The Ten Most Expensive Cars Sold At Auction

By | December 4, 2012

In today’s world there are thousands of new and used cars for sale.  The average selling price for a new car is just over $30K.  While that may not seem like a lot, for many of us it is more than we can afford.  But what if you could?  What if money were no problem and you could afford whatever you wanted what would your spending limit be?  You could spend $400k on a new Lamborghini Aventador.  Too cheap?  How about $2.5 million for a new Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse?  Still no?  Currently on JamesList the most expensive listing is a Ferrari FXX offered at $3.3 million.  Even that is cheap compared to the cars on this ultra-expensive list.  Total up all ten cars and you get around $145 million!  That is an average of $14.5 million per car! A no interest, 5 year loan would have payments of about $241K a month!  That figure is just under ten times the average new car sales cost.  Arguably the most well-known automotive auction, Barrett-Jackson does even hold a place on this list.  Their record is $5 million, the selling price of a Shelby Cobra Super Snake owned by the late Carroll Shelby.  So now for the list:

10.  1962 Ferrari 330 TRI/LM – $7.7 million (2009)

This Ferrari is what became of the 250 Testa Rossa cars.  Piloted by Phil Hill and Oliver Gendebien to victory in the 1962 24 Hours of Le Mans making it the last front engined prototype to win the race.  The following year it competed at Le Mans again but was involved in a bad crash destroying the car.  Thankfully the driver wasn’t injured.  Since then the car has completed a full restoration and has passed through several owners.  Later this car’s front grills inspired the design of the grills on the F430.

9.  1929 ‘Birkin’ Bentley 4 ½ Litre – $7.9 million (2012)

This is the most expensive British car ever to sell at auction.  This particular car known as Bentley Blower No. 1 was used by Tim Birkin in the 1930 Le Mans but didn’t finish.  He later drove it to a second place finish in the 1930 French Grand Prix.  Annoyed by how well it did, competitor, Ettore Bugatti called it, “the fastest truck in the world.”  At full throttle this car burns 4 liters (just over a gallon) of fuel a minute!  After Tim Birkin’s death, the car was sold to watchmaker, George Daniels.  George Daniels owned the car until he passed away in 2011 after which it was sold at auction for $7.9 million.

8. 1931 Bugatti Royale Berline – $8.1 million (1986)

Bugatti never actually sold this particular car brand new keeping it for himself.  The Royale was initially built for European Royalty but once it was launched it completely flopped and only 6 were built.  The Berline, along with two others, the Kellner and the Coupe Napoleon, were bricked up at the Bugatti home during World War II in fear of them being seized by the Nazis.  Two of them came to the States in 1950 when Briggs Cunningham, a Le Mans racer, purchased them for $3000 and a couple new General Electric refrigerators which were unavailable in post-war France. The Berline was bought in 1986 by shopping mall developer, Jerry J. Moore, who only kept the car for a year before selling it to the founder of Domino’s Pizza.  The car is now a part of the Blackhawk Collection/Museum in California, an affiliate with the Smithsonian Institute.

7. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California – $9.5 million (2008)

If it were red you may recognize this car from the film, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”  Unlike the replica built for the movie this one is the real deal!  With only 55 of these Prancing Ponies built you can imagine why it is popular among collectors.  The stunning looks, 276HP V12, convertible, what’s not to like?  This one, the 13th off the line, was owned by the late James Coburn and was purchased by BBC star, Chris Evans, who later sold the car to help pay for another car on this list.

6. 1931 Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe – $9.7 million (1987)

Like the other Bugatti Royale on this list this too was never sold as new but was kept by the Bugatti family.  It was one of the three cars that were bricked up during World War II and later shipped to the US in 1950 with the Berline.  It was purchased at auction for $9.7 million in 1987 to Swedish property tycoon, Hans Thulin.  He kept the car for three years and subsequently sold the car for $15.7 million but not at an auction.  It’s current location and owner is unknown however, the car has been shown by Lukas Huni, a Swiss Broker, in recent years.

