The hit John Hughes-directed teen comedy “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” released on this day in 1986, stars a young Matthew Broderick as a popular high school student in suburban Illinois who fakes an illness in order to score a day off from school, then leads his best friend and his girlfriend on a whirlwind day through Chicago. The movie’s cast also included Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jeffrey Jones and Jennifer Grey. However, the most memorable performer may have been an automobile: the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California, a custom-built car revered by auto collectors.
In the movie, the restored Ferrari—bearing the license plate NRVOUS—belongs to the strict father of Ferris’ depressive best friend, Cameron (Ruck), whom Ferris convinces to liberate the car from its museum-like home and drive it to Chicago. The three teenagers leave the car with a pair of garage attendants, who are later seen taking it for a high-speed joyride. On the drive home, Cameron goes into shock when Ferris notices that hundreds of miles have been added to the odometer. As they attempt, unsuccessfully, to remove the miles by running the Ferrari backwards, Cameron starts venting his anger at his father by kicking the front end of the coddled car. His tantrum dislodges the blocks holding it in place, sending the Ferrari through the glass wall of the garage and into the ravine behind the house.
According to Motor Trend, the first Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California—colloquially known as the “Cal Spyder”—was produced in 1957 and the last was built in early 1963. In addition to the long-wheelbase (LWB) Spyder, Ferrari also produced a sportier, short-wheelbase (SWB) model. Though estimates vary as to exactly how many were made—Cameron says “less than a hundred” in the film—approximately 46 LWB and between 50 and 57 SWB Spyders were produced in all. For “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the filmmakers used a modified MGB roadster with a fiberglass body as a stand-in for the Ferrari.
The filmmakers reportedly received angry letters from car enthusiasts who believed that a real Ferrari had been damaged. One 1961 250 GT SWB Spyder California, with chassis number GT 2377GT, belonged to the actor James Coburn (“The Magnificent Seven”), who died in 2002. On May 18, 2008, at the second annual Ferrari Leggenda e Passione event at Maranello, Italy, the British deejay Chris Evans bought that car at auction for 6.4 million Euros, or $10,894,400 (including fees), the highest price ever paid for an automobile at auction.