Only eight cars have ever sold for more than $20 million at public auction: five Ferraris, a Mercedes Benz F1 racer, an Aston Martin and a Le Mans-winning Jaguar are the most-expensive cars ever. The highest price ever paid at public auction for a car is $38 million for a 1962/3 Ferrari 250 GTO. The only other car ever costing more than $30 million was a 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport at $35.7 million (and in euro terms the most-expensive car ever). Two racing cars driven by Fangio sold for just less than $30 million – a 1954 Mercedes Benz W196R Formula 1 single-seater racing car and the 1956 Ferrari 290 MM. A 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. is the most-expensive road-going car ever while a second 275 GTB, a competition car, is the fifth Ferrari in this exclusive club. The 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 and the 1956 Le Mans-winning 1955 Jaguar D-Type are the two most-expensive British cars ever and rounds out the list of cars costing more than $20 million.
$20 Million Plus Cars
The following cars have sold for more than $20 million at public auction:
|Year||Car||Price (USD)||Auction House||Auction||Auction Date|
|1||1962||Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta||38,115,000||Bonhams||Quail Lodge||2014|
|2||1957||Ferrari 335 Sport by Scaglietti||35,711,359||Artcurial||Paris||2016|
|3||1954||Mercedes Benz W196R Formula 1 Racing Single-Seater||29,650,095||Bonhams||Chichester – Goodwood Festival of Speed||2013|
|4||1956||Ferrari 290 MM by Scaglietti||28,005,000||RM Sotheby’s||New York||2015|
|5||1967||Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider by Scaglietti||27,500,000||RM||Monterey||2013|
|6||1964||Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale by Scaglietti||26,400,000||RM||Monterey||2014|
|7||1956||Aston Martin DBR1||22,550,000||RM Sotheby’s||Monterey||2017|
|8||1955||Jaguar D-Type||21,780,000||RM Sotheby’s||Monterey||2016|
The list takes only cars into consideration that have sold at standard public auctions. It also uses only nominal prices and exchange rates at the time of sale.
Even if adjusted priced are used, probably only one further car would be added to this exclusive list – the 1931 Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe that Christie’s sold for $9.8 million in 1986 would be just over $20 million at adjusted prices. The 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Lungo Spider that RM Sotheby’s sold for $19,800,000 at Monterey 2016 needs only a 1% change in the value of money to make the list.
See also: The Most-Expensive Cars of All Time – $10 Million Plus for a full listing of cars selling for more than $10 million at public auctions.
1962/3 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta
The most-expensive car ever sold at public auction is the 1962-63 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta by Scaglietti, chassis 3851GT, that achieved $38,115,000 at the Bonhams Quail Lodge Sale during the 2014 Monterey Classic Car Week in California.
Only 28 of the 39 Ferrari 250 GTs that Ferrari homologate for the 1962 3-liter class FIA World Championship survived as 250 GTOs with V12 engines. Some are rumored to sell privately or in closed auctions at prices exceeding €30 million but the car sold by Bonhams is the only one to have recently been in a public sale.
This 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO was raced by privateer Jo Schlesser and his co-driver Henri Oreiller to a second place in the 1962 Tour de France automobile race event. However, after Oreiller crashed fatally the car was rebuilt, which led to the description 1962-63 GTO.
Paolo Colombo raced the 250 GTO to 12 class victories in 14 hill-climb races entered in 1963. In 1964 and 1965, Ernesto Prinoth competed in several further races.
In 1965, Fabrizo Violati bought the GTO and continued to race the valuable car in historic races. This chassis probably participated in more races than any other 250 GTO.
The car remained in Violati’s Collezione Maranello Rosso collection and was sold in unrestored but complete, race-ready condition.
1957 Ferrari 335 Sport
The 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport by Scaglietti, chassis 0674, sold for €32,075,200 ($35,711,359) at the Artcurial Paris Rétromobile auction in 2016 as the most-expensive car ever sold in Europe. In euro terms, this is the most-expensive car ever: the 250 GTO was “only” €28.5 million at the time of sale.
The car left the Ferrari factory as a 315 S and debuted as a Scuderia Ferrari works car at the Sebring 12 Hours where Peter Collins and Maurice Trintignan led the first 20 laps but finished the race in sixth. Wolfgang von Trips did better as the Mille Miglia by finishing second behind the Ferrari team leader Piero Tartuffi.
In preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1957, chassis 0674 was upgraded to a 335 Sport. On lap 20, Mike Hawthorn set the first average lap time exceeding 200 km/h ever at Le Mans before the car had to retire after five hours. The car finished fourth at the Swedish Grand Prix and second in Venezuela to help Ferrari winning the championship.
As a N.A.R.T. entry, the 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport continued to race in North America with a best result victory at the 1958 Cuban Grand Prix in Havana. Pierre Bardinon acquired chassis 0674 for his famous collection in 1970, where it remained until the Paris 2016 auction.
