‘Miami Vice’: Sonny Crockett’s Ferrari Was Secretly a Corvette

No other show on television defined the ’80s as much as the popular crime drama series Miami ViceBeautiful people, new age music, trendy clothes, and speed boats chasing drug runners were a recipe for success for the iconic series.

Detective Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) and his partner Rico Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) helped breathe new life into the city of Miami. As they drove high-priced cars down the palm tree-lined streets of South Beach, audiences dreamed of becoming part of the fast-paced nightlife represented on the show.

Known for their ability to fight crime dressed in stylish blazers, the undercover detectives had a passion for expensive luxury cars. While Crockett spent a lot of time cruising the streets of Miami in his beloved Ferrari, it turns out the sexy sports car was a fake.

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Created by Executive Producer Michael Mann, Miami Vice first aired in September 1984 on NBC and continued for five seasons until 1990.

The show inspired men across the country to start wearing Italian casual wear to replicate the onscreen style. The rehabbed art deco buildings that popped up around the city are also attributed to the vibe created by the series.

Crockett was an edgy detective that lived on a sailboat with his guard-dog-like alligator named Elvis. Tubbs was a New York cop that came to the city looking to apprehend his brother’s killer. The unlikely pair faced crime head-on, taking down major drug kingpins in their quest for justice.

Upbeat music and a host of guest stars kept viewers tuning in every week for more. With his good looks and suave demeanor, Crockett lived the high life driving around the streets of Miami in what audiences thought was an ultra-fast Ferrari.

How producers faked audiences with an inauthentic Ferrari

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Anyone familiar with the show remembers how Crockett’s Ferrari was representative of his cutting-edge personality.

According to Automobile, the imposter car replicated a 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spyder. Two identical cars, built on a Corvette C3 chassis, were designed by McBurnie Coachcraft.

The first fake Ferrari was the glamour car and used exclusively for getting the infamous sexy shots that audiences came to love. The second car took a regular beating, used solely for stunt work. It included skid plates, camera rigging, and a specialized braking system.

The knockoff Ferraris appeared during the first two seasons of Miami ViceThe car met its demise when an illegal arms dealer blew up Crockett’s beloved car.

What happened to Crockett’s Ferrari?

Ferrari Daytona Spyder 365 GTS/4
Ferrari Daytona Spyder 365 GTS/4 on Miami Vice. | NBCU Photo Bank

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The demolition of the Corvette turned Ferrari vehicles was in response to a lawsuit filed by Ferrari. Apparently, the Italian automaker was unhappy that the popular show was using an imposter.

Mental Floss reported: “Ultimately, both parties came to an agreement whereby the car-maker would supply the series with two brand-new Ferrari Testarossas – but only if the old “Ferrari” was destroyed on the show.”

The modified cars were never used again on the show, as promised, but thanks to the magic of television, they were salvageable and not completely destroyed. The number one glamour shot Ferrari Daytona Spyder was purchased by a private collector. In 1989, the stunt car model was sent to Canada and used by John Candy for the movie Speed Zone. 

The Volo Auto Museum in Illinois eventually took possession of the stunt car. They did a complete cosmetic restoration, preserving the original elements used during the filming of Miami Vice. Universal Studios documentation matched the VIN, verifying it is the authentic car. The imposter Ferrari is currently on public display at the museum.