When people talk about the top end of the collector car market, they’re essentially talking about Ferraris. The highest sales of any big auction-fest like Scottsdale or Monterey are almost inevitably Ferraris, and any big sale from one of the major catalogue auction houses seems to have at least half a dozen of them. Looking at Ferraris from the 1950s and 1960s, arguably the company’s best years, anyone with functional eyesight will find many of Ferrari’s creations breathtakingly gorgeous, while their painfully low production numbers and spine-tingling V-12 exhaust notes have also ensured their long-term collectability and sky-high values.
Just as important, though, is what has made Ferrari the king of the collector car market: the fact that they’ve also been king of the race track, and the link between Ferrari’s racing cars and its road-going products has always been a clear one. Three of the cars on the following list are racing cars, while the others are road cars that nevertheless have significant racing heritage. While the Prancing Horse badge has always been expensive and Ferrari ownership has always been an exclusive experience, certain models take expense and exclusivity to the highest level; that is, an eight-figure price tag.
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
Bonhams Quail Lodge 2014
Sold for $38,115,000
GTOs won the World Sportscar Championship for Ferrari three years running from 1962 to 1964. Racing icons drove them to numerous wins, the cars were powered by one of Ferrari’s all-time great engines, and their Scaglietti bodies are considered one of the most elegant designs in the history of the automobile. And with only three dozen GTOs built, you have the recipe for the bluest of blue chip collector cars. GTO ownership is also a close-knit affair, because on the rare occasion one does sell, it usually does so privately. The last GTO to come up for auction was way back in 2000, so when this example showed up in Monterey last year it grabbed headlines. Some speculated that it would go as high as $70 million, but in the end this GTO (which had crashed in period and unfortunately killed its driver) brought just under $40 million. That was still enough to smash the previous all-time auction record, taken a few months earlier by a 1955 Mercedes-Benz W196 Grand Prix car, by almost $10 million.
1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spider
RM Monterey 2013
Sold for $27,500,000
With just 10 built, the NART Spider takes the word “rare” to another level. The car came about when U.S. Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti convinced Ferrari to cut the roof off of the 275 GTB coupe, because Americans just love their open cars, don’t they? The result was a drool-inducing spider that would be a star in even the biggest car collection. Another NART Spider finished second in class at Sebring in 1967, but this one had the important distinction of single-family ownership, and proceeds from the sale all went to charity. What’s bidding like on a car this expensive? It opened at $10 million, immediately jumped to $16 million, and after $20 million it went on in $1 million increments to the final price. That's one way to do it.
1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale
RM Monterey 2014
Sold for $26,400,000
A year after that NART Spider in Monterey, RM came back with this 275 GTB/C Speciale, which actually surprised a lot of people when it crossed the block. It’s the first of three built by Ferrari, and while one did finish third at Le Mans in 1965, this car had no significant history; its first owner actually used it as a road car. Enough people just had to have it, though, and bidding reached stratospheric levels - about $1 million less than the arguably more significant NART Spider from the year before.
1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider (closed headlight)
Artcurial Paris 2015
Sold for $18,405,440
This Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider was part of the barn find to end all barn finds. Housed with dozens of highly collectible automobiles in a group of dilapidated buildings in Western France as part of the forgotten Roger Baillon Collection, the Ferrari is one of 37 made and has the desirable covered headlights that can, believe it or not, add millions in value over open-headlight cars. Artcurial, the auction house that sold the car, made a brilliant PR move by circulating pictures of it being “uncovered’ in a shed from beneath a giant pile of old magazines. That enhanced the car’s “buried treasure” mystique and helped to bring a record price that is significantly higher than any of the other shiny, restored California Spiders that have sold in the past few years.
1954 Ferrari 375 Plus
Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed 2014
Sold for $18,315,846
Ferrari’s mighty 4.9-liter 375 Plus is one of the greats from racing’s “golden era” in the 1950s and a car that won races on both sides of the Atlantic, including Le Mans in 1954. Six were built, and Ralph Lauren has one of them. This one had been part of an international legal battle, as parts of the car had been stolen in the 1980s, and there was dispute as to who actually owned it. None of that mattered to bidders, it seems, because how often does the opportunity to buy one of these come up?