The Legendary Ferrari Daytona From Miami Vice Wasn't A Ferrari At All

"Miami Vice" will always be a neon beacon of the 1980s with its flashy pastel clothes, big-haired women, "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins blasting through analog speakers, and those fantastic cars driven by Don Johnson (James "Sonny" Crockett) and Philip Michael Thomas (Ricardo "Rico" Tubbs).

The MTV-style cop show set in Florida's flashiest city ran from 1984 to 1990 on NBC. According to Motor Trend, during the first two seasons, it was not uncommon to see Crockett driving Tubbs around in a black 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spyder, a car that practically every guy wanted to own. But there was one small problem — it wasn't actually a Ferrari.

At the time, the luxury Italian sports cars were not only costly, but the '72 Spyder was very rare. A more significant issue, and something that most people likely don't realize, is that the North American division of Ferrari flatly refused to provide the show with any genuine Ferraris. It did the same for "Magnum P.I.," which forced them to use a 308 GTS instead (via Volo Cars).

That is where Al Mardekian and Tom McBurnie enter the picture.

Everyone could feel it in the air tonight

Al Mardekian was a "gray-market" importer of exotic cars who initially sold two replica Ferraris to the production company, costing $49,000 each. One was labeled "Car 4," while the other, "Car 1," became the stunt vehicle after the pilot episode.

So, if these two cars weren't true Ferraris ... what were they?

According to Volo Auto Museum, "Car 1" was a 1976 Corvette chassis, and "Car 4" was from a 1981 Chevrolet Corvette C3. Customized fiberglass body panels built by Tom McBurnie from specialty car manufacturer McBurnie Coachcraft were attached to make them look like a Daytona Spyder. Ironically, a real Spyder appeared in the pilot episode where Sonny read a newspaper in the car. The entire scene only lasted 10 seconds, and the vehicle remained motionless the whole time. Volo Auto Museum reported it's known to be authentic based on the car's features.

The Spyder met its explosive end in Season 3 and never returned to the show, not because the producers wanted it to happen, but because Ferrari sued Universal Studios and Tom McBurnie for using a replica Spyder. Part of the settlement included eliminating the car through a plotline in the show. 

This conciliatory act must have mended fences for the Italian car company, because it ultimately gave Universal two brand-new 1986 Ferrari Testarossas to use in the show. According to Motortrend, the rumor is that Enzo Ferrari himself was the one who wanted the new cars be gifted to the studio.