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The 8 Most Expensive Classic Cars Sold at Auction

Image courtesy of Thesupermat on Wikimedia Commons, hosted under CC BY-SA 3.0.
Image courtesy of Thesupermat on Wikimedia Commons, hosted under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The term “classic” car is used loosely around the world, and even its legal definition differs throughout the United States. However, the consensus is that something which is considered classical has historical value and therefore is worth collecting, restoring, and preserving, instead of being left to rust in a scrap yard. Below is our list of eight cars that are pure classics and were sold at auction at high price tags. Individuals who are interested in paying high prices do so because they love classic cars, want to showcase their status, or just want to own a part of history. While you have an opportunity to see many of these vehicles in museums, only a select few can get behind the wheel.

8. 1954 Ferrari 375-Plus Spider Competizione

Image courtesy of Sfoskett~commonswiki on Wikimedia Commons, hosted under CC BY-SA 3.0.
Image courtesy of Sfoskett~commonswiki on Wikimedia Commons, hosted under CC BY-SA 3.0.

As the supreme weapon in the World Sportscar Championship of 1954, the Ferrari 375-Plus Spider Competizione that was sold at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the United Kingdom by Bonhams was one of only five ever made. In 1986, a trailer carrying the car was stolen, prompting a 25-year investigation involving Interpol and the FBI. It was auctioned off in June 2014 for $18.3 million, making it the second-most expensive vehicle auctioned in the country at the time. With a factory-entered 4.9-liter, V-12 engine, this car was driven in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Mille Miglia and Silverstone races. It was capable of accelerating from zero to 60 mph in four seconds and had a top speed of 186 mph.

7. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spider

Image courtesy of DougW on Wikimedia Commons, hosted under CC0 1.0 Public Domain.
1961 Ferrari 250GT California Spyder. Image courtesy of DougW on Wikimedia Commons, hosted under CC0 1.0 Public Domain.

Auctioned in Paris, France, by Artcurial in February 2015 for $18.45 million, the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spider was one of several cars missing from the Ferrari Register and believed to be lost. Actor Gérard Blain purchased the vehicle new and then sold it to actor Alain Delon, who took several pictures in the driver’s seat. One of those photos was taken in 1964 with Jane Fonda while the pair filmed “Les Félins,” and another was taken with Shirley MacLaine in the French Riviera. The California Spider was one of 16 made and won the Ferrari Classiche Cup and the 2011 Cavallino Classic. Displayed at the Museo Ferrari, the car has a Colombo 3.0-liter, V-12 engine that produces 226 brake horsepower.

6. 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale

Image courtesy of Thesupermat on Wikimedia Commons, hosted under CC BY-SA 3.0.

This car was auctioned in August 2014 in Pebble Beach, California, by RM Sotheby’s for $26.4 million. It was the first of three made and was sold in May 1965 to Italian Pietro Ferraro. After three other owners, collector Brandon Wang entered it into historic events, including the International Historic Festival at Goodwood, Tutte Le Ferrari, the VIII Automobiles Classiques Louis Vuitton Concours d’Elegance, the Ferrari Racing Days, Shell Historic Challenge, and the Tour de France Automobile. In 1998, it was sold again and then displayed at Los Angeles’ FCA National Concours in May 2002. It was moved to Palm Beach, Florida, to the 14th Cavallino Classic in January 2005 and was then entered into the Monterey Historic Races at Laguna Seca in August 2005. The car has a 3.3-liter, V-12 engine with 320 horsepower.

5. 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 S NART Spider

Sold for $27.5 million in August 2013 by RM Sotheby’s in Pebble Beach, California, this was the eighth of 10 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 S NART Spiders made. Eddie Smith of Lexington, North Carolina, bought it in March 1968 and drove it to several 12 Hours of Sebring races in Florida. Ferrari distributor Luigi Chinetti suggested that he pass the car onto actor Steve McQueen, who had just totaled his NART Spider, but Smith declined. Even Ralph Lauren flew into town to try to buy it, but Smith never sold. After passing away in 2007, his family put it up for auction, giving the proceeds to charity. This model has a 3.2-liter, V-12 engine with more than 300 horsepower.

4. 1956 Ferrari 290 MM

In December 2015, RM Sotheby’s auctioned the 1956 Ferrari 290 MM in New York for $28.05 million. World-famous driver Juan Manuel Fangio operated the car in the 1956 Mille Miglia without a navigator, which was the third round of the World Sportscar Championship, and won fourth place out of 365 cars. The Ferrari racing division and other owners raced the car in Silverstone, Mille Miglia, International ADAC 1,000 KM and International Grand Prix of Rouen-Les-Essarts races. In 1970, it was sold and displayed at the 1987 Cartier Hommage à Ferrari exhibit. With a Type 130 dry-sump, V-12 engine with 320 brake horsepower, the 290 MM has more originality and heritage than some other Works Ferrari models from the decade.

3. 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R Silver Arrow

Image courtesy of Dave Adams on Flickr, hosted under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Auctioned in West Sussex, United Kingdom, by Bonhams in July 2013 for $31.6 million, including commissions and premiums, the 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R SIlver Arrow is rare and full of technological firsts. With legendary drivers such as Fangio, Hans Herrmann and Karl Kling behind its wheel, the car was made to win races and was the first fuel-injected car to compete in Formula 1. It also had the best power-to-weight ratio at the time with 595 brake horsepower and a weight of 1,653 pounds. The car won nine of the 12 races that it started in, including two world titles within 18 months. Only 14 of these vehicles were ever made, and only 10 still exist: three in museums and six of them in various Mercedes-Benz headquarters. This particular Silver Arrow is the only one to be privately owned.

2. 1957 Ferrari 335S

Originally built as a 315S with a Scaglietti body, the 1957 Ferrari 335S was sold at auction in Paris, France, by Artcurial in February 2016 for $35.71 million. The first racing drivers behind the wheel were Peter Collins and Maurice Trintignant in the 12 Hours of Sebring. Wolfgang von Trips drove it in the Mille Miglia and finished second. The car also competed in many other races, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, during which Mike Hawthorn set the first speed record at 124 mph. It was part of famous collector Pierre Bardinon’s collection, which was comprised of more than 70 factory Ferraris. The 335S has a 3.8-liter, Tipo 140 V-12 engine that puts out 360 horsepower.

1. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta

As the most expensive classic car sold at auction, the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta was purchased for $38.12 million in August 2014 through Bonhams in Pebble Beach. The car was made to compete in the 3-liter class of the FIA GT World Championship series, and only a total of 39 were made between 1962 and 1964. The 1964 models had a slightly different appearance and were introduced as the Series II. Sports Car International awarded the car number eight on its 2004 list of top 1960s sports cars, and Motor Trend Classic put it at the top of its list of greatest Ferraris. The 250 GTO has a 3-liter, V-12 engine that produces 300 brake horsepower.

From being entered into races to being displayed in museums and used for leisure driving, these classic cars are more than impressive for auto enthusiasts.

Which of these is your favorite?