The list of the 10 most expensive cars at auction includes six Ferraris, with the top place going to a $38.1 million 250 GTO.
While the top 10 does not include some of the most famous automotive brands such as Porsche, McLaren, Rolls-Royce and Bugatti, representative models of these marques are not very far behind in the top prices. A number of private sales have been put at higher levels than the $38.1 million, with some touching $50 million, though this list is confined to those that are publicly confirmed. At auction, we may not know the buyer but the price is there for all to see.
While the list is being widely reported by Hagerty, the Classic Car Auction Yearbook by Historica Selecta and Wikipedia, the latest is produced by Barnebys, the auction search engine.
“Classic cars are timeless,” Pontus Silfverstolpe, one of the founders of Barnebys, said of the list. “True collector’s pieces, race winners or icons in their brand’s history still have a bright future at auctions.”
Barnebys hosts 3,000 auction houses on its site and says the “vehicles” category is one of the most searched. It said top classic car auction houses include RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, H&H Classics, Gooding & Co, Barrett Jackson, Artcurial, Aguttes, Russo and Steele.
According to “The Wealth Report” published by Knight Frank, classic cars are, in the long-term, a better investment than art and have increased by 334% on its price-driven investment index over the past decade.
1. Ferrari 250 GTO, 1962. Sold for $38,115,000 at Bonhams in 2014.
Ferrari 250 GTOs are always highly coveted, with some reported to have sold for more privately than this one, which nonetheless holds the world record for a sale in a public auction house.
This GTO was the keynote of the “Maranello Rosso” collection, formerly belonging to Fabrizio Violati, who died in 2010.
The 250 GTO was made to take part in GT racing, where its rivals included the Shelby Cobra. It outperformed Jaguars at the time, too, but 250 GTOs are now often worth much more. Many GTO mechanicals were used in earlier cars but the 250 was especially prized for its curvy bodywork, refined in wind-tunnel tests at Pisa University.
2. Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti, 1957. Sold for £35,711,359 at Artcurial in 2016.
The SS was launched in 1957 and driven by racers such as Sir Stirling Moss, Wolfgang von Trips and Maurice Trintignant. This model was part of the collection of Pierre Bardinon, the founder of the Mas du Clos fashion business, who died in 2012. Bardinon had a race track next to his home and was a collector admired by Enzo Ferrari himself.
The car was bought by an international bidder in the Paris auction room, with a telephone buyer as the under-bidder after a 10-minute battle. The red open racer was estimated to fetch €28 million to €32 million, with the bidding opening at €20 million.
The car, with its Scaglietti bodywork, was entered by Scuderia Ferrari for the Sebring 12 Hours shortly after it was made and it finished sixth. It later set a first lap record at Le Mans of more than 200 kilometers an hour and it won the Cuban Grand Prix with Moss at the wheel.
3. Mercedes Benz W196 1954. Sold for $29,650,095 at Bonhams in 2013.
This racer was sold at the Goodwood “Festival of Speed” where it was presented by Moss again. The total price adds fees and British taxes.
The “Silver Arrow” has a 2.5-liter engine with 8 cylinders in line. Driven by Juan Manuel Fangio, this Mercedes won both the German and Swiss Grand Prix in 1954. The second of these wins allowed him to clinch the second of ultimately five Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship titles.
4. Ferrari 290 MM par Scaglietti, 1956. Sold for $28,050,000 at RM Sotheby’s in 2015.
This was the highlight of the RM Sotheby’s “Driven by Disruption” sale in New York.
Ferrari made the car to get back to its winning ways after the Mercedes-Benz victory in the 1955 Formula 1. The 1956 model was also driven by Fangio, who keeps appearing as a driver of these top-priced cars. This single-seater is one of only four 290 MMs ever built. While it had a long career that lasted until 1964, it had never crashed.
5. Ferrari 275 GTB:4/S N.A.R.T. Spider, 1967. Sold for $27,500,000 at RM Sotheby’s in 2013.
In 2013 this car captured the auction record, having been in the same North Carolina family since it was new.
NART means North American Racing Team, the Ferrari US racing operation. This Spider was actually a road car. Steve McQueen drove one in the original “The Thomas Crown Affair.”
6. Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale par Scaglietti, 1964. Sold for $26,400,000 at RM Sotheby’s in 2014.
This silver-gray car was the first of only three made, with the other two held by private collectors. It has a lightweight aluminum body and a 3-liter V12 engine.
7. Aston Martin DBR1, 1956. Sold for $22,555,000 at RM Sotheby’s in 2017.
A Monterey, California, sale was led by this DBR1, chassis no. 1. It beat an estimate of $20 million after a competition between two bidders on the telephone. The price including premium was the most paid for any Aston Martin as well as any British automobile at public auction. The car was both in immaculate condition and can claim a history of victory at the 1959 Nurburgring 1,000 KM. It also has links with some of the greatest racing drivers of their time, including Jack Brabham, Roy Salvadori, and Moss. It is the first of just five examples.
8. La Jaguar D-Type de 1955. Sold for $21,780,000 at RM Sotheby’s in 2016.
A Le Mans-winning Jaguar D-Type, once part of the Ecurie Ecosse race team, was briefly the most expensive British automobile sold at auction until it was overtaken by the Aston above.
The 1955 Jaguar was the first such model supplied to a private team by the maker, based in England’s Midlands. The car went on to beat Jaguar’s own entries in the 1956 Le Mans. It was offered for the first time in 20 years, after being in an American collection.
This was one of 54 D-Types made and won the Le Mans 24 Hour race in 1956.
9. Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider, 1939. Sold for $19,800,000 at RM Sotheby’s in 2016.
All of the above are 1950s or 1960s cars, partly reflecting the age of many buyers, who are wealthy middle-aged collectors wanting to recapture the dream cars of their youth. Here, on the other hand is an even older vehicle.
If this 1939 Spider’s design looks retro, it is because it is. It was fashioned by Touring in the 1920s.
10. Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider, 1961. Sold for $18,500,000 at Artcurial in 2015.
Back to the 250 GT.
This original edition had never been restored. It was something of a barn find, being recovered from a garage where its highly desirable cover headlights were under a pile of magazines. The French cinema star Alain Delon was among fans of the model.
Click on the slideshow for the images.
Founder Louise Blouin