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The cars of Miami Vice mainly involve the Ferrari Daytona Spider and the Ferrari Testarossa, but also include other automobiles driven by the characters on the show. Currently the Ferrari Daytona (kit car) used on the show, and the Ferrari Testarossa stunt car both reside in Kingsport, Tennessee and are owned by Carl Roberts of Carl Roberts Motor Group.
During the first two seasons and two episodes from the third season, Detective Sonny Crockett drove a midnight black 1972 Ferrari Daytona Spyder 365 GTS/4 replica with a Florida license plate ZAQ178. Ferrari North America had turned down the request by Miami Vice for authentic Ferraris (they did the same with Magnum P.I., forcing that production to purchase actual 308 GTSs). Although Tom McBurnie is credited with planting the Daytona Spyder in the mind of the public, it was actually Al Mardekian, an importer of gray-market exoticars, who sold Miami Vice the two look-alike Ferraris for $49,000 each. In total two Corvette daytona replicas were used for the show, car 4 and then car 1 after the pilot which acted as the stunt car. McBurnie was hired to build the bodies for the Corvette-chassised cars. It was blown to pieces with a hand-held Stinger missile launcher during an illegal arms deal. The Ferrari used in the first two seasons were rebodied corvettes based on a 76 corvette (car 1) and a 81 (car 4) Chevrolet Corvette C3 chassis that had been modified with Pininfarina-designed body panels by specialty car manufacturer McBurnie. The first appearance of the Daytona in the pilot episode is actually a real Ferrari. It only gets about ten seconds of screen time. The car is stationary, and Sonny is sitting in the driver’s seat, reading a newspaper. It can be clearly identified as a real Daytona (American version) by the door handles, side markers, windshield rake, and side vent windows.
Enzo Ferrari filed a lawsuit asking McBurnie and four others to stop producing and selling Ferrari replicas. Miami Vice producers, on the other hand, wanted no legal troubles, and accepted Ferrari's offer of two free 1986 Testarossas on the condition that the replicas be demolished. Carl Roberts offered to build two new Daytonas for the 1987 season (third season of Miami Vice). When Roberts learned that the Daytona was out, he proposed a trade. He would build Miami Vice a Testarossa stunt car in return for the doomed Daytona. Carl's original plan was to remove the Daytona skin from the Corvette and replace it with Testarossa body pieces, but this resulted in poor results and lead to Roberts to devise another plan.
Roberts searched and found a 1972 De Tomaso Pantera, which was perfectly suited for the Testarossa body pieces. The Pantera was rigidly modified to withstand the duties of filming. It was raised 1.5 inches for additional ground clearance, 2.5 inch wall-thick square tubing was used to prevent potential roof buckling and added a reinforcing railing that doubles as a skid plate, an auxiliary braking system designed to assist drivers in controlled spins, the master cylinder was repositioned in the brake line to enable it to feed the rear wheels enabling the driver to lock the aft end on command, and the auxiliary master cylinder utilizes the original master cylinder's reservoir and is installed in series with the outlet of the original master cylinder port leading to the rear wheels. When the stock brake is applied, fluid passes freely through the stunt master cylinder inlet port and compensating port and out the exhaust port to the rear wheels. When the stunt brake is applied, the piston in the master cylinder blocks off the compensating port to the exhaust port and pressurizes the rear brake system, cutting off the original brake master cylinder besides the compensating port in the stunt brake. BF Goodrich TA's were added for enhanced stick, as were Tilton brake calipers. The improved traction required installation of a hydraulic in-line brake power booster lifted from a Volvo P-1800. It operates on engine vacuum to aid in breaking loose the pavement-hugging TA's. To further enhance the growl of the vehicle, Robert's team installed a NOS port-injected nitrous system, which was later replaced with a plate-type configuration. He also replaced the carburetor replacing the stock with a Predator which reduces fuel lag. A Modine all-aluminum four-core radiator was used to guard against Miami's hot weather, and liquid Auto-Meter gauges to monitor the temperature.
In the second episode of the third season, Crockett complained to Lt. Castillo about driving vehicles that did not fit his Cover as a high roller drug dealer; that he was going around "looking like Li'l Abner", to which Castillo told him "It's out back." Sonny was delighted to find his new white 1986 Ferrari Testarossa, Florida license plate AIF00M. The original Testarossas donated by Ferrari North America were black metallic but were then painted white. The Testarossa briefly appears in black in the season 3 episode El Viejo, which was originally intended to be the season opener, but was then switched with When Irish Eyes Are Crying because it was thought that the season needed to start with a "bang", i.e. the fake Daytona being blown up. Different reasons were given at the time as to why the cars were repainted in white, ranging from a driving mishap by Don Johnson on the set that resulted in one of the cars requiring a new coat of paint, to Michael Mann thinking that unlike the Daytona, the black exterior paint did not make the Testarossa look good enough in night scenes.
Ricardo Tubbs drove a 1964 Cadillac Coupe de Ville Convertible. Stan Switek drove a turquoise 1963 Ford Thunderbird. Gina Calabrese drove an 1971 Mercury Cougar XR-7 convertible. When Stan and Larry were undercover, they drove a Dodge Ram Van. Crockett's ex-wife drove a 1983 Ford LTD Country Squire.
Other notable vehicles that appeared in Miami Vice (other than a Ferrari), that were driven by villains, police officers, and other characters on the show included, brands such as Lamborghini, AMG Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Maserati, Lotus, DeLorean, Porsche, and Corvettes. American muscle cars, such as the GTO, Trans Am, Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and a Plymouth Barracuda also made appearances.