Top 14 Most Expensive Cars Sold at Auctions
There’s nothing quite like the world of high-stakes car auctions. With money changing hands by the millions and classic cars, hot rods, and classic trucks finding new owners, the atmosphere can get pretty exciting. We’ve done our research, and we’ve found some of the most expensive vintage cars to be ever sold at an auction. If you’re ready to have your mind blown by these extremely high numbers, continue reading.
1) 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO - $38,115,000
The Ferrari 250 GTO is a highly coveted classic automobile. The 250 is so rare that Ferrari only made 39 units. With scarcity and rarity on its side, the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO was sold at the Quail Lodge in Monterey, California for a staggering $38,115,000. 250 GTOs rarely make their way through the auction circuits, so it’s not hard to imagine why an individual would pay so much money to own one. If you think $38,115,000 is a lot of money, you’re going to be very surprised by the original estimation of this vehicle. Here’s a hint: it was $50,000,000.
2) 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 - $29,607,760
Once upon a time, the Mercedes-Benz W196 held the title for being the most expensive collector vehicle sold at an auction, having changed hands for $29,607,760. That was a full year before the aforementioned 250 GTO took that coveted title. The W196 was listed at the Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed sale in July 2013. The Formula 1 single-seater had quite the history; having won races with the ever famous F1 driver Juan Manuel Fangio at the wheel. Furthermore, the W196 sported a fuel-injected 2.5-liter inline-eight engine. When it was sold, the W196 set thee records simultaneously: it was the most expensive Mercedes-Benz, it was the most costly formula 1 car, and it was the most expensive car to be ever sold at an auction.
3) 1967 Ferrari 275 GTS/4 N.A.R.T. Spider - $27,5000,000
Can you believe that this collector car was originally listed at presale for a mere $14 - $17 million? Clearly, the bidding grew hot and fierce because that initial estimate practically doubled when it was all said and done and the 275 sold for a staggering $27,500,000. The price point was so surprising that auction expert Dave Kinney stated that it was “one of the most memorable auction sales ever”. The Ferrari 275 GTS is only one of 10 drop top versions that were ever built by coachbuilder Scaglietti. What made this vehicle even more special was the fact that it had never left the ownership of its original owner, Eddie Smith of North Carolina. It was only six years after his death that his family finally decided to sell the vehicle and donate all proceeds to charity.
4) 1964 Ferrari GTB/C Speciale – $26,400,000
The GTO might have overshadowed by the sale of the 250 GTO, but the 275 GTC/C Speciale pulled in quite the pile of cash itself. This vehicle is the road going version of the 275 race car that placed third overall at the 1965 24 hours Le Mans. That’s quite the pedigree, and it’s also one of only three GTB/C Speciale Berlinetta Competitonze cars produced that met homologation regulations. The 275 GTB is powered by a 3.3-liter V-12 engine with 320 hp through a five-speed manual gearbox. When this vehicle was sold at auction, it was in perfect condition. On top of the fact that it’s so rare, it’s no wonder that the Ferrari 275 GTB sold for so much!
5) 1954 Ferrari 375-Plus Spider Competizione - $18,400,177
The Ferrari 375 is a factory-backed car built for the race track. Its powerful 4.9-liter V-8 engine made it a force to be reckoned with on Italian raceways. Eventually, it was sold to an American who used the 375-Plus for SCCA club racing for several years before the vehicle eventually fell into disrepair. Sometime later, the vehicle was sent to Italy to be fully restored, and the body and the original engine were reunited once again (no one knows why the two were separated in the first place). Before its fall from grace, the Ferrari 375 was a fearsome beast on the raceway. With nicknames such as “The Fearsome Four-Nine” from British teams and “Le Monstre” from the French, it was clear that the 375 had created quite a name for itself on the raceways. It’s no wonder that this vehicle sold for so much money, despite having gone through such extensive restoration.
6) 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa - $16,390,000
For those who truly understand the value of this vehicle, $16.39 million may seem like the bargain of a lifetime. Considering the fact that this was the first Ferrari 250 Testarossa that was ever built, the price really does seem on the lower end. Before the 250 Testa Rossa ever made it to North America, it was put through its paces as a Scuderia Ferria Team car that competed at Le Mans. What this antique car has in spades is a rich past. It has a 3.0-liter, frenzied styling, 300-hp V-12 engine, four-speed manual transmission, and six Weber carburetors. There aren’t many vehicles that have such impressive specs.
