These classic collector’s cars sold for prices of $36 million to $143 million in recent years due to their rarity, prestige, and performance.
Luxury cars come at a steep price, especially when they’re made by well-established brands like Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Maserati, and Mercedes-Benz, among others. However, certain classic collector’s cars have fetched incredibly high prices, even within the world of lavish automobiles. Adding to their value is the fact that very few of them were produced during a certain period, making them rare collectibles.
So what are these famous cars that have sold for eight to nine-digit figures—both privately and publicly—and why are they so valuable? We explore three of the world’s highest-priced automobiles and the stories behind their jaw-dropping sales below:
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR “Uhlenhaut Coupé”
The current record-holder for most expensive car in the world is the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR “Uhlenhaut Coupé.” RM Sotheby’s sold it for an impressive $143 million to a private collector during an auction held at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.
Mercedes-Benz produced the model in 1955 and named it after its creator, visionary engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut. Many people considered it to be a revolutionary vehicle far ahead of its time with its 302 PS (222 kW), 998 kilogram unladen weight, and manual five-gear transmission.
The German carmaker only created two prototypes of the car, nicknamed “The Red” and “The Blue” after the color of their interiors. It’s one of the best-engineered cars in existence, according to collectors and experts alike. Uhlenhaut built it for speed, choosing a closed body that would reduce drag and keep drivers comfortable during a race.
However, the power of these specifications remained mostly theoretical. The Mexican government canceled the 1955 Carrera Panamericana event, where Mercedes-Benz aimed to test the car. Afterwards, the German carmaker withdrew from motorsports to focus on creating passenger cars.
This isn’t to say that the vehicle’s potential was never unlocked—Uhlenhaut would end up using it as his company car, driving at a top speed of 300 kph. At the time, most German sports cars rarely reached 200 kph, proving that the engineer’s creation was indeed up for the task.
Proceeds of the car’s record-breaking auction went to Mercedes-Benz’s beVisioneers fellowship, which provides young innovators with the expert support and training they need to launch scientific projects aimed at helping the environment.
1963 Ferrari 250 GTO
Ferrari dominates the top three list with two car models that broke sales records. The first one is a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO that David MacNeil, WeatherTech founder and CEO, bought for $70 million. It’s one of the crown jewels of MacNeil’s already outstanding collection (including a 365 GTB/4 “Daytona” and 250 GT Lusso).
“The Ferrari 250 GTO is the motoring market’s equivalent of Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ and a talisman for any top-end collection,” shared James Knight, Group Motoring chairman at UK auction house Bonhams, in a CNN article.
While the vehicle itself isn’t the fastest in the modern world of supercars with its top speed of 174 mph, collectors value it for its incredible rarity and historical value.
The exquisite car is a Tour de France-winner and one of only 39 models Ferrari built between 1962 and 1964. As such, owners of the vehicle rarely part with it—and when they do, as exemplified by MacNeil’s eight-figure deal, it’s rarely at a small price.
MacNeil’s purchase of the car gave him a spot at the world’s top 100 car collectors list, as well as access to the incredibly exclusive 250 GTO Tour—an by-invite and owners-only driving event around Europe’s locales. It’s an elite club of its own, with members like Ralph Lauren and billionaire Lord Anthony Bamford.
1957 Ferrari 335 S Spider Scaglietti
The second Ferrari on this list—and the third most expensive car in the world—is the Ferrari 335 S Spider Scaglietti. Much like the brand’s 1963 250 GTO, experts and collectors consider it to be one of the rarest Ferrari automobiles in existence.
The Italian carmaker only produced four of its kind, which is exactly why it fetched $36 million during the annual Retromobile auction hosted by Artcurial Motorcars. According to TIME’s article on the piece, auctioneers compared the vehicle to masterpieces from artistic greats like Picasso or Rodin.
The car features a 4.1-litre V12 engine, which can reach a top speed of 190 mph thanks to its 400 horsepower. At the time of its creation, such specifications were virtually nonexistent. As such, the vehicle was a favorite of champion racers like Stirling Moss and Mike Hawthorne. It also turned in the fastest lap at the Le Mans 24 hour with an average of 120 mph, and helped secure Ferrari’s victory in the Manufacturers’ World Championship.
Banner photo by George Bale via Unsplash.