The 10 highest sales from this month’s big-ticket auctions

RM Sotheby's/Darin Schnabel

Due to the pandemic, the annual January collector car auctions in Florida and Arizona were held in modified form this year, with online sales playing a larger role than in the past. Yet even with Barrett-Jackson bowing out (that auction will be held in March), the total from the top 10 overall was higher than what we saw last year.

It wasn’t even close. This year’s top 10 combined for $30,549,500, compared to $22,702,500 in 2020, and three cars this year sold for considerably more money than the top January result in 2020—the 1968 Ford Mustang GT that Steve McQueen drove in Bullitt ($3,740,000). Of course, it always comes down to the particular cars on offer. Another factor is whether or not bidding reaches reserve, and despite the non-traditional setup, it appears that both buyers willing to pay and sellers setting their reserves realistically were thinking along the same lines in this top-tier price bracket.

10. 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Boano Coupe

Ferrari 250 GT Alloy Coupe by Boano front three-quarter
RM Sotheby's/Darin Schnabel

RM Sotheby’s; sold for $1,352,500

Enzo Ferrari’s passion may have been racing cars, but he finally accepted the notion that exclusive road cars were needed to finance the company’s growing competition efforts. In 1954, the Pinin Farina-designed 250 Europa became Ferrari’s first true production model, and the second-series 250 Europa GT followed. Chassis 0613GT is one of just 14 alloy-bodied coupes produced by Carrozzeria Boano from 1956–58.

9. 1967 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster

Shelby 427 Cobra Roadster front three-quarter

Mecum; sold for $1,375,000

The first of two stunning Shelby Cobras, minus Carroll Shelby’s personal ownership, CSX3318 is in exclusive company as a final-year example before Ford and Shelby American agreed to pull the plug on the AC-supplied body program. The magnificent roadster also landed within its $1,300,000–$1,500,000 estimate.

8. 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing Coupe

Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing front three-quarter

Mecum; sold for $1,567,500

The only vehicle in the top 10 to sell for more than its estimate ($1.3M–$1.5M), this sale offers further proof of the Gullwing’s enduring popularity among car collectors. Even when one is finished in unusual, special-ordered Graphite Gray paint and offered by an auction company that’s better known for muscle cars, a good 300 SL is almost always in demand. It certainly helps that the car has been restored to concours condition while retaining many of its original parts, including its matching-numbers six-cylinder engine.

7. 1959 BMW 507 Roadster

BMW 507 Series II Roadster front three-quarter

Bonhams; sold for $1,809,000

Created at the urging of famed U.S. automotive importer Max Hoffman, the BMW 507 offered striking looks and impressive performance, but it was simply too expensive in period—more than double the cost of a Ford Thunderbird or Chevrolet Corvette—so only 253 were built. This one failed to reach its low estimate of $1.9M, but it still found a new home.

6. 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose Coupe

Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose front three-quarter
Gooding & Company

Gooding & Company; sold for $1,936,000

With coachwork designed by Pininfarina and fashioned by Scaglietti, the 275 GTB is breathtaking to behold. It’s also heart-pounding to drive, thanks to its 3.3-liter V-12, five-speed transaxle, fully independent suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes. Estimated at $2M–$2.4M, it sold for less, even after the buyer’s premium.

5. 1954 Ferrari 375 America Coupe

Ferrari 375 America Coupe by Vignale
RM Sotheby's/Darin Schnabel

RM Sotheby’s; sold for $2,557,000

One of only three 375 America Coupes bodied by Vignale, this 1954 example was displayed at the New York World Motor Sports Show and Geneva Motor Show. Restored to its factory-correct burgundy and silver-grey finish over a beige interior, it retains its original 4.5-liter Lampredi V-12 engine. The coupe also managed to sell within its estimated range of $2.4M–$3.4M.

4. 2020 McLaren Speedtail Coupe

McLaren Speedtail front three-quarter doors up
RM Sotheby's/Ted7

RM Sotheby’s; sold for $3,277,500

One of only 106 McLaren Speedtails built, this example was difficult to gauge because it’s the first such vehicle to reach public auction. Essentially a new car—since it has only 30 miles on the clock—McLaren’s fastest production model failed to hit the pre-auction estimate ($3,5M–$4,5M). But it sold anyway, setting the initial bar for future sales. From McLaren directly, the Speedtail started at roughly $2.2 million.

3. 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Corsica

Bugatti Type 57SC Tourer front three-quarter
RM Sotheby's/Patrick Ernzen

RM Sotheby’s; sold for $4,735,000

With a lowered chassis (the “S” in the T57SC) and a supercharger (the “C” in the Type 57SC), this Bugatti was one of the fastest French cars of the 1930s. It’s also one of only eight bodied by Corsica. Much like the top-selling D-Type above, it was bid to $5.7M at Amelia Island in 2019, but it didn’t reach the reserve. This time around, the owner agreed to let it go for much less.

2. 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster

Shelby 427 Cobra Roadster front three-quarter

Mecum; sold for $5,940,000

The main attraction at Mecum’s Kissimmee auction, Carroll Shelby’s personal 1965 Shelby Cobra (CSX3178) drew plenty of attention and a flurry of bids. Along with its history and personal connection to Shelby, it was recently restored to its original specification. In August 2016 it sold for $1,375,000.

1. 1955 Jaguar D-Type Roadster

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

RM Sotheby’s; sold for $6,000,000

Exhibit A is this gorgeous Jaguar, which Hagerty Valuation expert John Wiley points out was a no-sale in January 2018 with a high-bid of $8,850,000. “The lower price here suggests people are more willing to let cars go at market-correct values,” he notes.

This D-Type, chassis XKD-518, wears a unique and original red-over-red combination, boasts a well-documented history, and had a pre-auction estimate of $5.75M–$7.5M. Talk about a showstopper.

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