Dream garages for mere, average-earning mortals are an intangible fantasy. The inventory list reads both long and varied, with Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis featuring alongside other illustrious names from the automotive present and past. For a very wealthy few, however, the problem of how to populate a mind-blowing collection of dream cars is real and when these like-walleted individuals come together at one of the world’s top car auctions, prices can sail into the stratosphere.
The prices paid at the world’s most exclusive car auctions can make for eye-watering reading but sometimes things escalate to a whole new level and we find ourselves looking at one of the most expensive cars ever sold. Here we take a look at the incredible cars that have seduced buyers in a into paying top dollar in a one-upmanship-fuelled, auction environment.
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Despite extortionate prices these exemplars of car design are investments for some and status symbols for others. Below are the most expensive cars ever to be sold at auction...
Ferrari 375-Plus Spider Competizione - £10.75million
A very rare commodity indeed, the 375-Plus was short lived ,with five constructed purely for the factory works team. The appetite for race victories to pin on the yellow shield bore this Mille Miglia participant. The 340 MM and subsequent 375 MM served up the initial underpinnings of the open top racer. Sitting between the front axle was a descendant of Ferrari’s period F1 engine. Adjustments to both bore and stroke across the two banks of 6-cylinders created 4.9-litres of swept capacity.
The car parted company with the original V12 engine which was sold-off under a period of remiss ownership. The car was then extricated by venerable Ferrari owner, Jacques Sweater, who tracked down the engine, seating it back in its rightful throne. Following a painstaking restoration it collected over £10million at auction.
Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider - £11.8million
Often noted as the prettiest car in the Ferrari stable, the beautifully proportioned drop-top persuaded a buyer to raise their hand at the final call of £11.8million. The California Spider’s CV is rather impressive. It was a Hollywood darling, starring in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and ultimate-cool-car-guy, Steve Mcqueen, acquired one in the 60’s.
A handful of these short-wheelbase-cars were built. This example was unearthed in unlikely circumstances - a barn find. By modern standards 240bhp and 190lb ft is unlikely to combust any undergarments, but, all is forgiven once the move towards redline brings the orchestral V12 on song.
Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider - £16million
The only pre-war automobile to make the list is an Alfa Romeo. Built in an era of car design rich in aeronautical influence, sleek and curvaceous, the 8C is bastion of the period. The aerodynamically sympathetic body was independently suspended with double wishbones and coil springs and dampers upfront. Such a setup was a rare and advanced layout at the time.
Its current keeper took ownership during the summer of 2016. They delved deep into their pockets for the black, wire-wheeled Alfa, laying out £16.6million for the keys.
Jaguar D-Type - £16.6million
The only car in the list to represent Great Britain and a worthy one at that. The D-Type body encased a carb-fed, inline straight-six that would later return in a revised guise in the E-Type. Finished in Scottish Blue, the car’s iconic aft-mounted stabilising fin still draws the eye.
The chequered flag waved this example across the finish line at the 24 Hours of Le Mans 1956 putting Ecurie Ecosse on the podium’s top step. The car changed hands for a fee of £16.6million.
Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale by Scaglietti - £17.4million
Yes, the prancing horse theme continues - you best become well acquainted with it... Another take on the elegant design of the 275 Scaglietti conceived body is the GTB/C Speciale edition. An assembly of modifications were imparted upon the 250 GTO successor: Louvres, intakes and a bonnet scoop being just a few - tailoring it a race-ready frock.
Only three of these hand-crafted aluminum bodied cars were realised. One of the trio made it to competition due to a dispute between Ferrari and the FIA over the homologation of the car in reference to its weight. This specific example has only competed in historic events as a result of its exclusion from period racing.
Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spider - £18.2million
Luigi Chinnetti, head of NART (North American Racing Team) wanted to bring a slice of home with him to America. He just about convinced coachbuilder Scaglietti and thus Ferrari, to build him an allocation of ten cars for stateside life.
This gorgeous roadster drew the multitude of potential suitors into a bidding frenzy with RM facilitating the multi-million dollar acquisition. The sound block was struck as bidding ceased at £18.4million.
Ferrari 290 MM - £19million
Rewind two generations from the Ferrari 335 S and you’ll find the 290 MM. Another Scuderia brainchild, this example was one of the quartet that rolled off the production line. The car raced for almost a decade escaping a fatal end before being retired in 1964 having competed in the Buenos Aires 1,000km.
RM Sotheby's found a buyer who forked out £19mllion. Surprisingly, this figure was at the lower bookend of the estimate, with some predicting that the car would collect another £3 million.
Mercedes W196 - £19.6million
Juan Manuel Fangio’s W196 that sold at Goodwood FOS in 2012 is no manicured show pony. It crossed the auction block bearing the battle scars it had garnered on its way to victory at the German and Swiss Grands Prix during the 1954 Formula 1 season.
Despite being half a century old, the Stuttgart born racer incorporated very cutting-edge technology for the period. Integrated within the rigid space frame chassis was a fuel injected 2.5-litre engine which propelled the number twelve car to championship victory in 1954.
Ferrari 335 S - £24.7million
Clearly well-cultured when it comes to cars, Lionel Messi was the proud procurer of the second most expensive car sold at auction. Built in 1957, in a golden era when nothing short of a 12-cylinder configuration was deemed worthy of a Ferrari, the car harboured a mighty four-litre V12 engine.
The design brief for the 355 S was simple - beat the Maserati 450S. It was the eventual runner-up in the gruelling Mille Miglia, subsequently averaging a staggering 124mph on a lap of the Circuit de la Sarthe. Following a fierce bidding war, the hammer dropped at £24.7million.
Ferrari 250 GTO - £25.6million
To date, this GTO remains the auction record breaker, setting the mark at £25.6million. The Ex-Jo Schlesser/Henri Oreiller, Paolo Colombo, Ernesto Prinoth, Fabrizio Violatti car sold at Bonhams Quail Lodge auction.
Coachbuilder, Scaglietti, penned the stunning body that’s often hailed as one of the most beautiful Ferraris to emerge from Maranello. The car itself was created to compete in the FIA GT world Championship and won the world title two seasons consecutively.