You’re about to find out that there’s a lot of money to be made from used cars – especially if you’ve got a Ferrari 250 GT California Spider stashed away in your garage.
We’ve taken a look at the 20 most expensive cars ever to be sold at auction and, if nothing else, it highlights the fact that Ferrari is the world’s most desirable brand because 14 cars on the all-time list sport the famous Prancing Horse emblem.
With money in banks earning next to no interest, it’s clear that many enthusiasts have decided to invest in classic cars instead and all the gems in our Top 20 have changed hands since 2013 – a golden era in the world of high-end automotive auctions. (Currency exchange conversions: October 2, 2018).
Most expensive cars ever sold at auction
20) 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa - $16,390,000 (£12,651,195)
The first of just 34 Testa Rossas built, this example had an eight-year international racing career at events such as Sebring, the Nürburgring and Le Mans. It was auctioned by Gooding and Company at Pebble Beach, California, on August 21, 2011.
19) 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Speciale by Bertone - $16,500,000 (£12,736,102)
Legendary designer Nuccio Bertone’s personal car, this was displayed at the Geneva and Turin motor shows. Bertone co-designed the car with the young Giorgetto Giugiaro and it harked back to earlier Ferrari race cars with “sharknose” styling. It went under the hammer at Pebble Beach, California, in a Gooding and Company auction on August 17, 2015.
18) 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider - $16,830,000 (£12,990,824)
One of only 37 covered-headlight SWB California Spiders, it was delivered new in Blu Metallizzato over red leather upholstery. Powered by a 3.0-litre V12 and mated to a 4-speed manual gearbox, it was auctioned by Gooding and Company at Pebble Beach, California, on August 20, 2016.
17) 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider - £17,160,000 (£13,245,546)
Just like the Ferrari California Spider from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, except this is the real deal. One of just 56 ever made (and only 37 with those desirable covered headlights) it was sold by Gooding and Company at Amelia Island, Florida, on March 11, 2016.
16) 1964 Ferrari 250 LM by Scaglietti - $17,600,000 (£13,585,176)
The 23rd of only 32 examples produced and considered to be one of the very best in existence, this particular model was also shown at the London Motor Show at Earls Court in 1966. Successfully campaigned in the UK, the 250 LM is now one of the most important and sought after of all Ferraris. This example was sold by RM Sotheby’s on August 13, 2015, at Pebble Beach, California.
15) 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione - £18,150,000 (£14,009,712)
One of only nine alloy-bodied LWB California Spiders with covered headlights, disc brakes and full competition specification, this car enjoyed an outstanding race record including fifth overall at the 1960 12 Hours of Sebring. It was auctioned by Gooding and Company at Pebble Beach, California, on August 20, 2016.
14) 1959 Ferrari 375-Plus Spider Competizione - $18,400,177 (£14,202,820)
This ex-works Ferrari 375-Plus was campaigned at events such as Le Mans and finished second in the 1954 Mille Miglia. It also famously won the epic five-day Carrera Panamericana road race through Mexico at an amazing average speed of 107mph. Fitted with a 4.9-litre V12 engine, it was clothed in Pinin Farina all-alloy open bodywork. It was auctioned by Bonhams at Goodwood on June 27, 2014.
13) 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider - $18,500,000 (£14,279,872)
Surely the greatest ever barn find, this rare 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider with the highly desirable covered headlights was found buried under a pile of magazines. Once owned by French actor Alain Delon, it was one of just 37 made. It was auctioned by Artcurial in Paris on February 6, 2015.
12) 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider - $19,800,000 (£15,283,323)
This ultra-rare 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B with open bodywork by Touring has been described as the ultimate Italian sports car of its era. Believed to be one of seven cars made, it’s powered by a 2.9-litre, twin-supercharged eight-cylinder engine producing 180bhp and developed from Alfa’s racing engines. Auctioned by RM Sotheby’s at Monterey, California, on August 20, 2016.
11) 1963 Aston Martin DP215 - $21,455,000 (£16,560,792)
Driven by American Formula One legend Phil Hill at Le Mans in 1963, the final David Brown competition Aston Martin could clock 198.6 mph on the Mulsanne Straight. An exceptionally important piece of Aston Martin’s racing heritage, this Aston Martin DP215 Grand Touring Competition Prototype was auctioned by RM Sotheby’s on August 26, 2018.
