The most expensive Ferrari ever sold at auction, a 1962 330 LM/250 GTO, set the classic car world alight when it was bought for $51.7 million in a sale hosted by RM Sotheby’s at Sotheby’s New York, earlier this month.
Described as the ‘Holy Grail of the sports car pantheon’, the car is the only GTO Tipo 1962 raced by Scuderia Ferrari and boasts a glittering racing history. It earns its place in the record books behind the most expensive car ever sold at auction: the 1955 Mercedes 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe which fetched $142 million in 2022.
Yet even though Mercedes takes the top spot, it is Ferrari that dominates: eight of the top 10 most expensive cars sold at auction are Ferraris.
Top end classic car buys defy sluggish market
Speaking to Spear‘s, John Mayhead, UK editor of Hagerty Price Guide, explained the chart-topping sale is proof that classic car collectors are still in the mood to buy, despite external factors dampening the market.
‘Pandemics, wars, fluctuating interest rates and a rise in the cost of living have created uncertainty and, in certain areas of the market, dissuaded investment in cars,’ he explained. ‘But for those who are wealthy enough, this can be a time of great opportunity, but they will only buy the very best.’
The recently-sold Ferrari is a superlative example. The 1962 Ferrari 330 LM/250 GTO’s racing history includes a class win and a 2nd overall finish at the 1962 Nürburgring 1000 KM. It was piloted by Mike Parkes and Lorenzo Bandini for Scuderia Ferrari at the 1962 24 Hours of Le Mans, and also secured the position of runner-up in the 1965 Sicilian Hillclimb Championship.
Previously owned by a chairman of the Ferrari Club of America, the car won an FCA Platinum Award and the Coppa Bella Macchina at the Cavallino Classic, placed 2nd in the GTO class at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and received a Best of Show at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
Most expensive Ferrari is ‘the one to have’
Mayhead continued: ‘Hagerty considers that the Ferrari 250 GTO is “The One to Have” because it combines so many of the attributes that enthusiasts lust after: a dominant racing record in period, a beautiful and instantly recognisable body, a phenomenal engine, very limited production numbers and that special prancing horse badge on the bonnet. Every one of the 36 examples of the model has its own exceptional story, and today ownership offers the chance to take part in the world’s most exclusive events.’
The enthusiasm was echoed by Gord Duff, RM Sotheby’s Global Head of Auctions, said of the sale: ‘Celebrating this sale during Sotheby’s marquee week highlights the unparalleled stature of this Ferrari as one of the world’s most desirable objects.
‘The result, achieved through collaboration between Ferrari, RM Sotheby’s, and Sotheby’s, echoes our mutual pursuit of perfection—mirroring the very ethos Enzo Ferrari embodied when designing this car. Fetching $51.7 million, this transaction adds a new chapter to a vehicle with an unmatched legacy. Now, it ranks among the most expensive cars sold at auction, a true testament to its singular place in history.’
Art sale to broaden the classic car audience
Mayhead noted the decision to auction the Ferrari at Sotheby’s might have been designed to attract collectors who do not typically dabble in the classic car market.
‘It could suggest a conscious move by Sotheby’s to open the bidding to those not normally interested in cars,’ he speculated. ‘Although the sale price is very high for a car, it is not for a piece of art; this price would not feature in the top 50 art sales.
‘Whatever else happens in the world, it looks as if demand at the very top end of the collector car market remains extremely high as assets that can be quickly traded, often without capital gains liability. As an enthusiast, I just hope these automotive royals are not packed away in storage until the next auction, but used as was intended.’
The five most expensive cars ever sold at auction
- 1955 Mercedes 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe, $142 million, May 2022
- 1962 Ferrari 330 LM/250 GTO, $51.7 million, November 2023
- 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, $48.4 million, August 2018
- 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO – $38.1 million, August 2014
- 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti – $35,730,510, February 2016