A few weeks ago we told you about David Bowie’s Volvo which sold for £160,000 at auction at the beginning of the year. £160k is a lot of money, but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to what some collectors pay for some of the classics, especially racing cars from the 1950s and ’60s.
If you look at the history of public auctions and the most expensive cars sold, prices start at the $4,000,000 mark, but even that is small fry compared to the top of the list.
Unsurprisingly, Ferrari dominates the pack – the brand’s racing pedigree, not to mention Ferrari’s clean, exciting lines and exceptional performance make them the ultimate collectors item.
So, if you’ve got a spare 40 million quid knocking around and you’re not sure what to spend it on, take a look at these…
1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S NART Spider
- Chassis: 10709
- Sold For: $27,500,000
- Auctioned: August 17, 2013, by RM Sotherby’s, California
The NART was the North American Racing Team, and this particular Ferrari 275 was one of only 10 Spiders ever built. It was a two-seater, front-engined car, equipped with a 3.3L V12 engine producing 280-330hp.
While the GT and roadster versions were designed by Pininfarina, Scaglietti designed the Spider version, making it one of the rarest and most valuable in the world. At the time it was described by Road & Track as “the most satisfying sportscar in the world”.
This particular model was originally dark blue and spent most of its life in that shade until it was repainted red by its owner. Even though a colour-change will often devalue a collector’s car like this, it made no such impact on this occasion.
This model also happened to have an unusual chromed grille guard and the owner, challenged by judges at a car show that it was “unoriginal” quipped “Well, if that’s not original, I’ll be as surprised as you are, because it was on there when I picked the car up [from the factory] myself in Modena.”
1956 Ferrari 290 MM
- Chassis: 0626
- Sold For: $28,050,000
- Auctioned: December 10, 2015, by RM Sotherby’s, New York
When Ferrari lost the World Sportscar Championship manufacturers title to Mercedes-Benz in 1955, this was the car Enzo Ferrari chose to win it back.
Vittorio Jano, one of Enzo’s engineers, urged him to use a V12 after several years of using four-and six-cylinder engines and five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio was chosen to drive in the Mille Miglia.
In a rare bit of luck, by the time the car ended its racing career in 1964, it had never been crashed, despite placing well at races on the treacherous Nurburgring, Rouen-Les-Essarts, and Kristianstad, where a second-place finish secured the 1956 World Sportscar Championship.
Since then it has made regular appearances at Goodwood and the Concours of Elegance, as well as racing in amateur historic races like the Mille Miglia Storica, as well as featuring in several museum exhibits and collections.
- Chassis: 196 010 00006/54
- Sold For: $29,600,000
- Auctioned: July 12, 2013, by Bonhams, Chichester
The only car to break up Ferrari’s dominance of the most expensive cars sold at auction, this Mercedes grand-prix racer is the only one from the manufacturer even in the top 30.
Sleek and streamlined, it was intended to bolster Germany’s efforts in the top flights of motorsport, now the Formula One series, which at the time was just four years old.
The W196Rs were unique and bold in their design with enclosed fenders as opposed to the traditional open-wheel designs that were so prevalent.
It won the German and Swiss Grands Prix in 1954, raced by Juan Manuel Fangio, and of the twelve World-Championship-qualifying Grands Prix in 1954 and ’55, it went on to win nine of them. Two of them finished in first- and second-place in the French Grand Prix at Reims-Gueux and it was the first German victory of a major sporting event since before the second world war in 1939.
This chassis is the most successful of surviving models, and the only one not in a museum. When finally sold in 2013 it became the highest-price car ever to be sold at auction.
1957 Ferrari 335 S Spider Scaglietti
- Chassis: 0674
- Sold For: $35,711,359
- Auctioned: February 5, 2016, by Artcurial, Paris
It’s hard to call any Ferrari “run-of-the-mill”, but in Ferrari terms, that’s how chassis 0674 started out – as a 315S factory race car, designed by Scaglietti, and entered by Suderria Ferrari in the 1957 12 Hours of Sebring, where it finished sixth.
After the Mille Miglia later that same year, it was returned to the factory for a rebirth where its 3.8l V12 was increased to a 4.1l, making it one of only four of the model 335S, and able to top 185mph with 390hp.
Driven by Mike Hawthorn and Luigi Musso, it appeared at the Le Mans 24 race, where Hawthorn set the first-ever lap record.
The car finished the year in the Swedish and Venezuelan Grands Prix, and gained Ferrari the World Constructor’s Title in 1957. Changes to the regulations, limiting engines to 3-litres, meant the 335S was ineligible for the 1958 season. This particular chassis was sold by Ferrari, racing in Cuba (in which Stirling Moss won the Cuban Grand Prix) and the USA, before retiring from the circuits.
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta
- Chassis: 3851GT
- Sold For: $38,115,000
- Auctioned: August 14, 2014, by Bonhams, California
It’s hardly surprising that the most expensive car ever sold at auction is a Ferrari 250 GTO. It’s reputation and mystique, not to mention sleek design and record-breaking results make it not just one of the finest racing cars of its era, but a work of art too.
Chassis 3851GT, with a Scaglietti-designed body, was bought by private racer Jo Schlesser in 1962, who intended to drive it in partnership with Henri Oreillier – a former professional skier, and hero of the French Resistance during WWII.
Sadly, Oriellier was killed while driving the vehicle in a crash at Coupes du Salon. Ferrari repaired the car at the factory, and then sold it on to another private racer who won 12 of 14 hill climbs entered in 1963.
The car gained a reputation for victory, and another for crashing. It was rolled during the 1964 Coppa Inter-Europa. Ferrari repaired it once more, this time only really cosmetic damage, but the owner decided to sell it.
The subsequent owner held on to 3851GT for 49 years until it was sold at auction in 2014, where it set one final record – the most expensive car ever sold.
When you’re looking at prices like this, it kind of puts some of the more expensive UK cars in the shade.
Taking the benchmark of the Ferrari 250 GTO (approximately £27.5m at the time of writing), you could get:
- 16x Lamborghini Sesto Elementos (£1.6m)
- 16x Aston Martin Vulcans (£1.6m)
- 18x Koeningsegg Regera (£1.5m)
- 118x Rolls-Royce Ghost Saloons (entry level from £232,000 each)
- 194x Top of the line Range Rover SUVs (£141,580)
- 186x Mercedes S-Class Saloons (£72,705 – £187,240)
- 989x Ford Focus ST-3s (£27,785)
- 1885x Peugeot 108 5-Door Roland Garros (£14,585)
What car would you get, if you had that much money?