10) 1955 Jaguar D-type - $21,780,000 (£16,811,655)
When it went under the hammer at RM Sotheby’s in Monterey, California, on August 19, 2016, this stunning 1956 Le Mans-winning Jaguar D-Type (raced by Ecurie Ecosse) became the most expensive British car ever sold at auction (until 2017). It’s also the only Le Mans-winning Jaguar C or D-Type that has survived intact and remained essentially original to its winning form. The D-type 3.4-litre straight-six was good enough for 156.9mph down the legendary Mulsanne Straight.
9) 1935 Duesenberg SSJ - $22,000,000 (£16,981,470)
This is no ordinary Duesenberg – it was once owned by Hollywood star Gary Cooper. It became the most expensive American car ever when it was sold by Gooding and Company at Pebble Beach, California, on August 25, 2018.
8) 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 - $22,550,000 (£17,406,006)
When this Aston Martin (raced by the Stirling Moss, Carroll Shelby, Jack Brabham and Roy Salvadori) was sold by RM Sotheby’s at Monterey, California, on August 19, 2017, it became the most valuable British car ever sold at auction. The first of just five examples built by the factory between 1956 and 1958, this DBR1/1 is the only example ever to have been offered for public sale.
7) 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale - $26,400,000 (£20,377,764)
The first of only three Ferrari works berlinetta competizione cars built, the 275 coupe is actually rarer than its 250 GTO siblings. This example wasn’t raced, but the 275 GTB was designed and built to challenge Ford GT40s and Shelby Cobras at Le Mans in 1965. It was sold by RM Sotheby’s at Monterey on August 16, 2014.
6) 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S NART Spider - $27,500,000 (£21,226,837)
This Ferrari 275 GTB Spider became the most expensive road-going car ever sold at auction when it went under the hammer at RM Sotheby’s in Monterey, California, on August 18, 2013. Only 10 cars of these spiders, as opposed to the more common berlinettas, were built during the 1960s for Luigi Chinetti, the importer of Ferraris to the US. In single ownership from new, the proceeds from the sale went to charities.
5) 1956 Ferrari 290 MM - $28,050,000 (£21,651,374)
Auctioned by RM Sotheby’s in New York on December 10, 2015, this Ferrari 290 MM (chassis 0626) was built for Formula One racing legend Juan Manuel Fangio and was one of only four to be built. Fangio raced the 3.5-litre, V-12 engined car in the 1956 1,000-mile Mille Miglia event, finishing fourth overall.
4) 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 - $29,600,000 (£22,847,796)
This Mercedes-Benz W196 is very special. It powered five-time Formula 1 World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio to two Grand Prix victories and is the most expensive Mercedes-Benz ever sold. In all, the car competed in five world championship-qualifying GPs. After Fangio’s 1954 Swiss Grand Prix win, the W196R was retired to the Daimler-Benz Museum. It was sold by Bonhams at Goodwood on July 12, 2013.
3) 1957 Ferrari 335S - $35,711,359 (£27,565,062)
This historic Ferrari broke the auction world record for the sale of racing car. Driven by racing greats including Peter Collins, Maurice Trintignant and Wolfgang von Trips, it won the 1958 Cuba Grand Prix with Stirling Moss at the wheel. In the same year, Mike Hawthorn set the first official lap of the Le Mans circuit in under four minutes. Auctioned at Artcurial in Paris on February 5, 2016.
2) Ferrari 250 GTO - $38,115,000 (£29,420,396)
Now for a GTO – the world’s most desirable car model. Until 2018, this held the record as the world’s most valuable car. It was the 17th of the 28 true 3.0-litre V12 250 GTOs, and first competed at the end of the 1962 International GT race season. Raced by the legendary Jo Schlesser, it was in private ownership between 1965-2014 and finally sold for a then record price at Bonhams Quail Lodge Sale in California on August 14, 2014.
1) 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO - $48,405,000 (£37,363,093)
This ultra rare Ferrari GTO is quite simply the most expensive car ever sold at auction. The third of only 36 GTOs built, this is considered to be one of the most authentic and original of all examples. With more than 15 class and overall wins during the 1962–1965 GT seasons, it was driven by Edoardo Lualdi-Gabardi to victory in the 1962 Italian GT Championship. Phil Hill, the first American to be a Formula 1 World Champion, also raced this car. This ultimate Ferrari GTO was auctioned by RM Sotheby’s at Monterey on August 26, 2018.