A single collector car auction in California this month could potentially set three separate auction records: the most valuable car ever auctioned, the most valuable British car and possibly the most valuable American car ever auctioned.
The days leading up to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Monterey, California are packed with events for high-end car collectors, including auctions that often fetch record prices for the most sought-after cars.
On August 25, the day before the Concours, the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, estimated at $45 million to $60 million, will be auctioned at RM Sotheby’s annual sale in Monterey. If the sale price comes even close to that estimate, it will set a record for any car ever sold at auction.
Next 1962-63 Ferrari GTO sold for $38 million at Bonhams auction at Pebble Beach Car Week in 2014. (The car was two model years old because it was nearly destroyed in a fatal crash and was rebuilt by Ferrari.) This remains the current record holder for a car sold at auction.
Cars sell for much more in private transactions rather than public auctions. The vast majority of collector cars are sold privately. Next Ferrari 250 GTOa 1963 model, was recently sold privately for a widely reported price of $70 million.
Classic Ferrari GTOs are extremely valuable for many reasons. First of all, they were and are simply very beautiful cars. Second, they were some of Ferrari’s most successful racing cars. There have been more successful models, such as the 250 LM, which has the engine mounted behind the driver, but the front-engined GTO is more popular because it is easier to live with and drive.
“With the 250 GTO, you open the door like you would your car, get in and drive,” said RM Sotheby’s car specialist Jake Auerbach. “It really is that simple.
All 36 of the 250 GTOs ever built are still running and owning them has created a very exclusive club. Ferrari 250 owners know each other and occasionally meet at road rallies.
“The GTO tours are, at this level of net worth, the pinnacle event, and there’s really only one way to get there, and that’s to own one of the 36 cars,” said Aurbach.
The GTO sold at RM Sotheby’s auction on August 25 won the Italian GT Championship in 1962 and recorded more than 15 race victories between 1962 and 1965. Among his drivers was Phil Hill, who is most famous as the first American Formula 1 World Champion. He drove this Ferrari as his practice car before the Targa Florio in 1962. Gianni Bulgari, later president of his family’s jewelry company, raced the car in 1963.
The next car to be auctioned by RM Sotheby’s, the 1963 Aston Martin DP215 Grand Touring Competition Prototype, is expected to be the most valuable British car ever sold at auction. Its value is estimated at 18 to 20 million dollars. It never won a race in its short racing career, but set the speed record at Le Mans. It still remains an important part of British motoring history.
Current record holder for the most valuable British car ever auctioned there was also an Aston Martin, a 1956 DBR1 that was sold at RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction last year.
An American car that will also cross the auction block, a 1966 Ford GT40, would have to sell for more than its estimate to set the record, but given the car and its history, it is possible.
The gold-colored racing car finished third at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966, one of the most famous car races in history. After being turned down years earlier in an attempt to buy Ferrari, Ford CEO Henry Ford II demanded that the company beat Ferrari on the track. This was Ford’s moment of triumph.
“It really doesn’t get any better in American racing, period, than Le Mans 1966,” Aurbach said.
The film about this race “Ford vs. Ferrari’, starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, is set to be released next year.
The cars that finished first and second in that race will likely never go on sale, Aurbach said. The car’s availability represents a “generational opportunity,” he said.
The value of the racing car is estimated at 9 to 12 million dollars. So far, the most valuable American car ever auctioned was very the first Shelby Cobra built by Carroll Shelby in 1962. The car sold for $13.8 million at RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction in 2016.
CNNMoney (New York) First published August 4, 2018: 8:14 am ET