How They Made the Ferraris in the Movie Look Real

Jackson Wheeler
8 Min Read

  • The filmmakers behind the movie Ferrari wanted to everything as realistic-looking as possible, especially the cars.
  • Several of the cars used were real, including the Maserati borrowed from Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, but others were recreations.
  • Those recreations were painstakingly built using Caterham chassis and bodywork by Compagna.

Producers, actors, and director Michael Mann, everyone involved in making the movie Ferrari, was obsessed with making the cars and the racing as accurate a recreation of the Mille Miglia of 1957 as possible. And while some plot devices surrounding the racing may not be presented, let’s say, documentary style, every effort was made to keep the actual cars themselves looking like the real thing.

That’s because some of them were real. There were two real Grand Prix cars in the movie—including the Maserati 250 F currently belonging to Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, a real car guy himself, of course.

Driving that car was fun, we’re told.

patrick dempsey driving a red ferrari 315 s

That is likely the real Patrick Dempsey behind the wheel of this recreation of a Ferrari 315 S.

Courtesy NEON

“I drove the 250 F in the Grand Prix scenes,” said Derek Hill, son of Phil, and an accomplished driver in his own right, having gotten as far as Italian Formula 3000, among many other series. Hill plays real-life Maserati driver Jean Behra in the movie, right down to the checkered flag helmet that has been the Autoweek logo since forever.

What was that like?

“Oh, it was fantastic,” the younger Hill said when we spoke to him on the eve of the film’s Hollywood premiere.

Hill drove the real Grand Prix car in a scene early on in the movie where he breaks Ferrari’s track record at the Autodromo di Modena. After that scene, Hill spends most of the film in the beautiful Maserati 450S sports car.

Indeed, most of the movie concerns the days leading up to the 1957 Mille Miglia, in which sports cars like the 450S and Ferrari 315 S and 335 S competed. In either case, those looked like they were a blast behind the wheel.

a group of men in suits and hats standing on a red carpet

Patrick Dempsey with Piero Taruffi’s white hair.

Courtesy NEON

“I just was in the car the whole time, that was the best job I’ve ever had in my life,” said Patrick Dempsey, who plays the role of Piero Taruffi, and who drove a perfect recreation of a beautiful red Ferrari 315 S Spider wrapped in a luscious Scaglietti body.

“He did 90% of his own driving,” Nagle said of Dempsey. “The only time he didn’t drive was because he wasn’t available for that day. He did a phenomenal job. Really. He killed it. He was awesome.”

As did Hill, who was in Italy a total of almost four months taking on all kinds of tasks in addition to driving, such as plotting out on a spread sheet what time of day the Ferraris would have caught up with and passed the slower cars in the real Mille—just another example of how everything was aimed at realistically portraying the actual cars that raced around Italy that year.

“So for the Mille Miglia, we had seven cars and then we built a couple of the Grand Prix cars, which included the (Ferrari) 801,” said Nagle. “The Maserati 250 F, which is the Grand Prix Maserati, we had rented two of those, one from (Pink Floyd drummer) Nick Mason. And then we built the Ferraris and Maseratis for the Mille Miglia scenes.”

Those cars, the sports cars like the Ferrari 315 S and 355 S and the Maserati 450S, were all highly detailed recreations that sat on Caterham 620 chassis with supercharged inline-four engines. In Caterham form with the Caterham body, those cars weigh just 1364 pounds with the supercharged engine making 310 hp, a heck of a power-to-weight ratio. Again, they were surprisingly fun to drive.

a vintage ferrari approaches the camera along a narrow tree lined road in a still from michael mann's upcoming film

NEON Films

“It was a @#$%*&% rocket,” Nagle said. “I was sold the second I started lapping it. I was, like, ‘This is the car.’ All of our cars were based off of that chassis that we built.”

Hill’s Maserati 450S was built on it.

“The 450S was a picture car built by Caterham in England and then the rolling chassis were sent to Modena to be bodied by an outfit called Compagna, an old carrozzeria . They did a just a masterful job putting the bodywork together.”

Wasn’t there some concern about some of these cars being damaged during filming?

“I brought some of the best drivers in the world to run these things. And, you know, people like Nick want to know who’s driving. And at the end of the day, it was his call as to who could drive the car and it came down to three people who were qualified to drive that particular car: Derek Hill, Marino Franchitti, and myself.”

Among the 15 stunt drivers used in the film were Formula Drift champion Samuel Hubinette and Ben Collins, AKA The Stig.

While there will be those who pick through the movie looking for historical inaccuracies, those guys often just want to let everyone know how well-versed they are in all things Ferrari or Maserati, or that they work for Shifter Knob Monthly. You don’t have to listen to them. Just go see the movie and enjoy the way they got all the cars pretty much dead right. And enjoy the fact that everyone had so much fun making it.

“I’m really proud of the movie,” said Dempsey, himself a racer. “I think it’s fantastic. And the racing sequences are really good. This is a proper film. This is really done well. The attention to detail and the emotional impact is what surprises me. It stays with you. It lingers with you well after you leave the theater.”

Headshot of Mark Vaughn

Mark Vaughn grew up in a Ford family and spent many hours holding a trouble light over a straight-six miraculously fed by a single-barrel carburetor while his father cursed Ford, all its products and everyone who ever worked there. This was his introduction to objective automotive criticism. He started writing for City News Service in Los Angeles, then moved to Europe and became editor of a car magazine called, creatively, Auto. He decided Auto should cover Formula 1, sports prototypes and touring cars—no one stopped him! From there he interviewed with Autoweek at the 1989 Frankfurt motor show and has been with us ever since.

Share This Article
Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
Leave a comment