Fans of exotic classic cars are already asking what affect the COVID-19 pandemic will have on upcoming auctions, like the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August.
The elite auction houses, like RM Sotherby’s and Bonhams, constantly hold high-profile sales in both the USA and Europe, and it can be difficult to keep tabs on the multi-million dollar trade in these dream machines.
So, for the record, here are the 25 most expensive cars ever sold at auction. Each of these vehicles has crossed the auction block in the last eight years.
The 25 are made up of 18 from Italy, five from Britain, one from Germany and one from the USA.
1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/C (Pictured at top): Sold by Gooding & Co. in August, 2017 for $US14,520,000: This specimen was just one of a dozen GTB/C (C for Competition) models built. It was raced successfully in Italy in the 1966, ’67, ’68, ’69, and ’70 seasons. It came with hydraulic disc brakes on all four wheels along with independent suspension. Under the bonnet was a 3.3-litre (3286cc) SOHC V12 engine equipped with three Weber 40 DFI/3 carburetors and mated to a five-speed Transaxle transmission with a limited-slip differential. This car at one stage belonged to Italian race car driver, Renzo Sinibaldi.
1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder: Sold by Gooding & Co. in August, 2014, for $US15,180,000. The winner of many concours and rally events, this example runs a four-speed gearbox and a 3.0-litre (2953cc) Tipo 168/61 SOHC V12 engine with Weber carbs. Output is 180kW (240hp) at around 7000rpm. Independent coil-spring suspension sits up front, while out the back is a live-rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf-spring and tubular shock absorbers. Certified by the Ferrari Classiche Department, this ’61 specimen also features a rare hardtop, as well as covered-headlights — the latter of which only appeared on 37 factory examples.
1995 McLaren F1: Sold by Bonhams in August, 2018, for $US15,620,000. When the F1 was first dreamed up in the late 1980s, the concept was to deliver the ultimate in automotive road-going performance. McLaren unleashed what became for a decade or so the most competent supercar in the world. Boasting a whopping 5000 individual components, the car featured a BMW 6.1-lite (6064cc) DOHC V12 engine generating 468kW (627hp) with sequential closed-loop fuel-injection and a six-speed manual transaxle that allowed for speeds over 320km/h. The F1 also got four-wheel independent suspension and drilled and vented Brembo disc brakes.
1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa: Sold by Gooding & Co. in August, 2011, for $US16,390,000. This particular 250 Testa Rossa was the first of the Testa Rossa family, certified by Ferrari itself. It was built as a prototype for the Scuderia Ferrari team, and is one of the rare competition specimens. After leaving the race team’s shop, this example spent eight seasons being campaigned in various competitions. Adorned in the 1958 Le Mans North American Race Team livery, it features a 3.0-litre Tipo 128 LM V12 engine good for around 224kW (300hp). This car took first place in its class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (in 2006).
1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Speciale Bertone: Sold by Gooding & Co. in August, 2015, for $US16,500,000. One of the most iconic designs from one of the era’s most respected coach builders, this car’s bodywork from Carrozzeria Bertone was reportedly inspired by the marque’s earlier ‘sharknose’ race cars. Making this specimen all the more noteworthy is the fact that it was the personal car of Nuccio Bertone, who owned and operated the famous Turin-based coach building outfit after it was passed down to him by his father, Giovanni Bertone. This example has been crowned with numerous highly-coveted awards including several best in show trophies.
1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder: Sold by Gooding & Co at Pebble Beach in August, 2015, for $US16,830,000. This is another well-documented and restored 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder. Like the one above, it is one of only 37 SWB California Spyders to feature aerodynamic covered headlights and is powered by the same 180kW 3.0-litre V12. This example originally left the factory wearing “Blu Metallizzato” paint, but was later treated to a coat of the Italian brand’s trademark Rosso Corsa red. And, in addition to being documented by noted Ferrari historian, Marcel Massini, this example is also Ferrari Classiche department-certified.
1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder: Sold by Gooding & Co in March, 2016, for $US17,160,000. This Italian V12 was owned from new by legendary Italian architect and designer, Gianfranco Frattini. It has only traded hands twice since then, the most recent of which — before its sale for $US17.16m in 2016 — was in 1983. This particular example also featured in the 1963 fiilm, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, which starred Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. And, as you may have guessed, it’s another one of the 37 examples to sport factory headlight covers, and is powered by the 240hp Tipo 168/61 V12.
1964 Ferrari 250 LM: Sold by RM Sotherby’s in August, 2015, for $US17,600,000. The 250 LM was a high-performance car remarkably different from its predecessors. Production was limited to only 32 units and the vehicle was slated to be campaigned in the era’s GT class, but eventually was ran as a sports prototype. A 250 LM won at Le Mans in 1965. At the heart of the 250 LM was a 3.3-lite (3286cc) V12 delivering 240kW (320hp) with an aluminum block, six Weber 38 DCN carbs, and a five-speed manual transmission, stuffed inside a chassis with anti-roll bars and independent suspension with front and rear unequal-length wishbones, coil springs, and telescopic shocks.
