The Most Expensive Cars Ever Sold at Auction

Here at Scrap Car Comparison, we’re used to cars being sold at auction, particularly those getting towards the end of their life. It’s well known that you can often pick up a bargain at salvage auctions, especially if you’re going to be taking on the tinkering work after the sale yourself. But what about the other end of the scale? 

Every motorhead has flicked through a catalogue from one of the major auction houses, such as RM Sotheby’s or Bonhams, and played the “if I won the lottery…” game. For some incredibly lucky individuals, that game is actually a reality, and they can rock up at one of the most famous automobile auctions Worldwide – be it Monterey, Pebble Beach or even here in the UK at Goodwood – with every intention of walking away with a new set of keys and their bank account a few million lighter.

Before we look at some of the cars most of us can only ever dream of owning, did you know that you could replace your tired old banger with a chunk of cash you could put towards something a little more fun or reliable? While you won’t be able to buy any of the cars on this list, you might find that you could finally put down the deposit on your dream car. We have collection agents all around the country, meaning you’re never far away from the best price possible,

10 – Aston Martin DBR1 – $22,500,000

2017 RM Sotheby’s, Monterey

Kicking things off with the most expensive British car ever to be sold at auction, the DBR1 that topped the RM Sotheby’s listings in its 2017 Monterey sale has a history more than fitting its astronomical price tag. This particular Aston Martin, built in 1956, boasts an incredible motorsport heritage, being the first of only five DBR1s to be produced, and was raced by some of the biggest names to ever grace a motor racing circuit – Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori.

It was Moss’ performance in this car at the Nurburgring 1000km in 1959 that really stands out above the rest, where he broke the lap record 16 times en route to victory alongside teammate Jack Fairman (who only drove 8 of the 44 racing laps). The listing in the Sotheby’s catalogue claimed this to be the most important Aston Martin ever built, and with its $22.5m sale price, it’s difficult to argue with that designation.

Credit: RM Sotheby’s

9 – Ferrari 410 Sport – $23,000,000

2014 Rick Cole’s Auction, Monterey

One of only two cars in this list not to be sold by either RM or Bonhams, this Ferrari was the jewel in the crown of Rick Cole’s auction history. One of four Ferrari 410s produced to compete in the 1955 Carrera PanAmerica – which never happened. The car was the follow up for the 375 Plus that took victory at the 1954 Le Mans 24hr, and was supposed to be the car to take the American powerhouses on the sportscar scene on their home turf.

The Le Mans disaster of ‘55 meant that year’s Carrera Panamerica never happened. Instead, this car, the only to be bodied in two-seater spider configuration, ended up in the hands of Tony Parravano and competed across the US. Driven by future motorsport legends Carroll Shelby and Richie Ginther, the car remained in the US before moving to Europe in the mid 2000s. The Monterey auction saw it return to the States, where it remains in private hands.

Credit: Rick Cole’s Auctions

8 – Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale – $26,400,000

2014 RM Auctions, Monterey

Get used to seeing Ferraris on this list – they make up well over the majority of it. This 275 GTB/C was one of only three built, making it even rarer than the legendary 250 GTO. This car, unlike the others so far in this list, didn’t have much in the way of racing prowess, but did see Formula 1 legend Phil Hill take it to the 1997 Tour de France Auto with son Derek – also a racing driver. Unfortunately Derek ended up driving it into a ditch.

The car was subsequently restored and has changed hands four times since, the last being at Monterey in 2014 for over $26m.

Credit: RM Auctions

7 – Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S NART Spider – $27,500,000

2013 RM Auctions, Monterey

“One careful owner” isn’t something that you’d expect to find listed on the sales advert for a Ferrari 275 GTB, but that’s exactly what sat at the top of the lot 225 in the 2013 RM Auction at Monterey. That owner was Eddie Smith, a self-made American millionaire who rose out from being brought up in an orphanage to start a multi-million dollar mail-order hosiery business.

Fast forward 15 years and sitting outside his office is one of only ten Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S NART Spiders to be built, imported through a close friend of his direct from Maranello to America. The car stayed in Smith’s possession until his death, after which it was sold at the RM Auction to Lawrence Stroll, who in 2013 was known for his affiliation with Tommy Hilfiger, but today is known as the owner of Aston Martin and father to F1 racer Lance.

Credit: RM Auctions

6 – Ferrari 290 MM – £28,050,000

2015 RM Sotheby’s Sale, New York City

We hope you like racing cars, because that’s all we’ve got from here on in. And surprise, surprise – it starts with a Ferrari. This is the car that took Juan Manuel Fangio – the first superstar of Formula 1 – to fourth at the 1956 Mille Miglia, a marathon endurance race around Italian scenery and through the centre of towns and villages.

It’s the combination of event and driver, as well as being as near to perfect as can be achieved of a 60-year-old car that meant the value of this car was so high. Despite its high value, it has been a regular on the historic scene, and was last seen on British shores in 2012 at the Windsor Castle Concours. Thankfully it hasn’t been totally locked away since its 2015 sale, having made an appearance at the 2018 Tour d’Elegance with its new owner.

