The title says it all. Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can buy everything else
August is the month of the Pebble Beach Concours of Elegance (PBCE). It is the most prestigious classic car event in the world, with the most significant cars in history vying for top honours.
The concours is held at the Pebble Beach Golf Links located at the town of Carmel-By-The-Sea. Celebrities and trillionaires abound in this small place where even Clint Eastwood once served as mayor.
The PBCE is the culmination of the Monterey Car Week, the biggest week of the year for collectors’ cars, with a series of different events for the extremely wealthy. Every now and then, something comes out of Monterey that is worth mentioning and, this year, it was a car sold by auction house Bonhams at their Quail Auction on August 18.
The car in question was a 1967 Ferrari 412P Berlinetta, which sold for … wait for it … $30.25 million. I’ll let that sink in for a second. Thirty-million-dollars.
It is one of only two 412P ever built and it arrived on the market after a nine-year restoration with the added bonus of being road legal – a car that at its peak competed at the greatest races in the world, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Spa 1000km.
I was reading the news on the sale and my son was standing next to me. I said: “Look at this Ferrari, it just sold for more than $30 million – isn’t that incredible?” He thought about it for maybe three seconds and replied the obvious: “What’s the most anyone has ever paid for a car?”
Good question – one worthy of investigation. Therefore, this week I decided to find out. The 412P Berlinetta is, it turns out, a direct entry to fifth place in the all-time Top 10 list which, no surprise here, is made up mostly by red cars from Maranello. Let’s take a closer look.
In 10th place sits the Aston Martin DBR1, the most important Aston Martin ever built. Five were produced by the factory and Chassis 1 from 1956 won the Nürburgring 1000km and was driven by Stirling Moss, Carroll Shelby and Jack Brabham. It is magnificent and, in 2017, it sold at RM Sotheby’s 2014 Monterey Sale for $22.55 million, making it the most expensive British car ever sold.
Number nine is the first Ferrari of the list, a very rare 275 GTB/C Speciale that, unlike all the others built, never saw a racetrack despite being a race car. Nine years ago, again at its Monterey sale, RM Sotheby’s found a bidder who didn’t mind parting with $26.40 million to take it home.
Eighth place goes to the Ferrari 275 GTB/4 S NART Spider, a special model ordered by the North American Racing Team that Enzo Ferrari was happy to oblige in 10 very special units. This specific car was at one point owned by the king of cool, Steve McQueen, and stars in the movie ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’. RM Sotheby’s, in Monterey 2013, sold it for $27.50 million.
Next up … another Prancing Horse. A 290MM built for the 1956 Mille Miglia (hence the MM in the name) and driven by Juan Manuel Fangio to 4th place. One of only four ever made, it is so beautiful it hurts. RM Sotheby’s did the deal in New York in 2015 for $28.05 million.
A Mercedes-Benz, and another Fangio car, takes sixth place with the magnificent W196. It won the Swiss and German Grand Prix in 1954 and is the most valuable Formula One car in history. Bonhams auction house put the hammer down at $29.65 million during their Goodwood sale in 2013.
In number four, another red car, the 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti, sold in 2016 after being owned for 40 years by the same family, and raced in period by drivers like Peter Collins, Maurice Trintignant or Wolfgang von Trips. This pedigree cost the new owner $35.80 million at the Rétromobile sale in Paris in 2016.
The two lower steps of the podium belong to the Ferrari 250 GTO, the most famous car in the world and the most sought-after model in automotive history. The cheapest (funny word) one was a car raced in period by Jo Schlesser and went for $38 million at the Bonhams Quail Auction in 2014, whereas the most expensive was a private sale in 2018 for nearly double that at $70 million. This car took 4th place at Le Mans in 1963 and won the Tour de France in 1964.
Finally, last year, Mercedes held an auction at their museum to sell one of two 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupés ever produced, a car owned by the manufacturer since they built it in 1955 and said to have been sold to create a Mercedes scholarship programme in environmental science. It became the most expensive car in the world, selling for a cool €135 million. I bet that 412P seems like a bargain by now.
RM Sotheby’s have recently announced another 250 GTO coming up for sale in November. Of the 36 built, this was the only one raced under the official Ferrari factory banner. Will it beat the Mercedes? I don’t think so … but I am 100% sure that, before the end of the year, there will be three GTOs and eight Ferraris in the Top 10.
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