7) 1964 Ferrari 250 LM - $14,300,000
Though the price continues to fall in terms of value on this list, there’s still nothing quite like the Ferrari 250 LM. It was Ferrari’s first mid-engine car and was extremely well maintained. Features include a coachbuilt body by Scaglietti and packs a 320-hp Ferrari V-12 engine under the hood. The 250 LM was owned by Steven Earle of Santa Barbara, who used this race car as a daily driver in California. For a racecar, you could say it was lightly used. Earle first ordered the car back in 1964 and only racked up a few thousand miles on the vehicle before selling it off a few years later. He never raced the vehicle. Some years later, the 250 LM was put through its paces through various racetracks that included Daytona and Sebring. In 1968, it even placed first in its class at the 24 Hours of Daytona. When it was sold in 2013 for $14,3000,000, it was the vehicle’s first appearance in public for three decades.
8) 1953 Ferrari 340/375 MM Berlinetta Competizione - $12,812,800
This particular 340/375 MM Berlinetta was one of three 375 MM cars to race in the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hour race. Later on, the vehicle was modified for improved performance. The engine was one of the first to be modified, receiving an increase to 4.5 liters. This increase brought the 340/375 spec’s up to match the same capacity as the V-12 engine found in the Ferrari 375 Formula car. Changes to the front and rear also helped to improve the 340/375’s performance, specifically its downforce and visibility. This old car has had quite the racing history, having been driven by three well known and respected champions before ending being imported to the U.S. in 1954. Over the years, the vehicle underwent many restorations, returning it to its original state when it first rolled off the line in 1953. Hopefully the owner had classic car insurance (coverage) to offset the costs of all of that restoration work. This vehicle went for a stunning $12,812,800 on the auction room floor at Villa Erba in May 2013.
9) 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster - $11,770,000
The Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster has a war strewn history, having survived the horrors of WW2 in Germany. At some point, the 540K Speical Roadster was transported to the U.S. and seemed to vanish from existence. Eventually, it was found hidden in a barn located in Connecticut in 1992 and restored back to its former glory. Boasting a 180-hp, 5.4-liter inline-eight engine with a supercharger as well as a four-speed manual gearbox, this vehicle was a force to be reckoned with. The backstory of this vehicle, along with its specs and mere presence, prompted one buyer to part with $11.77 million at the Pebble Beach auction in 2012 to take it home. It was quite the historic purchase indeed.
Thus far, we’ve talked about vehicles that have actually been sold at auction. However, there are a few vehicles out there that have yet to be sold to car collecting enthusiasts with a fat pocket book, but have ridiculously high auction estimations.
10) 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 – Estimated Price: $20,000,000 or more
One of the first vehicles on the chopping block, so to speak, is the 1956 Aston Martin DBR1. This is one of five Aston Martin DBR1’s that has ever been built; needless to say, the value of this vehicle is immense. In 1959, the DBR1 won the Le Mans title and had a racing history that’s quite impressive. This vehicle has in fact been driven by Carroll Shelby and Stirling Moss. The DBR1 is the first vehicle ever to be offered at a public auction. It’s estimated that the DBR1 could easily skyrocket to one of the five most expensive cars ever sold at an auction.
11) 1995 McLaren F1- Estimated price: $10,000,000 – $14,500,000
When it comes to supercars, it doesn’t get better than the McLaren F1. It’s considered the original supercar, and possibly the best out there. You can think of the McLaren F1as Formula One road cars. It’s almost scary if you let yourself think about it too long. Between 1994 and 1998, only 106 have been built, and they retailed at $1,000,000 a pop.
12) 1970 Porsche 917K – Estimated Price: $12,000,000 - $16,000,000
Anything that Steve McQueen has touched that’s even remotely car related has practically turned to gold. Basically, everything that the actor/racer has driven in, owned, starred in, or stared at suddenly saw an increase in its value because of the “McQueen Premium”. It seems that Gooding & Co. have unearthed one of McQueen’s ultimate trophies – the 1970 Porsche 917K that was used in McQueen’s racing movie “Le Mans”. Despite the fact that the legend himself didn't drive the vehicle in the movie, it still appeared on screen. If the selling price matches the estimate, the 917K will become the most expensive Porsche ever sold.
13) 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/C – Estimated Price: $12,000,000 - $16,000,000
A recurring theme on this list is rarity and scarcity. It’s one of the primary reasons that vehicles can sell for millions. The Ferrari 275 GTB/C is no exception to this rule. There were only 12 built in the world, thus owning one would make instantly make you a member of a very exclusive club. This specific vehicle participated in more than 20 races, winning in its class many times over and giving it an impressive pedigree. The 275 GTB/C is highly coveted.
14) 1963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight – Estimated Price: $4,000,000 - $7,000,000
After going through this entire list, it seems that $4,000,000 is practically nothing, but that’s still an impressive number, especially for the Jaguar E-Type Lightweight. Many view this car as one of the most beautiful vehicles ever built. Over the years, this model has undergone many improvements, becoming well-known for its aerodynamic tail, amped up engine and suspension, and aluminum bodywork. In total, only 12 of these machines were ever made, and this is the 10th in the lineup.