“You killed the car.”
Those memorable words captured the moment in the 1986 teen movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, after a red 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California catapulted backward out of a showy garage and fell to its demise in a deep gorge.
Car-attuned movie goers shuddered to witness the wanton destruction of the rare and very desirable Ferrari California, which even then was worth somewhere in the seven figures. Today, such a car could easily top $10 million at auction.
But soon, word got out that the car was actually a well-rendered replica of a Ferrari California. The fiberglass doppelgänger, called a Modena, was produced in the 1980s by Modena Design in El Cajon, California.
Director John Hughes used three of those cars for the movie: the so-called hero car for close-up scenes, the one driven in action sequences, and the one that was seemingly destroyed in the fall. They were returned to the company after the filming.
Which brings me to the next memorable quote.
“I drove the Ferris Bueller car!”
Those words were uttered by me as I stepped out of the glorious red Modena after a fast drive around Scottsdale, Arizona, with its owner, Neil Glassmoyer, seated beside me. Glassmoyer was one of the principals of Modena Design and has restored the luscious sports car to better than original.
He’s unsure which of the three Modenas this one is, however, noting that the supposedly wrecked car was not nearly as damaged as it seemed in the movie due to a heavy dose of Hollywood magic. What damage it sustained was repairable, he said.
“I wish I could tell you which car this was, which scenes it was used in,” Glassmoyer said. “But Paramount was closed lipped about it.”
The dropped car was shown going out the back of the garage and through the trees, but not as it hit the ground. In a later scene, it was shown on the ground.
“It wasn’t as bad as it looked,” he said. “They show it shooting out the window. It landed flat, and it didn’t really do too much (damage).”
Ferris Bueller is a hilarious comedy. It also stands as an awesome car movie because of the ersatz Ferrari, which in the film posed as a priceless collector car that a wealthy owner keeps mothballed in the glass-walled garage of his palatial home in the suburbs of Chicago.
That is, until it is swiped for joyride duty by the exuberant Ferris, played by Matthew Broderick; his girlfriend Sloane, played by Mia Sara; and the hapless poor-little-rich-teen Cameron, played with suitable angst by Alan Ruck.
Cameron’s dad, whom he despises, owns the showpiece car. Cameron, in a fit of pique, is the one who accidentally shoves the car into the gorge.
But while this Modena could be any of the three, the car is now in absolutely perfect condition after its $200,000 restoration, with just 600 miles added since, Glassmoyer noted. Plus, it has been treated to the very best of performance upgrades to make it blindingly fast as well as beautiful.
The Ferris Buller car is going to auction this month, featured at Mecum Auctions’ sale during Monterey Car Week, where it will join an array of great collector cars that run the gamut from classics and muscle-car favorites to exotic sports cars.
The Modena is scheduled to cross the block Saturday, August 17, along with the auction’s other top offerings.
The restored convertible is a performance powerhouse, Glassmoyer said, packing a custom 427 cid stroker V8 that has been dynoed at 560 horsepower, which is quite a lot for a car that weighs just 2,300 pounds.
“Good old American naturally aspirated horsepower,” Glassmoyer said. “No turbos or electronics.”
“It has a lot of things that the hot rod guys like,” he added, ticking off a list that included a forged crank, Teflon-coated pistons, lightweight aluminum flywheel, aluminum heads and a 750 CFM Street Demon 4-barrel carburetor atop an Edelbrock intake manifold, although that carb will soon be swapped for a more-progressive Holly Double Pumper for less-aggressive throttle response, he said.
The muscle is fed through a TKO 500 5-speed manual transmission, carbon clutch with internal hydraulic release and Helical drive limited-slip differential. Braking is provided by Wilwood 6-piston, variable-diameter, aluminum-caliper front disc brakes with 4-piston rear disc brakes with 12.19-inch vented, slotted and cross-drilled rotors all around.
The convertible rides on 16-inch custom-made chrome wire wheels with BFGoodrich Comp II tires. A pair of driving lights have been added.
The Modena has impressive handling and drivability, due to a perfect 50/50 weight distribution, he added, and a chassis designed by Bob Webb, a famed chassis engineer for Roger Penske Racing.
“It’s a real kick in the pants,” Glassmoyer said. “Honestly, I had it up to 180 mph, and it was still pulling strong.”
The build quality also shines through, he added, for a car that was restored with an eye more for fast cross-country driving than back-road agility. During restoration, carbon fiber sections were added to bolster the fiberglass body.
“It’s bloody fast in a straight line, but what I was really impressed with, there’s not a squeak or rattle,” Glassmoyer said. “It’s more of a grand touring car than a sports car.”
The Modena drives with remarkable poise and, of course, mind-numbing power. The handling is notably precise, and the brakes could stop a jetliner. Too much fun, and I wish I could have driven it all day.
The tan interior is gorgeously rendered in premium hides, the hand-stitched dashboard having a pleasingly vintage look. A set of modern though proper-looking gauges have been installed in place of the original Smith’s gauges, which are now in a box and will go to whoever buys the car at auction.
Also included with the purchase are photos and memorabilia from the movie, including a 1/24-scale model of the car, and a Hot Wheels version still in its packaging.
The Modena’s pre-auction estimated value is $300,000 to $400,000, according to the auction catalog. But this will be a unique item up for sale, what with its movie-star credentials and high-performance build, so the ultimate value has yet to be determined.
“They don’t really know what it will go for,” Glassmoyer said.
When Paramount approached Modena Design about the cars, the company was given just 6 weeks to build them, Glassmoyer recalled. They made it right under the wire with the three movie cars.
For the film, the Modenas were fitted with Ferrari badges so that they could stand in as the real deal. Savvy enthusiasts watching the film got some clues. In the Chicago garage scene, for instance, you can hear the deep burble of a Detroit V8 rather than the raspy howl of a Ferrari V12.
Those Ferrari badges did create a problem, Glassmoyer recalled. When the Ferrari people got a look at what they considered to be fake 250 GT Californias, they sued Modena Design for copyright infringement. Ferrari lost the suit when Modena proved it was the film company, not Modena, that applied the iconic yellow prancing-horse badges, and just for the time the cars were part of the movie-making.
The convertible is again correctly badged, with the Modena script across the rear deck and no insignia on its nose.
Speaking of noses, another thing that Modena Design supplied to Paramount was a set of “nine aluminum noses for the famous scene when Cameron kicks in the nose,” Glassmoyer said, since the fiberglass Modena would not dent correctly for the closeups.
The Mecum auction takes place August 15-17 at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel’s Del Monte Golf Course in Monterey. For more information, visit the auction website.