5. 1968 Ford GT40 – $11 million (2012)

In 1963 Ford had heard that Enzo Ferrari was interested in selling his company to Ford.  After spending millions on auditing Ferrari, Enzo Ferrari backed out in the final stages of the sale.  So, Ford built this car to not only compete with Ferrari but to blow them out of the water and they did just that.  They took 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans.  This particular car won Le Mans in 1968 and was later used in the Steve McQueen film, “Le Mans” as a camera car.  It was recently purchased by the Larry H. Miller family and is on display at the museum at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah.

4. 1936 Mercedes 540K – $11.7 million (2012)

With only 58 roadsters built and who knows how many of these pre-war cars are still in existence you can imagine why one in pristine shape would sell for a high sum.  As the name 540K suggests, it features a 5.4L supercharged inline 8 producing 115HP.  The supercharger only engaged manually for short bursts(early version of KERS anyone?) or when floored, which then gave the car 180hp.  Twice the power of the latest Prius.  Weighing in at 6,000 lbs the car came with vacuum-assisted hydraulic brakes and even a 5 speed manual, both of which were ahead of its time.  The car had a top speed of 110mph.  In it’s day this was one of the fastest cars in the world.

3. 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa – $16.39 million (2011)

As one of the most famous Ferrari models ever it should come as no surprise that it is high on the list.  The name “Testa Rossa” translates to “red head.”  That name refers to the color of the cylinder heads on the car.  The power came from the 3 liter V12 found in the 250 Berlinetta which produced about 300hp and propelled the car to 60 mph in a brisk 6 seconds.  Thats the same as the new Toyo-baru FR-Z thing.  Ferrari only produced 19 of these for the public and 2 of them were factory cars.  The controversial styling proved to be aerodynamically effective and eventually led to the 330 TRI/LM at the 10th spot on this list.  This model has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times and is the second most sought after Ferrari in the world.  Ralph Lauren owns one.

2. 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO – $19.4 million (2010)

Ferrari built this to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1962.  As the race rules state, the manufacturer must have built ex-amount of cars of that type in order to be eligible to race.  Ferrari needed to built 100 of them instead they built 36.  Ferrari was sneaky and claimed they had been building the 250 for years, which was true, however they technically needed to build 100 of these specifically.  They got away with it by numbering them in non-sequential numbers creating the illusion that there were more cars than there were in reality.  The went on to win the series championship three years straight.  Chris Evans bought this particular car.  He sold his 250 GT SWB California in the number seven spot on this list to help pay the $19.4 million he spent for this car.  Spending almost $20 million on a car may seem like a lot but when compared to what one was bought for this year NOT at an auction puts this number to shame.  An unknown buyer recently bought one formerly owned by famous race car driver Stirling Moss for a whopping $35 million, which still doesn’t top the list!

1. 1936 Bugatti Type 57C Atlantic – $43.7 million (2010)

Bugatti has always made fine automobiles.  Today, they make the world’s fastest car, the Veyron Supersports, which will go 256mph and costs around $3 million.  Pocket change compared to the cool $43 million spent on this 1936 Type 57C Atlantic.  What makes the Atlantic so special?  Bugatti only made four of them.  Using the motor from the Type 59 Grand Prix car, producing 135hp (a new Honda Civic has 140hp) the car will hit a top speed of 95mph.  Its unique features put it ahead of its time.  The car was low instead of tall, it was made of aluminum, and the louvres on the sides of the hood opened and closed as needed to help keep the engine cool.  Today there are only two remaining.  One owned by Ralph Lauren, the other, this one, was purchased from Dr. Peter Williamson who sold it at the Pebble Beach Auction in 2010 to the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxford, CA.

1 Comment

Jamie Salcedo on January 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm.

It is great to see the GT40 on this list. Not that I don’t like the Ferraris or Bugattis but there’s something about seeing an American car on this list that gives the company some pride, even if there’s a lot of them in used car dealer in nj. thanks for the post, btw!

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