What were the 12 most expensive cars sold at auction last year?
Values rose, records tumbled, new stars were born… the collectors’ car market in 2018 drove around economic uncertainties to be pretty much business as usual. The top 25 cars alone netted a cool £175million, with one car way out in front. That would be a Ferrari 250 GTO of course: this year’s top example sold for £37.8m, setting a new mark as most expensive car ever sold at auction.
There were plenty more auction records over the past 12 months and you didn’t have to go further than Goodwood to find them.
All eyes were on the ex-Stirling Moss, ex-Jim Clark 1961 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato, universally known to motoring fans by its 2VEV numberplate, when Bonhams was entrusted to find a new owner for it at the 2018 Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard. The car, had been in single family ownership for 47 years, last changing hands for £3,600. How times change: at Goodwood it sold for £10,081,500 making it the most valuable British car ever sold at a European auction.
Bonhams FOS sale in 2018 really was something special with another famous car – the BMW 507 that John Surtees was given for becoming motorcycle world champion – selling for £3,809,500. That set a world record for a BMW at auction. A unique triumvirate of stars cars at FOS was completed by a 1932 Alfa Romeo Tipo B Grand Prix Monoposto which sold for £4,593,500.
Few film star cars captured the imagination as much as the 1965 Aston Martin DB5 that featured in the James Bond adventure, Goldeneye. Also in Bonhams' FOS sale, it went for an impressive £1.9m.
Later in the year another 507, the actual car owned by the 507’s designer Count Albrecht Graf von Goertz, sold at Bonhams’ Bond Street sale for £2.4m, while across the pond in Scottsdale, Arizona, Bonhams’ sale highlights included a 1958 Porsche 550A Spyder ($5.1m) and 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider ($2.6m). At the Quail Lodge sale, three and a half million dollars would have been enough to secure either a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K or a 1948 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Competizione.
Highlight of racecars sold by Bonhams in 2018 was the 1993 McLaren MP4/8A used by Ayrton Senna at his final Monaco GP which sold at the Monaco sale for €4.1m (around £3.8m).
At the Goodwood Revival in 2018 Bonhams offered a wide assortment of collectors’ classics, with, appropriately, historic racecars attracting a lot of interest. A 1963 Shelby Cobra 289 competition roadster achieved £1,390,000, a European auction record for the marque. But it was to be a world record for the 1990 ex-TWR JaguarSport Jaguar XJR-11 Group C sports prototype. That went for £1,191,000.
One car we at GRR followed closely was the ex-Alan Mann Racing 1968 Type Ford P68 ‘F3L’ Group 6 racer which sold for £511,750, while the exquisite ex-Maserati works team Fiat-Bartoletti Tipo 624 Racing Car Transporter that starred in the Steve McQueen film Le Mans sold for £402,500.
Going for slightly more was not a car at all but a numberplate, and one of the world’s most famous. RR1 sold at Revival for £460,000, another world record for a registration plate at a private auction
Overall Bonhams set 18 collectors’ car world records in 2018, ranging from a 1905 Ford Model B (€419,750) to a 1962 Aston Martin DB4 ‘Series V’ Vantage (€1.1m). Bonhams also set the pace for motorcycle records, claiming five in 2018 including the near-million dollars that the ex-Tony McAlpine Australian Land Speed Record-breaking 1951 Vincent 998cc Black Lightning made in the Las Vegas sale. The price made it the most valuable motorcycle ever sold at auction.
Artcurial’s big sales at the Retromobile classic car show in Paris and at Le Mans also got collectors reaching for their wallets. The brightest star at La Sarthe was a 1963 Mercedes 300SL Roadster which made a record-for-the-model €3.1m. Other record-setters were a 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante coupe (€2.9m) and, bringing things up to date, a 2006 Ferrari FXX which went to a new owner for €2.7m.
Gooding and Co’s sales at Pebble Beach and Scottsdale in the US included an array of five-star beauties from Bugatti, Porsche, Maserati and Ferrari, the latter marque epitomised by a 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB Speciale which sold for £6.4m.
But the Ferrari story we love the best is that of the “Admiral’s Ferrari”, the 1955 500 Mondial that young American naval officer Robert Phillips spent two thirds of his annual salary rescuing from ignominy in 1960 – and then spent the next 58 years restoring and cherishing. It’s thought to be the longest continuous ownership of a competition Ferrari ever. Gooding and Co. sold the car at Pebble Beach for $5m (£3.8m) – a pittance compared to the love that went into this car.
However, all of Gooding’s European goodies were completely blown away at Pebble Beach by… an American car. Nothing less than a 1935 Duesenberg SSJ, the “ultimate Duesy”. One of just two SSJs ever made, the car was delivered new to Hollywood screen legend Gary Cooper. So as well as archetypal ‘30s American glamour and supercharged straight-eight power you can add perfect provenance. The surprise star more than doubled its presale estimate to sell for $22million (almost £17m) making it not just the most valuable American car ever but also the most valuable prewar car ever sold at auction.
For the year’s heavy-hitters though you had to look to RM Sotheby’s and especially its Monterey sale, all $160million of it.
The biggest chunk of that was contributed by the year’s auction champion, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO (the third one ever made) that sold for $48,404,000 (about £37.8m). That’s a full $10m up on the previous GTO auction record – but $20m down on what it is believed a GTO sold for privately earlier in the year. So it could have been the snip of the year…
Aston Martins were in demand the world over in 2018 and none more so than the ex-Phil Hill DP215 that RM Sotheby’s sold for close to its high-end estimate, at $21.5m (around £16.3m). A veteran of the 1963 Le Mans 24 Hours where it became the first car to exceed 300km/h (186mph) down the Mulsanne Straight, the Aston goes into the record books as the second most valuable British car sold at auction after the 2017 sale for $22.5m of Aston DBR1.
Other highlights from RM in 2018 that we previewed here on GRR throughout the year include the gorgeous 1956 Ferrari 290MM, as driven by Fangio, Moss and Gurney, that sold for £17.4m. Then there was the 1998 Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR which sold for £3.4m, and the 1966 Ford GT40 MkII (third at Le Mans in 1966)… all £7.4m of it.
Top 12 most expensive cars at auction in 2018
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, £37.8m
1956 Ferrari 290 MM, £17.4m
1935 Duesenberg SSJ, £16.7m
1963 Aston Martin DP215, £16.3m
1961 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato ‘2 VEV’, £10.1m
1966 Ford GT40 MkII, £7.4m
1965 Ferrari 275 GTB Speciale, £6.4m
1958 Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France, £5m
1985 Porsche 959 Paris-Dakar, £4.6m
1932 Alfa Romeo Tipo B Monoposto, £4.6m
1958 Porsche 550A Spyder, £4.1m
1955 Maserati A6GCS/53, £3.9m
Images courtesy of Bonhams, Gooding & Co., Artcurial and RM Sotheby's