Year in Review: The 10 most expensive auction sales of 2021

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Gooding McLaren F1 Auction stage action
Evan Klein

Considering that 2021 began with bidders’ faces pressed against computer screens, it was a decent year for collector car auction sales—certainly a strong second half. Each of the top 10 sales was at least $6 million, and the top two reached eight figures. It’s worth noting that six of the top 10 were at Monterey in August, and only two occurred during the first two months of the year when most of the U.S. was still in lockdown mode.

“With a lot of high-end live auctions canceled or switching format over the course of the pandemic, we didn’t get many opportunities for a health check of the top end of the market,” says Hagerty Senior Auction Editor Andrew Newton. “Monterey 2021 was the first large-scale top-end event, and it showed that this segment is indeed healthy, like basically every other segment of the market.”

As 2021 draws to a close, we focus on the top 10 sales of the year, in ascending order.

1958 Ferrari 250 GT TdF Coupe

1958-Ferrari-250-GT-LWB-Berlinetta front three-quarter
RM Sotheby's/Courtney Frisk

Sold for $6,000,000 at RM Sotheby’s Portola Hotel & Spa 2021 auction (Monterey)

#1 (Concours) condition value: $7.9M

Ferrari had plenty of racing success in the 1950s, particularly at the “Tour de France Automobile,” which explains why it named the competition version of its 250 GT, the 250 GT TdF. This Giulietta Blue/red stripe/tan leather beauty (chassis #1031 GT) was ordered new by French industrialist Jacques Peron, who requested numerous special features, including a 250 TR-spec engine. Ferrari declined or ignored most of Peron’s choices as it rushed to finish the car in time for the 1958 Tour de France. Although Peron was understandably displeased, he nevertheless finished fourth in the car, but he sold it shortly thereafter. The 250 GT TdF was later enjoyed—loved, literally—by David and Mary Love for almost four decades as a historic racer, and it was restored in its original colors by Patrick Ottis.

1955 Jaguar D-Type Roadster

55 Jaguar-D-Type front three-quarter
RM Sotheby's/Patrick Ernzen

Sold for $6,000,000 at RM Sotheby’s Otto Car Club 2021 auction (Scottsdale)

#1 (Concours) condition value: $9M

The D-Type comes from a celebrated era in the Jaguar history—D-Types posted three consecutive wins at Le Mans in 1955–57, and they’re some of the prettiest cars around—but their prices seem to be slipping a bit. While this one sold appropriately considering its history and condition, it was reportedly bid to $8.85M just three years ago. Even more concerning: The only other D-Type sold at auction in 2021 was a used-but-well-kept race car that brought just £799,000 ($1,099,025), but that number can likely be attributed to questions about the car’s history.

2010 McLaren-Mercedes MP4-25 F1

2010 McLaren Mercedes MP4 25 Formula 1
RM Sotheby's

Sold for $6,480,100 at RM Sotheby’s British Grand Prix 2021 auction (London)

#1 (Concours) condition value: N/A

Represented as the first Lewis Hamilton Formula 1 race car and grand prix-winning car ever offered to the public, the McLaren-Mercedes was piloted to victory by Lewis Hamilton at the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix. It was also involved in a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle against F1 legend Michael Schumacher at the 2010 Chinese Grand Prix during the only season in which Hamilton’s and Schumacher’s careers overlapped. Although it did not match the $7.504M brought by the ex-Schumacher Ferrari F2001 in 2017, this is still a massive price and represents one of the most expensive modern F1 cars ever sold.

1972 Matra MS 670

1972 Matra MS 670 2
Artcurial

Sold for $6,782,926 at Artcurial’s Retrombile 2021 auction (Paris)

#1 (Concours) condition value: N/A

Controversy surrounded this 1972 Le Mans 24 Hours champion when it crossed the block at July’s Artcurial auction in Paris. Chassis #67001 never left Matra’s hands after its historic win—a French car winning the sport’s biggest test of endurance in its own backyard—and it was proudly displayed at Matra’s museum until 2002, when it began to undergo a restoration. It turned out to be poor timing, as Matra ceased operations in 2003, and the car went back to the museum unfinished. Those efforts finally resumed in 2008, and the car stretched its legs once again in 2012 at the 40th celebration of its win at Le Mans. After ex-Matra employees won a €4.2M ($4,744,278) judgment in a lawsuit over the factory’s closing, Matra had to cover the bill somehow, and selling the car was the logical answer. The MS 670’s Le Mans-winning co-driver, Henri Pescarolo, called it “scandalous.” And the French press went nuts. Still, the sale more than settled the suit, and one fortunate bidder now owns the most famous Matra ever built.