1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder Competizione: Sold by Gooding & Co in August, 2016, for $US18,150,000. It might be yet another Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider, but it’s a little different, for numerous reasons. First off, it’s a Competizione (competition spec), which meant upgraded disc brakes and suspension, and a Tipo 168 V12 that made 205kW (275hp), 26kW (35hp) more than the standard models. It is also one of only nine LWB California Spider examples to boast lightweight alloy bodywork. Also certified and documented by Ferrari Classiche Department, this example finished fifth overall at the 1960 Sebring 12-hour race.
1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder: Sold by auction house Artcurial in February, 2015, for $US18,454,304. This car is something of a time capsule. It was bought and sold many times before landing in long-term storage for several decades. When it was unearthed and sent across the auction block, it – unlike the rest of the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyders on this list – still wore its original paint and patina inside and out. Its glove compartment even contained its original paperwork, along with a dehydrated pair of driving gloves. This matching-number example also once belonged to French movie star, Alain Delon.
1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta: Sold by Artcurial in February, 2019, for $US18,997,883. This 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta is one of the rarest cars from the Turin firm. Before the ample engine development born out of World War II, Alfa Romeo’s 8c 2900 was the fastest production car in the world. Of the five touring specimens produced, this example is number two. Sporting several elements clearly influenced by the earlier Art Deco scene, this car was the absolute best in luxury and performance. Its bodywork alone leaves little doubt as to the era it was designed in.
1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spyder: Sold by RM Sotherby’s in August, 2016, for $US19,800,000. Another variation of a 1939 example of Alfa Romeo’s 8C 2900B, this Lungo Spider is considered to be the quintessential Italian sports car of its era. It was powered by a supercharged 2.9-litre straight-eight engine developing around 135kW (180hp) and mated to a four-speed gearbox. Suspension was a double-wishbone arrangement up front and a swing axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs at the rear. This example is not only just one of 12 Touring Spyders still known to exist, but when it crossed the auction block, it became the first publicly offered “Immortal 2.9” (8C 2900).
1994 McLaren F1 LM-Specification: Sold by RM Sotherby’s in August, 2019, for $US19,805,000. Of the 106 F1 specimens built, only five carried the LM-spec: an upgraded version of the F1 built to celebrate the brand’s 1995 success at Le Mans, where it took first, third, fourth, fifth, and 13th. The bevy of performance parts included a reworked 6.1-litre V12 with a modified transmission, cooling and exhaust system, as well as a few other touches like the marque’s high downforce bodywork. This model was delivered in 1994 and later returned to McLaren’s headquarters for full factory conversion to LM-spec, one of only two to receive the elite factory treatment.
1963 Aston Martin DP215: Sold by RM Sotherby’s in August, 2018, for $US21,455,000. After Aston Martin pulled the plug on its factory race programme at the end of the 1960 season, it didn’t take long for enthusiasts to urge it to produce a new track-bred machine. After much development and several iterations (after the DP212 and DP214), one of the results was the DP215. Variants included touring versions earmarked for completion, specifically at Le Mans. This example raced at Le Mans in 1963 and later went on to clock 320km/h (198.6mph). It sports its original engine, five-speed transmission, and alloy bodywork.
1955 Jaguar D-Type: Sold by RM Sotherby’s in August 2016 for $US21,780,000. One of the most historically significant Jaguars on the planet, this 1955 D-Type was auctioned as the first team-series D-Type built. It won Le Mans in 1955 with racers Ron Flockhart and Ninjan Sanderson at the helm for the Edinburgh-based Ecurie Ecosse team. Though it’s traded hands twice since belonging to the Scottish team, it remains almost exactly as it was when it was last raced. Under the bonnet, this example sports a 3.4-litre (3442cc) double-overhead cam inline-six cylinder engine that squeezes out 186kW (250hp).
1935 Duesenberg SSJ: Sold by Gooding & Co. in August 2018 for $US22,000,000. One of only two examples ever built, this 1935 Duesenberg SSJ marked the crowning achievement of the US outfit, based in Auburn, Indiana. The SSJ featured an incredibly advanced engine for its time: a 7-litre (6882cc) straight-eight with double-overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and a centrifugal supercharger that helped it generate 300kW (400hp). Completely unrestored and still retaining its factory engine, chassis, and bodywork, this particular example also sported a shorter wheelbase. Its first owner was 1930s Hollywood film icon, Gary Cooper.
