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Collectors’ gems: the most expensive cars sold at auction

Collectors’ gems: the most expensive cars sold at auction

From racing legends to motoring masterpieces, Amelia Hungerford marvels at the most expensive cars to go under the hammer.

1. 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R
Price paid:
Sold: 12 July 2013 by Bonhams at Goodwood, UK

This Formula One masterpiece is one of the most exceptional pieces of racing history around and the only W196 under private ownership. Chassis number 00006 was driven by racing legend Juan Manuel Fangio when he claimed his second F1 Drivers’ World Championship and has consequently been inscribed into post-war German folklore. All that considered, it is little wonder this 1954 gem fetched nearly US$30 million at auction.


2. 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider
Price paid:
Sold: 17 August 2013 by RM Auctions at Monterey CA, USA

While many classic cars are passed from owner to owner, this 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider remained in the same family from its purchase in 1968 until its auction for charity in 2013. It was designed to be a ‘wind-in-your-hair’ alternative to the 275 GTB, its credentials backed by the North American Racing Team badge. Just 10 N.A.R.T. Spiders were ever made, making this one of the most desirable vehicles in the world.


3. 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa
Price paid:
Sold: 21 August 2011 by Gooding & Company at Pebble Beach CA, USA

The Testa Rossa name is renowned throughout motoring circles as one of the most prestigious in car racing history. Chassis 0666 TR was the prototype for the range, featuring a V12 engine and pontoon-fender coachwork by Scaglietti. It claimed titles at the world’s major races, from Sebring to Le Mans. As its auctioneers had predicted, it was sold for a record-breaking price at the legendary Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California.


4. 1964 Ferrari 250 LM
Price paid:
Sold: 21 November 2013 by RM Auctions at New York City NY, USA

The Ferrari 250 LM has gone down in history as one of the finest mid-engined sports cars the world has seen (as well as being one of Ferrari’s firsts) and as the last car bearing the prancing horse to win the 24-hour race at Le Mans. This particular 1964 example is the 24th car produced of a mere 32, sold to a vintage racing aficionado in California before being entered in endurance racing with its new owners at the wheel.


5. 1953 Ferrari 340/375 MM Berlinetta ‘Competizione’
Price paid:
Sold: 25 May 2013 by RM Auctions at Tivoli, Italy

Emblazoned with the number 14, this 1953 Ferrari 340/375 MM Berlinetta features a distinctive shape and an illustrious racing history. Chassis number 0320AM was one of three works race cars entered in the 1953 24-hour race at Le Mans, and went on to participate in the 24-hour at Spa, the Carrera Panamerica and the 12-hour at Pescara, which it won. Its curving coachwork and elliptical grille were the work of Pininfarina, based upon the 250MM design.


6. 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa
Price paid:
Sold: 17 May 2009 by RM Auctions at Maranello, Italy

The second Testa Rossa to feature on the list, chassis number 0714TR was also the fourth to be built and the second delivered to a customer. Its first owner was a resident of Modena, so it is fitting that the car was sold from the Ferrari headquarters, just outside the city. With a race history spanning the 1950s and 1960s, this 1957 250 Testa Rossa is still fit for track racing today, complete with its black livery.


7. 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Spezial Roadster
Price paid:
Sold: 19 August 2012 by Gooding & Company at Pebble Beach CA, USA

The elegant Mercedes-Benz 540K Spezial Roadster (‘K’ for Kompressor, or supercharger) was never made for racing, unlike the Ferraris that populate this list. Instead, it was a model favoured by aristocrats and politicians, epitomising 1930s style and splendour. Chassis number 130949 was a custom build, one of just 36, and comes from the collection of Baroness Gisela von Krieger.


8. 1960 Ferrari 250 GT LWB Alloy California Spider ‘Competizione’
Price paid:
Sold: 19 August 2012 by Gooding & Company at Pebble Beach CA, USA

Although sold the same day as the von Krieger Spezial Roadster, the Ferrari 250 GT LWB is a very different breed of automobile. Coming from the Sherman M. Wolf collection, renowned as one of America’s great Ferrari devotees, this California Spider is one of only nine alloy-bodied long-wheel-base California Spiders built. It features full race specifications, including disc brakes and a ribbed gearbox, and has been expertly restored to remain in show condition.


9. 1968 Ford GT40 Gulf/Mirage Lightweight Racing Car
Price paid:
Sold: 17 August 2012 by RM Auctions at Monterey CA, USA

Breaking the record as the most expensive American car ever sold, the 1968 Ford GT40 is a piece of racing history. This mid-engined sports car is responsible for four consecutive wins at Le Mans between 1966 and 1969. In its original guise as a Mirage M.10003, it won its debut at the 1000km of Spa in 1967, before being converted into the GT40. In the 1970s, this 1968 GT40 had a brush with fame as the camera car in the Steve McQueen epic film, ‘Le Mans’. It was restored to its original blue and orange Gulf livery in 2002.


10. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder
Price paid:
Sold: 18 May 2008 by RM Auctions and Sotheby’s at Maranello, Italy

This 1961 Ferrari represents one of the finest collaborations in automotive history. With bodywork designed by Pininfarina and built by Scaglietti, the 250 GT SWB California Spyder is one of the world’s masterpieces, combining beauty and functionality. Chassis number 2377GT is one of the more famous California Spyders in existence, having had actor James Coburn as its second owner. This car, with a star-studded history, is the 13th of the 56 built, and features a black finish in top condition.