The classic car market over the last two decades has changed dramatically, with prices of most classic cars and rare supercars increasing significantly. However, dealers now report that the market has dropped away and slowed down in the last year. Thank god I say, as the cars I want seemed to be moving further away from my affordability, something had to give. Yes, there are cars with top pedigree that are still reaching record prices, but many classic car prices are stabilising or dropping (hoorah if you are a buyer, boo if you are seller).
We know that the acceleration of prices in the classic car market over the last 10-20 years has been due to a few factors, namely the uncertainty on the stock market, so investors looked to invest their money in safer items/ purchases. This mindset brought non-classic car enthusiasts to the market, looking for the quick flip. These people bought a car not to drive but purely as an investment. This on top of the explosion of classic car events and car shows has made classic cars, supercars and hypercars cooler.
However, with the rich getting richer and classic cars seeming to be one of the safest places to invest large sums of cash, or the super-rich want rare toys to show off, demand for rare and unique classic cars continues to do well.
If rumours are to be believed there is a new king of the crazy-priced cars with a 1963 Ferrari selling for a claimed $70 million (£52m). However, as this is a private sale the figure cannot be confirmed. The classic Ferrari that has been dubbed the world’s most expensive car is a 250 GTO – the Holy Grail of classic vehicles. One of only 36 examples built is steeped in motor racing history, having won the Tour de France in 1964. Powered by a 3.0-litre V12 engine, this 300bhp racer is road legal and can go from standstill to 60mph in 6.1 seconds and is said to be capable of 174mph.
This list below features the top ten most expensive vehicles ever to sell at auction, according to auction search engine Barnebys.
- 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider – $19.8m
Number 10 on our list also happens to be the oldest, Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider designed by Touring, whose lineage is part of a consistent and logical evolution stretching back to the 1920s.
The 8C 2900 was not just a sports car, but the most advanced, modern, and powerful sports car that money could buy – the ultimate competition machine. Each wheel carried independent suspension; its Vittorio Jano-designed straight-eight engine was two alloy banks of four cylinders, with not only dual overhead camshafts, but two Roots-type superchargers, as well. As exciting and dramatic as the 2.9 chassis itself was, they benefitted from the addition of some of the most luxurious and well-balanced coachwork of the pre-war era.
- 1955 Jaguar D-Type – $21.8m
The Jaguar D Type, considered the most beautiful and iconic sports racing car ever built, was developed specifically to win the most prestigious of motor racing events – Le Mans 24 Hours. Arguably the Jaguar D-Type is the most famous Jaguar car out there. As with fame usually comes fortune, the few remaining D-Types sell for outrageous prices at auctions. According to reports, four bidders battled it out for the keys to the 1955 Jaguar, eventually leading to one collector winning with a bid of $21.8m.Finished in the iconic blue and white livery of the St Andrews Cross, this is one of two Ecurie Ecosse D-Types to win at the 8.5-mile French circuit. This car was the first of three D-Types to win at the iconic event for three consecutive years spanning 1955 to 1957.
- 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 – $22.6m
This specific DBR1 is the first of five that were built. The car was used at the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans and it won the Nürburgring 1000 Kilometres in 1959 with Stirling Moss and Jack Fairman at the wheel.
The Aston is currently fitted with an identical replica of the original engine however the correct engine came with the car. In recent years the car has been maintained by Aston Martin specialists R.S. Williams and is now presented in remarkably good condition throughout – ready for its new owner. Many consider this to be the single most important model in Aston Martin history. This specific car claimed the prize of most expensive British car ever sold at auction with an astounding $22.6m.
- 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale by Scaglietti – $26.4m
This is just the start of where the high-price Ferraris really kick off. Designed by Sergio Scaglietti, the 1964 275GTB/C Speciale is the first edition of a production run of just three examples that ever spawned from Italy. The other two are said to be cherished by private collectors who have no intention to sell.
As the two-seater berlinetta retired, Ferrari built the 275 GTB/C Speciale, a lighter sports car based on the already-iconic 250 GTO. The 275 GTB/C got a 3.3-liter, V-12 engine under its hood, output was increased to 320 horsepower, which, coupled with the lowered weight, promised to deliver outstanding performance on the track.