1955 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione by Pinin Farina

1955 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione
RM Sotheby's/Peter Singhof

Sold for $7,008,672 at RM Sotheby’s Guikas Collection auction (La Castellet, France)

#1 (Concours) condition value: N/A

Recently featured in Hagerty Insider, chassis #0385 GT is one of six 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione prototypes built and was originally on display at the 1955 Turin Motor Show. A forerunner to the famous 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione Tour de France, it suffered accident damage in Greece in 1965 and sat for 10 years before being restored by Ferrari in the 1970s. It was Ferrari Classiche Red Book-certified this year. Our team described its condition as “casual old repaint over old paint and edge chips. Sound old upholstery and interior trim. Discolored rear and side window aluminum trim, pitted taillight bezel chrome. Orderly, aged engine compartment. Aged chassis. Charmingly original and preserved but would be stunning in the original argento exterior.” It may be an aging star, but it’s a star just the same.

1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose Alloy Coupe

1966-Ferrari-275-GTB front three-quarter
RM Sotheby's/Robin Adams

Sold for $7,705,000 at RM Sotheby’s Portola Hotel & Spa 2021 auction (Monterey)

#1 (Concours) condition value: N/A

In real estate, it’s all about location. With old race cars, it’s about history. And like a Malibu beach house, this Ferrari has it going on. The 11th of 12 examples built featuring a 250 LM-type dry-sump Tipo 213 competition engine, it was a three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans entrant in 1967, ’68, and ’69 and the class winner at the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, 1969 1000 KM of Spa-Francorchamps, and 1969 500 KM of Imola. It’s no wonder then that its $7.7M price tag was about three times the value of a standard road-going alloy 275 GTB. Interestingly, the car sold for $9.4M just three years ago at Scottsdale, exemplifying a trend that new-to-the-market cars are selling better than cars bidders have seen before.

1962 Ferrari 268 SP Spider

1962-Ferrari-268-SP front three-quarter
RM Sotheby's/Patrick Ernzen

Sold for $7,705,000 at RM Sotheby’s Portola Hotel & Spa 2021 auction (Monterey)

#1 (Concours) condition value: N/A

Yes, another Ferrari race car at Monterey. This one is different, however: It is the only one campaigned by the factory. With coachwork by Fantuzzi, it’s one of the six aerodynamic sharknose V-8 racers produced and the only original example remaining. Chassis #0798 raced in the 1962 24 Hours and was driven to the 1964 SCCA Class D Modified Championship. And with only two private owners since 1969, it rarely changes hands.

1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Coupe

1962-Aston-Martin-DB4GT Zagato front three-quartet studio
RM Sotheby's/Rasy Ran

Sold for $9,520,000 at RM Sotheby’s Portola Hotel & Spa 2021 auction (Monterey)

#1 (Concours) condition value: $11M

The star of the Paul Andrews Collection that was auctioned at Monterey, chassis DB4GT/0190/L is one of only 19 genuine Aston Martin DB4 GTs that were bodied by Zagato in period and one of six in left-hand drive. The car also came with special features like a wide-pattern egg crate grille. Winner of its class at Brands Hatch in 1962, it was restored in the 1990s. Among the most beautiful Astons ever built, this coupe was the first genuine DB4 GT Zagato to sell at auction in three years.

1959 Ferrari 250 California LWB Spider (closed headlight)

1959 FERRARI 250 GT LWB front three-quarter
Gooding & Company/Brian Henniker

Sold for $10,840,000 at Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach 2021 auction (Monterey)

#1 (Concours) condition value: $11M

The fifth Ferrari in the top 10, this 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione is immediately recognizable in its tri-color livery. Intended to be an open-air counterpart to the dual-purpose 250 GT Tour de France Berlinetta, only 50 LWB California Spiders were built, and about 10 were originally supplied with a combination of race-ready features, like this one. Raced in period, it placed fifth at Monza in 1959. Cal Spiders have been eight-figure cars for several years now, so the $10M+ sale price was hardly a surprise.

1995 McLaren F1 Coupe

Gooding & Company/Mike Maez

Sold for $20,465,000 at Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach 2021 auction (Monterey)

#1 (Concours) condition value: $21.5M

It’s hard to imagine that once upon a time you could buy a new McLaren F1 “off the lot” for less than $1M—and by you, we mean a select few that are not, in fact, us. Today you could thread a needle with the number of folks who can drop $20M for one, and yet there were at least two of well-financed folks in Monterey who fought to be members of a very exclusive club. This one-off Creighton Brown (over light tan and dark brown) McLaren F1 is one of only 106 built, and it has only 390 kilometers (242 miles) on its 627-horsepower, V-12 engine. At $20,465,000, chassis #029 also holds the record as the most expensive McLaren ever sold at public auction.

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