Most expensive cars ever sold at auction

18 Aug, 2014 9:00am Steve Walker

What is the world’s most expensive car ever sold at auction? Find out as we list the most valuable cars ever to go under the hammer

Classic cars are a valuable commodity and one in which the world’s super-rich seem increasingly eager to invest. In the face of turmoil in the global financial markets, the demand for a select group of ultra-expensive and hyper-desirable cars has boomed in recent years.

Prices have reached unprecedented levels with every one of the world’s most expensive cars sold at auction having gone under the hammer since May 2009. 

The most expensive car records have mainly tumbled at a few prestigious annual auctions: the Bohnhams sale at The Quail, the Goodings & Company Pebble Beach auction and the RM Auctions Monterey Sale all take place during Monterey Car Week in the US. The Bonhams sale at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK has also seen some record-breaking prices in recent years, as has the RM Auctions event in Maranello, the home of Ferrari.

And, predictably, it’s Ferrari that dominates the most expensive car charts with 8 of the top 10 most expensive cars in the world carrying that famous Italian badge. From the outside looking in, the sums involved seem unbelievable and the theatre in the salerooms as these multi-million Pound deals are done is incredible. The idea of a scratch of your nose at an inopportune moment landing you a £10million 1950s Ferrari is enough to have anyone sitting on their hands.

The most expensive cars ever sold at auction

Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta

So here we go, below are the world’s most expensive cars sold at auction. We’re restricting this most expensive car list to auction sales as these can be easily verified.

Cars are regularly rumoured to have changed hands for even larger amounts in private sales. A Ferrari 250 GTO is believed to have been sold for £32million in 2013 but that was a private deal between two collectors so it doesn’t make our list of auction records.

It’s a similar story with the 1936 Bugatti Type-57 SC Atlantic that was reportedly sold to the Mullin Automotive Museum in California for between $30million and $40million in 2010. 

- Models listed in reverse order. Prices are in dollars with conversions to Pounds Sterling at today’s rates. -

11. 1960 Ferrari 250 GT California LWB Competizione Spyder

1960 Ferrari 250 GT California LWB Competizione Spyder

Auction: Gooding & Company Pebble Beach 2012
Price: $11,275,000 (£6,755,744)

One of just nine alloy-bodied 250 California Spiders ever built, this car was displayed at the 1960 Chicago Auto Show. Presented in immaculate condition, it sold for £6.7million at Pebble Beach in 2012.

10. 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster

1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster

Auction: Goodings & Company Pebble Beach 2012
Price: $11,770,000 (£7,052,338)

Here’s a member of the top 10 most expensive cars that isn’t a race-bred Ferrari. The beautiful Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster was ordered with unique custom features and had only three owners when it was auctioned in 2012. It made over £7million.

9. 1957 Ferrari 250 Testarossa

1957 Ferrari 250 Testarossa

Auction: RM Auctions Marranello Sale 2009
Price: $12,402,500 (£7,431,319)

Only 34 Ferrari 250 Testarossas were ever built, including the prototypes, and this is chassis number 0714, the fourth in the line and only the second customer car. It sold for £7million in Marranello in 2009.

The car took part in the 1958 Cuban Grand Prix in Havana, an event marred by a terrible accident and by the fact that Fidel Castro’s revolutionaries kidnapped Juan Manuel Fangio. The Testarossa finished 13th in the hands of its then owner Piero Drogo.

8. 1953 Ferrari 340/375 MM Berlinetta 'Competizione'

1953 Ferrari 340/375 MM Berlinetta 'Competizione'

Auction: RM Auctions Villa Erba Sale, Italy 2013
Price: $12,812,800 (£7,677,162)

Another 1950s Ferrari racing car sold for £7.6m at the RM Auctions Villa Erba sale in 2013. It was one of the three Ferrari 375 MM models entered into the 1953 Le Mans 24-hours race and was the only works race car to have been driven by three world champions – Mike Hawthorn, Alberto Ascari and Giuseppe Ferina. It also won the 12 Hours of Pescara.

