Demand for ultra-rare cars in recent years has pushed classic prices ever higher, a moveable feast for the world’s prestigious auction houses.
RM Sothebys knocked down in New York the other day the most expensive car it has ever sold. The ex-works Ferrari 290 MM fetched US$28,050,000 (NZ$41.2m), a record auction price for 2015.
Bonhams last year oversaw the record price for a rare classic when it sold a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta for US$38,115,000 (NZ$56m). It remains the most expensive car sold at auction.
But other classics are said to have privately changed hands for even more. A Ferrari 250 GTO is believed to have been sold for around US$47.6m (NZ$70m) in 2013 but that was a private deal between two collectors and there’s no public record of it.
Same with a 1936 Bugatti Type-57 SC Atlantic reportedly sold to the Mullin Automotive Museum in California in 2010 for between US$30million (NZ$44m) and US$40million (NZ$58.8m).
Here are the top 10, starting with No. 1 pictured at the top of the page, the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO. It was sold by Bonhams The Quail in 2014 and fetched US$38,115,000. It was built to contest the 1963 FIA World GT Championships. Only 39 250 GTOs were built by Ferrari and this particular example is one of the best maintained and most raced of them all.
Auction: Bonhams, Goodwood Festival of Speed 2013. Price: US$29,600,000.
The Mercedes-Benz W196 Grand Prix car was driven by five-time Formula One world champion Juan Manuel Fangio. The car was sold in ‘authentic’ condition with visible blemishes and a thin layer of grime as if it had just rolled off the track.
Auction: RM Sotheby’s, New York City, 2015. Price: $28,050,000.
The ex-works Ferrari 290 MM was built for Juan Manuel Fangio to race in the 1956 Mille Miglia. It’s one of only four of its kind in existence.
Auction: RM Auctions Monterey Sale 2013. Price: US$27,500,000.
The restored Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spider was one of only 10 in the world and had a detailed history including an appearance with Steve McQueen in the film The Thomas Crown Affair. The Spiders raced in open-top events in the US and carried the NART (North American Racing Team) badge on the rear.
Auction: RM Auctions Monterey Sale 2014. Price: US$26.400,000.
It’s one of only three Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale models built in late 1964 and early 1965 to homologate its new 275 GTB race car. The 275 GTB/C Speciale was significantly lighter and faster than a standard 275 GTB road car, thanks to aluminium bodywork, a lighter chassis and a V12 engine mounted lower and delivering an extra 52kW. The sale car was never raced competitively but one of the other cars finished third overall at Le Mans in 1965.
Auction: Arcturial, Paris, 2015. Price: US$18,500,000.
The Ferrari 250 was a true barn find, sitting for years with about 100 other cars that owner Robert Baillon planned to exhibit in a private museum. When 59 of them eventually went to auction, the Ferrari’s US$18.5 million pricetag went a long way towards the US$28m total generated by the auction.
Auction: Bonhams, Goodwood Festival of Speed 2014. Price: US$18,400,177.
The Ferrari 375-Plus Spider Competizione was built purely for use by the Ferrari works racing team with a 4.9-litre V12 mounted in the front. It finished second at the Mille Miglia in 1954 with Umberto Maglioli at the wheel.
Auction: RM Auctions New York Sale 2015. Price: US$17,600,000.
Said to be one of the finest examples of Ferrari’s first mid-engined car in existence. It was comissioned by the Fry family (of British chocolate and confectionary fame) and was raced in Britain until 1984 when it was sold overseas. It was No. 23 of 32 built.
Auction: Gooding & Company, Pebble Beach 2015. Price: US$16,830,000.
Another Ferrari 250 – this time a drop-top Spider, sought after due to its covered headlights. It’s one of only 37 of its kind, with coachwork by Scaglietti. The last time this car was sold was in the 1960s.
Auction: Gooding & Company, Pebble Beach 2015. Price: $16,500,000.
This concours-winning car was the centrepiece of the Lorenzo Zabrano collection for three decades. It stole the show at Pebble Beach because of its distinctive Giugiaro-designed, shark-nosed styling.