Although its career didn’t span for more than a few months, the Speciale proved its potency at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it finished third and scored the best finish by a front-engined car. Its record still stands to this day.
- 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB4/S N.A.R.T. Spider – $27.5m
When this drop-top Ferrari went under the hammer in California in 2013 it became the most expensive car sold at auctions at the time, making waves throughout the entire classic car scene. Only 10 examples of this car were ever made.
Part of what makes this N.A.R.T. Spider so valuable is the cars unique combination of the 1950s Ferrari styling and the advanced mechanicals. Almost the entire Maranello racing technology suite was applied to the NART Spider – allowing it to be a luxury cruiser also capable of serious speed on a racetrack.
- 1956 Ferrari 290 MM by Scaglietti – $28m
Ferrari racing cars are among the most legendary in the history of motorsport. When it comes to vintage cars, few are more eye-catching than those from Ferrari and this 1956 Ferrari 290 MM by Scaglietti really is the pick of the bunch. The 1956 Ferrari 290 MM, chassis 0626 was built for Formula One racing legend Juan Manuel Fangio.
Despite competing for no fewer than nine years, the car was never crashed. That’s fortunate when you consider just four were ever made. Most significantly, each design had Enzo’s personal handprint upon them.
For the past 12 years, chassis number 0626 has been regularly maintained, benefiting from a recent engine rebuild.
- 1954 Mercedes Benz W196 – $29.7m
If there ever was a car that was built for speed, it is the beautiful, unique and impressively functional 1954 Mercedes W196 F1 Silver Arrow. Designed to replicate the classic ‘bullet’ shape, at the time the W196 was a true technological This car is not only aesthetically appealing but its also incredibly rare, with only 10 vehicles in existence and only one on the private market, it therefore comes as no surprise that this car carries such a hefty price tag. And if the novelty of never knowing anyone with the same car as you weren’t enough, the car was also the winner of the 1951 F1, driven by famous racer Juan Manuel.
- 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti – $35.7m
Many argue that had the exchange rate of the euro been better at the time, this could have taken the title as the most expensive car sold at auction.
With its outstanding engineering, perfectly sketched lines, charismatic proportions, remarkable race results and great drivers, the 335 S perfectly symbolises Ferrari in the 1950s. The 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport by Scaglietti – as well as being breathtakingly beautiful – had set record times at Le Mans and competed in the original Mille Miglia rally.
Not only is the car exceptionally built but it is also incredibly rare, only four Ferrari 335 S Spider Scagliettis were ever produced. This particular car has been in the hands of a private French collector for more than 40 years
- 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO -$38.1m
For four years, this Ferrari held the medal for most expensive car ever sold at auction.
Sold for $38,115,000 during the summer 2014, the 250 GTO holds the world record for a sale in a public auction house. While $38.1m is one hell of a fee, it’s still not enough to make it the most valuable of all time.
- 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO -$48.4m
The priciest model to go under the hammer was another Ferrari 250 GTO from 1962 – this one sold during Monterey car week by RM Sotheby’s in 2018.
It achieved a staggering $48.4m at the event, making it the priciest of all motors to ever be bought during an auction. Ferrari had only built 39 of these racers, and as such they have been million-dollar cars for years. One reportedly sold privately for $52 million last year, and one built for Stirling Moss went for $35 million privately in 2012.
With a beautiful shape and great performance, the 250 GTO was the perfect combination between pleasure to drive, and pleasure to look nice. Winning a lot of races for Ferrari, the 300HP engine needs constant refurbishing, simply because reliability wasn’t the name of the game for it.
So, there you have it, the top 10 most expensive classic cars ever sold at auction. Eye watering sums of money to spend on a car, but it makes you realise how much money some people have at their disposal. Outrageous really that people spend that sum of money on a car, but it is what it is. Have these cars reached their peak prices? Will there be new entries in the decade ahead? I’m sure like most things these prices will continue to increase in time, with new additions to the list, or are these the peak prices and will price stabilise or fall? Who knows? What do you think? It would be good to know your opinion on prices of the cars above and what you think will happen to classic car prices in the future. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Comment below your favourite car in our list…