7. 1964 Ferrari 250 LM

1964 Ferrari 250 LM

Auction: RM Auctions New York Sale 2013
Price: $14,300,000 (£8,568,261)

The Ferrari 250 LM that sold for £8.5million in 2013 was touted as one of the finest examples of Ferrari’s first mid-engined car in existence. The car finished 8th overall and 1st in its class at the 1968 Daytona 24-hours. It was the 24th of a 32-car production run.

6. 1957 Ferrari 250 Testarossa

1957 Ferrari 250 Testarossa

Auction: Goodings & Company Pebble Beach 2011
Price: $16,390,000 (£9,820,546)

The first Ferrari 250 Testarossa ever built sold for just under £10m at Pebble Beach in 2011. The fully-restored car had an illustrious motorsport history and a 3.0-litre V12 producing 300bhp plus an unusual black paint job.

5. 1954 Ferrari 375-Plus Spider Competizione

1954 Ferrari 375-Plus Spider Competizione

Auction: Bonhams, Goodwood Festival of Speed 2014
Price: $18,400,177 (£11,022,525)

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. The car topped £11million at the Goodwood Festival of Speed sale in 2014.

4. 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale by Scaglietti

Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale front

Auction: RM Auctions Monterey Sale 2014
Price: $26.400,000 (£15,776,829)

This £15.7m Ferrari is even rarer than the fabled 250 GTO. It's one of only three Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale models that were built by the Maranello marque in late 1964 and early 1965 to homologate its new 275 GTB race car. The Ferrari 275 GTB was designed and built to challenge the Ford GT40 and Shelby Cobra Daytona at Le Mans in 1965. It was the first Ferrari to feature independent rear suspension and represented the evolution of the successful 250 series cars, including the iconic 250 GTO.

With aluminium bodywork, a lighter chassis and a tuned V12 engine (with an extra 70bhp) mounted lower in the car to bring the centre of gravity closer to the track, the 275 GTB/C Speciale was significantly lighter and faster than a standard 275 GTB road car. This particular 275 GTB/C Speciale never saw competitive action on the track but one of the other cars took third place overall at Le Mans in 1965.

3. 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S NART Spider

1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S NART Spider

Auction: RM Auctions Monterey Sale 2013
Price: $27,500,000 (£16,477,426) 

The fully-restored Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spider was one of only 10 in the world when it sold for £16million in 2013 and had a detailed history including an appearance with Steve McQueen in the film The Thomas Crown Affair.

The NART spiders were the brainchild of car importer Luigi Chinetti who recognised the desire for open-topped sports cars in the American market. He requested a series of convertible 275 GTBs from Enzo Ferrari that carried the familiar NART (North American Racing Team) badge on the rear.

2. 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196

1954 Mercedes-Benz W196

Auction: Bonhams, Goodwood Festival of Speed 2013
Price: $29,600,000 (£17,735,702)

This Mercedes-Benz W196 Grand Prix car was driven by 5-time Formula One world champion Juan Manuel Fangio and that helped it to a £17.7million sale price at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2013. 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. You pay all that money and they don’t even run it through a car wash for you!     

1. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

Auction: Bonhams The Quail 2014
Price: $38,115,000 (£22,843,633)

This 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta is the most expensive car ever sold at auction, for now. It was built to contest the 1963 FIA World GT Championships and the 250 GTOs won that year as well as in the following 1963 event.

Only 39 250 GTOs were built by Ferrari and this particular 62-63 example is one of the best maintained and most raced of them all. 

More of the world’s most expensive cars sold at auction…

12. 1968 Ford GT40 - $11,000,000 (£6,590,970) – 2014
13. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider - $10,894,900 (£6,527,996) - 2008
14. 1931 Duesenberg Model J Long-Wheelbase Coupe - $10,340,000 (£6,195,512) - 2011

Which of these cars whould you bid on if you had a few million quid kicking about? let us know in the comments section below. Then check out our story on the world's fastest cars.

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