Credit: RM Sotheby’s

5 – Mercedes-Benz W196 – $28,600,000

2013 Bonhams, Goodwood

The Goodwood Festival of Speed is most well known for being one of the few places on the planet you can see almost every form of motorsport in one place, from the dawn of motoring through to modern day Formula 1. It also happens to be a place to buy some of the most sought after cars on the market thanks to its annual Bonhams sale. At the 2013 Festival, the sale broke the record for the most expensive car to ever be sold on British soil as well as the most expensive Formula 1 car in history.

Yet another Fangio car – a key reason it came with such a hefty price tag – this W196 was instrumental in helping the Argentinian to the second of his five World Championship titles. His win at the Swiss Grand Prix in this very car meant Fangio pulled out an insurmountable gap on Ferrari’s Jose Froilan Gonzalez, and he secured the title with two races still to run. It would also be the last time anyone won the Swiss Grand Prix in Switzerland, with the only other two Swiss Grands Prix (1975 & 1982) in history being held in France following Switzerland’s banning all motorsport in 1955 following the Le Mans disaster. 

Credit: Bonhams

4 – Ferrari 335 S – $35,730,510

2016 Artcurial, Paris

The only car to be on this list from a French auction, this 335 S was sold at the Retromobile show – a must-visit for anyone interested in historic cars and the market surrounding them. Another Ferrari to make the list, this car was piloted by a future World Champion in the shape of Mike Hawthorn – the very first Briton to take the crown. It’s not often that a World Champion gets overshadowed on a car’s history, but this is one of those rare occasions, as when you look even further down the list of those who got behind the wheel, you’ll find a certain Mr S. Moss winning the 1958 Cuban Grand Prix.

After a successful racing career, the car entered private ownership and was only seen twice between 1959 and its sale at Retromobile in 2016. Thankfully its new owners are more open to it seeing the light of day again, and it has been featured more that twice as many times in its new ownership than the previous 57 years, including appearances at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island concours.

Credit: Artcurial

3 – Ferrari 250 GTO – $38,115,000

2014 Bonhams, Carmel

Carmel, California saw the highest price ever paid at auction (at the time) in 2014 when a Ferrari 250 GTO went under the hammer for $38,115,000. It remains to this day the most expensive car ever sold at a Bonhams auction, and was offered up at the Carmel sale with no reserve. Not only was this a car that came fresh from a 49-year single-family ownership when the time came to sell up, it also scored second at the 1962 Tour de France Auto in the hands of Jo Schlesser and Henri Oreiller. Unfortunately, just a few weeks later, Oreiller would be killed in the same car after crashing into a building at Montlhery.

The car was then sent back to Ferrari by Schlesser, where it was rebuilt back to factory specification and returned to racing six months later with Paolo Colombo at the wheel. It was campaigned by another driver in 1964, before disappearing from view for almost 20 years. After a few years on the historic racing circuit it was confined to a museum in 1990, and hasn’t turned a wheel since.

Credit: Bonhams

2 – Ferrari 250 GTO – $48,405,000

2018 RM Sotheby’s, Monterey

Ferrari 250 GTOs are seen by many as the ultimate poster car, and that theory is backed up by the fact two of them feature in the top three sales prices of all time. This GTO, the most expensive Ferrari in the world and the most expensive car ever to be sold in the United States, was the third of only 36 GTOs built, and experts believe it is the most authentic and original example in existence, hence the hefty price tag.

While it may lack the headline names found in some of the previous cars on this list (although it was tested by legendary Ferrari man Phil Hill), amazingly, you would have had more chance in recent years of seeing this car get put through its paces than any other car we’ve spoken about already. Regularly raced in period and later in historic circles, its previous owner, Gregory Whitten, an early employee of Microsoft, was often seen behind the wheel in America, before giving it a final run out in Britain with Le Mans icon Derek Bell at the Goodwood Revival in 2011. The new owner is unknown and, sadly, the car hasn’t been seen since. However, at just shy of $50m, we’re not surprised.

Credit: RM Sotheby’s

1 – Mercedes-Benz 300SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe – $142,000,000

2022 RM Sotheby’s, Stuttgart

Despite Ferrari being present for 70% of this list, they were beaten to the top spot by a recent sale from automotive giants Mercedes-Benz. The 300SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe had been part of the German brand’s collection since it was built as one of only two examples of a road legal version of the legendary 300 SLR coupe – often known as the ‘gullwing’ thanks to its doors. The name Uhlenhaut Coupe came from chief designer Rudolf Uhlenhaut, who used one of the two examples as his personal car.

Like the Ferrari 410 Sport that came earlier in this list, the original plan was for these cars to compete in the 1955 Carrera Panamerica, but following its cancellation and Mercedes’ subsequent withdrawal from all forms of motorsport, the project was abandoned. One of the Uhlenhaut Coupes was preserved in the Mercedes-Benz museum, while the second, and only other, example was put up for auction and sold for an absolutely staggering amount of money in 2022. The proceeds were used to set up the Mercedes-Benz Fund. RM Sotheby’s also claimed it was one of the most valuable items ever sold at auction, let alone just for cars.

Credit: RM Sotheby’s

We’d fall off our chairs and enjoy early retirement if any of these figures were seen at a salvage auction, and rather than sitting with your fingers crossed as your car goes under the hammer, you can cut the stress out by using Scrap Car Comparison’s industry-leading service. We can guarantee you the very best price for your car, no matter its condition or where you call home.

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