Haunting. Mysterious. Dangerous.
That’s how people remember the replica Ferrari 365/4 GTS Daytona Spyder seen in the TV series Miami Vice—especially the sequence in the pilot episode set to Phil Collins’ song “In The Air Tonight.”
It may not have been a true Ferrari, but the one seen driven by James “Sonny” Crockett was all Corvette—America’s Only True Sports Car—under its fiberglass body, made by McBurnie Coachcraft during the 1980s.
The reason McBurnie’s replicated that legendary, Pininfarina-styled body was simple: Domanda e offerta. (Supply and demand.) Only 127 of the two-seat, front-engined and V-12–powered convertibles were ever built, 69 of them imported to the United States, not counting same-vintage Daytona coupes later converted into Spyders. That meant there were at least 128 people who wanted one at any given time, a prime example of Ferrari’s long-time practice of building one car less than the market will bear.
One of those who sought a genuine Daytona Spyder was Vince Perazzo. But the price of a real one in less-than-ideal condition was too much for him to bear. “I said, ‘You know something? I’m not going to spend close to a million dollars for a car, and not drive it,’” he recalls. “Everybody would think that you’re out of your mind to be driving it.” Vince adds, “That one was $780,000, and it needed work. I looked at it, and said, ‘I’m not going to spend this kind of money, and not drive the car, and still have to fix it. I’m a stickler, because if a car’s got a scratch or a ding, I can’t live with it.”
Not too much later, he found this Daytona Spyder look-alike in an online ad from California. Though it had been sitting for a long time, it had less than 10,000 miles on it, and the price was less than that genuine Ferrari was—a lot less. It also had one big thing going for it, per Vince. “Honestly, it looked better than the real one that I wanted to buy!”
But that long-term idleness took its toll on the car’s mechanicals. “I’ve been chasing a few leaks, upgrading whatever I could upgrade, and adding a few more chrome parts to the engine,” he says of the work that’s been done on it since he bought it. “I replaced the transmission pan, because I had a transmission leak, and I also replaced the oil pan.
“I’ve been replacing and upgrading parts with better-quality stuff.”
There was already plenty of better-quality stuff under its hood. The car’s builder chose an original LT1-powered ’72 Stingray coupe as its chassis donor, and the engine in it now is a big improvement over the 255hp, hydraulic-liftered LT1. “She’s pushing over 460 horsepower,” says Vince.
When we spoke with him about this distinctive C3-chassied two-seater, he was sitting in it. “I just took it out, and checked the air in the tires,” he says, adding that he’d scheduled a trip to his trusted mechanic to look into some shaking in the steering.
Vince credits Sam Eletto for his skilled bodywork that made the replica Spyder a real looker, and for his patience during the project.
What’s it like to drive? “She performs super well,” says Vince. “She treats me well.” And, she draws plenty of attention, even from those who may not have seen the one used on Miami Vice for the show’s first two seasons. When asked if people tell him that his car looks like Crockett’s, he says he gets that all the time, adding, “Most people don’t even know that it’s a replica.”
Any confusion over replica-versus-genuine ends when the key is turned, and the modified 350 fires up—with a sound totally different from that of a Ferrari V-12, but just as distinctive.
Does this inspire you to do your own detective work—undercover or otherwise—in hopes of turning up one of your own? If you come across a partially-completed one, or an unbuilt body that’s been stored away for years, Vince says your choice of a donor Vette to build it from is important. “You have to put it on a C3 chassis, and make sure that the donor car is correct before you do a ground-up thing like that,” he says. “I would have that rolling chassis pristine and correct, and then drop that body on. Don’t just put the body on the car and start working, because it’s much harder to do it that way.”
Any hope of buying a new-from-the-molds replica Daytona Spyder body from McBurnie Coachcraft went the way of Sonny Crockett’s two-seater. The TV car was blown up by a Stinger anti-aircraft missile in the first episode of Miami Vice’s third season, in 1986. Three years later, Ferrari prevailed in a Federal court trial where their claims of trademark infringement were upheld, and McBurnie Coachcraft was ordered to stop making the Daytona Spyder replica bodies.
Still, the remaining replicas—like Vince’s—remind one of the time when an idea (“MTV cops”) by NBC-TV’s programming chief in the early ’80s, Brandon Tartikoff, was presented to filmmaker Michael Mann, and resulted in a dramatic series that changed the look and sound of network TV dramas from that time on.
And they look haunting and mysterious in their own right, like Vince’s replica Daytona Spyder.
|Vehicle:||1972 Corvette (Ferrari 365/4 GTS Daytona Spyder replica)|
|Owner||Vince Perazzo, Mahwah, NJ|
|Engine||Modified Chevrolet Gen II small-block V-8 (RPO LT1), balanced and blueprinted|
|Block||Chevrolet Gen II small-block (RPO LT1), cast-iron, four-bolt mains (machined and deburred before assembly)|
|Displacement||350 ci (5.7 liters)|
|Heads||Chevrolet Gen II small-block “292” angle-plug, cast-iron, cc’d, ported, and polished|
|Valves||Chevrolet Gen II small-block, 2.02-inch intake, 1.60-inch exhaust|
|Camshaft||Crower “street cam,” 0 lash, hydraulic lifters|
|Pistons||“Flat top” forged aluminum, 9:1compression|
|Crankshaft||Chevrolet Gen II small-block (RPO LT1), nitrided steel|
|Oil System||Chevrolet Performance high volume, with mechanical pump|
|Carburetion||Holley 750-cfm “double pumper|
|Ignition||Mallory Hy-Fire system, with its Unilite distributor and Promaster coil|
|Exhaust||Dual ceramic-coated steel (tailpipes replicate the stock Ferrari 365/4 GTS Daytona’s)|
|Transmission||Modified/blueprinted GM Turbo-Hydramatic 350, with console-mounted shifter, medium stall speed converter, and competition shift kit|
|Frame||Original ’72 Corvette|
|Suspension||Modified ’72 Corvette with Herb Adams solid control arm bushings in front and Heim joints in the rear trailing arms|
|Brakes||1972 Corvette four-wheel disc|
|Wheels||Dayton “Triple Cross” wires, chrome-plated steel with three-prong “knockoff” hubs, 15x8 inches|
|Tires||BFGoodrich g-Force Sport, 225/60R15 front, 255/60R15 rear|