With the upcoming sale of a screen-used replica Ferrari from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as our inspiration, we thought we’d take a look back to see what other movies and TV shows used copies when the real deal was simply too expensive or rare for a studio to use.
It’s no surprise a few of the cars on this list come from the famed Italian brand Ferrari.
Ferrari vehicles have always been expensive, illustrious, and fast cars, the subject desire for audiences and producers alike, but there are a few others that you may not know about.
Here are the five best movie fakes.
Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)
In 1986, a real Ferrari 250 GT California SWB Spyder was worth only a couple hundred grand, but obviously, when filming something that rare and desirable, you aren’t going to use the real thing, especially when the endgame is for the car to fly out the back of a garage.
In the film, Cameron says there were fewer than 100 made, and that’s correct: of the 106 California Spyders made from 1957 to 1963, just 56 were made in short-wheelbase spec (post-1960) and only 37 featured the covered-headlight design.
Because of the rarity and value, director John Hughes decided to use a replica from an upstart Californian firm called Modena Design; the car was built on a tube chassis, and featured a Ford 289 V8. Three cars were used for the movie, with one earmarked to be destroyed at the end.
Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Spyder (Miami Vice)
It was the biggest TV show of the ’80s. If you weren’t watching Miami Vice, you were either a schmoe or you didn’t own a TV.
Sonny Crockett, the main character played by Don Johnson, is an undercover vice cop with the departmentally approved cover persona of playboy millionaire, and what do you drive when you’re a playboy millionaire? A 1972 Ferrari Daytona Spider in black, of course.
When the show was just getting started, it didn’t have the budget of some larger shows, however, and the production team had to settle for a replica built on a Corvette chassis by a company called McBurnie.
Ferrari got wind of the fake and told the production team they had to get rid of it. However, since Ferrari was a little kinder in those days, it offered them the use of a real Ferrari Testarossa instead, in exchange for blowing up the Daytona on-screen. Ironically, the production still used a replica of the Testarossa for some of the stunt-driving scenes.
Porsche 917K (Le Mans)
Was Steve McQueen a race car driver who also acted or an actor who raced on the side? Well, in the 1971 film Le Mans, he got to be both, and he got to drive one of the darling race cars of the late ’60s and early ’70s, the Porsche 917K.
For much of the film, real race cars were used, due to the fact most of the footage was actually captured at the 1970 running of the race. The Porsche 917K used for most of the film is real, and so are the Ferraris, although the latter were supplied by a privateer because Enzo balked at the script’s Porsche team victory.
When it came to the part in the film where McQueen needed to crash the Porsche, the real thing was subbed out for a Lola T70 (itself quite a rare and expensive race car now) with the body from a 917 grafted onto it. There are a few select angles from that scene where you can still see the Lola body and original racing number underneath the Gulf liveried bodywork.
BMW Z8 (The World is Not Enough)
This is a strange one, because technically the vehicle is actually built by BMW.
The actual Z8 was still just a concept back in 1999, and it wasn’t ready as a full production vehicle when the film was being shot, so BMW cobbled up a fibreglass body and gave it to the studio with some plans on how to build it. Since film production is always on a tight schedule, the builders didn’t have time to cut the hood or trunk out to make it functional — only the doors were made to be opened.
The replica is exceptionally well-done, so much so that this is one we truly didn’t know about. The reason behind the excellence is that the promotional deal between 007 and BMW meant the car had to look absolutely perfect on-screen to coincide with the release of the vehicle.
“Shala-Vette” (Death Race 2000)
“He was built by the world’s finest surgeons to drive the fastest car ever designed and nothing can stop him now!”
Death Race 2000 depicts a dystopian future from a 1975 point-of-view, where people tune in to watch competitors race themselves literally to death. The top of the heap is a character called “Frankenstein” who is a half-man half-machine hybrid played by David Carradine (who else?). So it only makes sense his ride also be a hybrid of two vehicles.
Underneath the gator motif is the body of a C3 Corvette, but a closer inspection reveals the wheelbase is way too short. The exhaust is visible on the rear of the vehicle in some of the lower angle shots, revealing it to actually be a VW Beetle-based replica. Even odder, the car was actually powered by a Chevrolet Corvair-sourced flat-six.