How ‘Ferris Bueller’ Really Pissed Off Ferrari

The iconic carmaker took legal action over the John Hughes classic
How ‘Ferris Bueller’ Really Pissed Off Ferrari

Good news for fans of classic cars and movies where Adam Driver does a Super Mario-esque accent in a biopic directed by an acclaimed filmmaker — this time without Jared Leto in a Tony Clifton costume — we’re about to get Ferrari, Michael Mann’s cinematic ode to legendary auto magnate Enzo Ferrari.

Those of us who aren’t race car drivers and/or rich guys with micropenises likely haven’t had the opportunity to actually drive a real Ferrari, but still have an affection for the Ferrari brand thanks to ‘80s comedies, whether it was the car in Cannonball Run, the Ferrari-powered boat in One Crazy Summer or the Christie Brinkley-helmed vehicle that activated Clark Griswold’s wildly unfaithful libido in National Lampoon’s Vacation

Then, in 1986, came Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which famously found the titular teen sociopath pressuring his best friend Cameron into stealing his dad’s precious red Ferrari convertible for a clandestine trip to the city (because God forbid these affluent youths suffer the abject indignities of public transit for one lousy day). 

As you may recall, Ferris’ scheme ends in disaster — two parking attendants take the car for a joyride while Ferris is busy disrupting parade routes (a subplot that is soon to be the subject of a belated spin-off movie). So, in an effort to cover their tracks, Ferris and Cameron try to roll back the odometer and inadvertently send the car careening into a ravine. 

Well, it turns out, things didn’t go so well in real life, either. Director John Hughes wisely opted not to use a genuine Ferrari for the shoot. According to co-star Alan Ruck, the production couldn’t afford to rent the real car (worth $350,000 at the time) because the insurance costs would have been “astronomical.” While an actual Ferrari Spyder was procured for some close-ups, the rest of the time they shot with three “Modena Spyders,” replica cars literally just built by two random guys.

“Car enthusiasts” Neil Glassmoyer and Mark Goyette landed the high-profile gig after Paramount executives happened upon a photo of their prototype car, the “Modena Spyder,” at a “Knott’s Berry Farm show.” The execs loved what they saw, despite the fact that Hughes’ original script called for Ferris to drive a boring old Mercedes AMG.

The studio leased one existing car from Glassmoyer and Goyette and gave the duo seven weeks to cobble together two more faux-Ferrari kits for the movie. Even though they didn’t even have their own shop to work in at the time, Glassmoyer and Goyette somehow met the tight deadline, presumably as a disembodied baritone voice intoned: “Ohhhh yeaaahh.” 

While the “replicar” may have looked great on the outside, it was a far cry from an authentic Ferrari underneath the hood, which makes sense considering that each car cost just $30,000, less than one-tenth the cost of the real deal. As Ruck later recalled, the Modena Spyder was “universally hated by the crew” because “it didn’t work right.” For example, the scene where the parking guys boost the car had to be filmed “a dozen times” because the Spyder wouldn’t start. “It was a piece of crap,” Ruck said. 

Still, the car was unquestionably a highlight of the movie, which went on to become a monster hit. And, unfortunately for all involved, this success soon caught the attention of Ferrari, who were already pretty miffed that replicars were being passed off as bone fide Ferraris in Hollywood productions such as Miami Vice. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off proved to be “the final straw” for the company, and they decided to take legal action, suing four replicar manufacturers at the same time for allegedly violating Ferrari’s “intellectual property rights.”

Glassmoyer defended himself in the press by pointing out that, while the Modena Spyder was obviously “inspired” by the Ferrari, it utilized a hodgepodge of assorted car parts, including a windshield from a Fiat and Volkswagen tail lights. “No two square inches of the car is like the Ferrari,” he stated, while also claiming to have never actually seen the original car in person. 

Other replicar companies acceded to Ferrari’s suit by “agreeing to go out of business,” and the producers of Miami Vice took Ferrari up on their offer of “two free 1986 Testarossas” with the condition that “the replicas be demolished.” Glassmoyer and Goyette, on the other hand,  decided to fight. While many details of the case haven’t been made public — we’re going to go ahead and assume that their legal team consisted of several mannequins and one synthesizer — we do know that the case was eventually settled out of court, and that the replicar company, Modena Design and Development, was allowed to continue making cars “once subtle changes were made to the design.” 

The Ferris Bueller fakes have subsequently become high-priced commodities, with one selling for $337,500 just last year, presumably to a collector looking to invest all of his love and affection into an inanimate object at the expense of his child’s emotional well-being. 

Hopefully this all means that Ferrari will feature a scene set in 1986, in which Adam Driver dons old man prosthetics and angrily yells at the screen of an Italian multiplex. 

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this). 

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