter from Paramount Picture Cars as provenance of its movie history, autographed pictures of movie stills featuring the car, a copy of the script signed by the cast, a poster featuring a replica prop “NRVOUS” license plate, and a signed picture of Matthew Broderick as scene in the movie.
It’s due to roll across the auction block with Bonhams on the 2nd of March at the Amelia Island Auction with a price guide of $350,000 – $450,000 USD. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of Bonhams
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
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