1956 Ferrari 290 MM: Sold by RM Sotherby’s in August 2018 for $US22,005,000. A genuine, ex-competition Scuderia Ferrari works race car from the 1956 and 1957 seasons, this example was piloted by some of the era’s most celebrated drivers at iconic events including the 1000KM of Buenos Aires and the Mille Miglia. This example isn’t just certified by Ferrari’s classic department, it was rebuilt by the company’s elite restoration division and returned to its former glory and adorned in its 1957 Sebring 12-hour race livery. Of the four surviving examples known to exist, this was the final specimen produced.
1956 Aston Martin DBR1: Sold by RM Sotherby’s in August 2017 for $US22,550,000. Widely considered to be the most significant Aston Martin model in the marque’s history, the DBR1 was born out of a tireless and dogged effort to win at Le Mans. The company would produce a total of five DBR1 examples, all powered by straight-six engines. This model is not only the first of the five made, but it also won the 1959 Nurburgring 1000KM, and was raced by Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, and Carroll Shelby. Built during Aston Martin’s racing glory days, this specimen packs a special race-ready period reproduction engine.
1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale: Sold by RM Sotherby’s in August 2014 for $US26,400,000. An historically significant Ferrari, this 1964 275 GTB Competizione Speciale features Scaglietti coachwork and a Tipo 213/Comp 3.3-litre (3286cc) lightweight-block V12 that pumped out 240kW. One of only three works Berlinetta Competizione ever built – and the first to leave the shop – these seldom-seen machines are cousins of the 250 GTOs. Both the spartan, race-inspired interior (with original Veglia clocks) and gray, two-tone-liveried exterior on this specimen are absolutely flawless, too.
1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4S Spyder: Sold by RM Sotherby’s in August 2013 for $US27,500,000. This is one of 10 built for the North American Racing Team (NART), founded in 1958 by Luigi Chinetti and lasting until 1982. NART was an endurance race programme formed to promote Ferrari in America through long-format competition. Today, these NART specimens are highly sought after by Ferrari aficionados, and few, if any, are as special as this 1967 275 GTB/4S Spider. This matching numbers example is housed in a tubular steel chassis and features a 224kW 3.3-litre (3286cc) four-overhead camshaft V12 engine.
1956 Ferrari 290 MM: Sold by RM Sotherby’s in December 2015 for $US28,050,000. While the earlier ex-Scuderia Ferrari works racer on this page is special, this specimen is on another level entirely. A rolling piece of Ferrari’s race history, this example took fourth place overall at the 1956 Mille Miglia, driven by Juan Manuel Fangio. Under the bonnet was a 240kW powerplant, a 3.5-litre SOHC, Tipo 130 V12 engine with triple Weber twin-choke carbs and twin spark-plug ignition with quad Magneti-Marelli distributors. The car’s suspension was considered advanced for the time – helical springs and an anti-roll bar up front, and a De Dion rear axle.
1954 Mercedes-Benz W196: Sold by Bonhams in July 2013 for $US29,600,000. In the mid 1950s, Mercedes-Benz was the team to beat in high level racing. It took aim squarely at Formula One competition with a cutting-edge car driven by some of the best in the sport, including Fangio. The Argentinian to this day still holds the record for the highest winning percentage of all time at a little over 46 per cent. Fangio was at the helm of the W196R. The Formula One car was built around a lightweight space-frame chassis and was powered by a supercharged straight-eight engine. This car won the German and Swiss Grands Prix.
1957 Ferrari 335 S: Sold by Artcurial in February 2016 for $US35,730,510. This 335 Sport Scaglietti was one of the three sold most expensive vehicles ever sold. The ex-factory works racer has extensive competition history, including second overall at the 1957 Mille Miglia and sixth overall at the Sebring 12-hour in March of that same year. Stirling Moss drove it to win the Grand Prix of Cuba in 1958. Furthermore, this very car was also the first to lap an average speed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans of over 200km/h (124.27mph). And, as its sale price would definitely suggest, every inch of this example, both inside and out, is absolutely pristine.
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta: Sold by Bonhams in August 2014 for $US38,115,000. This 1962-63 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta was one of only 39 built. And though it was built in greater numbers than some of the other Ferraris on this list, its race pedigree and ties to significant drivers and events have made it more exclusive. An ex-Stirling Moss specimen traded hands privately in 2012 for $US35m, while another private sale example from 2013 went for $US52m. Still wearing race livery, this car was piloted in competition by a number of elite racers, including Formula One driver Jo Schlesser before his death in a crash in the 1968 French Grand Prix.
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO by Scaglietti: Sold by RM Sotherby’s in August 2018 for $US48,405,000. The holy grail of vintage automotive offerings, this 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO by Scaglietti was touted by the auction house as “the world’s most important, desirable, and legendary motorcar.” Known as the mythical “Chassis 3413,” it was expected to bring around $US60m, though everyone at the auction appeared happy at $US48.4m. Successor to the SWB 250 Berlinetta, the 250 GTO was one of the first Ferraris to benefit from wind-tunnel testing. Engine was a 3.0-litre short-block Colombo V12. This example was also raced by Phil Hill.