1954 Mercedes Benz W196R Formula 1
Bonhams almost doubled the previous highest price paid for a car at public auction when it sold a 1954 Mercedes Benz W196R Formula 1 single-seater racing car for £19,601,500 ($29,650,095) at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale in Chicester in the United Kingdom. The previous record was $16.4 million paid for a 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa at Gooding’s 2011 Pebble Beach Sale – as a result no car selling in this range ever achieved the status of most-expensive car in the world.
The 1954 Mercedes Benz W196R Formula 1, chassis 0006, was famously raced by Juan Manual Fangio to back-to-back victories a the 1954 German (Nürburgring) and Swiss Grand Prix en route to his second world championship title. It was also the first open-wheel Mercedes Benz car to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix race.
Chassis 0006 was sold into private hands by the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in 1987 and since has been the only of the ten surviving W196Rs not owned by Mercedes Benz or national museums.
The previous highest price paid for a Mercedes Benz car, and still the most-expensive Mercedes Benz passenger car, was $11,770,000 for a 1936 Mercedes Benz 540K Special Roadster at the 2012 Gooding Pebble Beach sale.
1956 Ferrari 290 MM
Another ex-Fangio car, a 1956 Ferrari 290 MM, was the most-expensive car sold at public auction in 2015. RM Sotheby’s sold this Ferrari, specifically built for Fangio to participate in the 1956 Mille Miglia race, for $28,050,000 at the Driven by Disruption sale in New York in 2015.
The 1956 Ferrari 290 MM with coachwork by Scaglietti, chassis 0626, was driven to a fine fourth place at the Mille Miglia race by Juan Manuel Fangio. It was also raced by amongst others Phil Hill, Marquis Alfonso de Portago, Peter Collins, and Wolfgang von Trips. Its best finish was overall victory at the 1957 Mil Kilometros Ciudad de Buenos Aires driven by Masten Gregory, Eugenio Castelloti, and Luigi Musso.
Since 1970, the Ferrari 250 MM was mostly in Pierre Bardinon’s Collection Mas du Clos in Aubusson, France. It was sold in its 1956 Mille Miglia race livery bearing Fangio’s 600 start number.
1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider
A 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider by Scaglietti, chassis 10709, sold for $27,500,000 at the RM Auctions 2013 Monterey sale is the most-expensive road-going car ever sold at public auction and was the most-expensive Ferrari for a year until the 250 GTO set the new record.
Only 10 of the Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider with coachwork by Scaglietti were ever built. Remarkably, this very special Ferrari remained in single-family ownership (Eddie Smith) until it was sold in 2013 with the proceeds donated to charity.
1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale
The 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale by Scaglietti, chassis 06701, that RM Auctions sold for $26,400,000, at the 2014 Monterey Sale, was the first of only three works Berlinetta Competizione cars built. A dispute over homologation with the FIA saw this chassis never raced for Ferrari. A sister car ended third overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1965 – still the highest finish ever for a front-engined car.
This 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale was not raced in period but exclusively used on the road by its first private owners. It was only raced later in historic events.
1956 Aston Martin DBR1
The 1956 Aston Martin DBR1, chassis DBR1/1, set a new marque and British-built car record when it sold for $22,550,000 at the RM Sotheby’s Monterey 2017 classic car auction. This DBR1 was driven to overall victory by Stirling Moss at the 1959 Nürburgring 1000 KM and participated in the Le Mans 24 Hours race three times. DBR1/1 retired on all three occasions but a sister car won in 1959.
As an Aston Martin works entry, DBR1/1 participated in 16 major international raced between 1956 and 1959. Entries included the three runs at Le Mans, the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1958 and 1959, as well as three entries at the Nürburgring 1000 KM, in 1957, 1958 and 1959. DBR1/1 was mostly driven by Roy Salvadori but he was also co-piloted on longer races by such famous drivers as Carrol Shelby and Jack Brabham.
1955 Jaguar D-Type
The 1955 Jaguar D-Type, chassis XKD501, that RM Sotheby’s sold for $21,780,000 at the 2016 Monterey sale, is the second most-expensive British car ever sold at public auction. This Jaguar won the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans race outright as an Ecurie Ecosse entry.
This 1955 Jaguar D-Type is the only Le Mans-winning Jaguar C or D-Type to have survived to the present intact in its originally race-winning form. It is also the highest price ever paid for a Le Mans winner at public auction (not that many are sold!)
- The Most-Expensive Cars of All Time – $10 Million Plus for a full listing of cars selling for more than $10 million at public auctions.
- Cars Sold for Over $20 Million – The Most-Expensive Cars Ever (This article)
- Cars Sold for $15 to $20 Million – Mostly Italians (but not only Ferraris) and a Brit
- Cars Sold for $12 to $15 Million – including three British-made cars
- Cars Sold for $10 to $12 Million – a mixed bunch of great marques