A full week of auctions and car shows kicked off on August 8th at Pebble Beach, CA, where the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO became the most expensive car ever sold at auction, going for a hefty $34.65 million ($38 mil including auction fees). The astounding bid surpassed the previous auction sale record, held by a Mercedes-Benz, that sold at auction in Europe in 2012 for $31.6 million including auction fees. The high bidder on this Ferrari still remains a mystery, and the auction house has declined to reveal his or her identity.
This GTO is only one of 33 (39 including cars with racing variations) made by Ferrari between 1962 and 1964. During its heyday in the mid-1960’s the GTO was the first choice for many racers. The last time a GTO was sold at a public auction was over ten years ago, at which time it sold for nearly $10 million. During the mid-90s prices fell drastically due to the car market crash. In May 1996 one sold at auction for only $2.5 million, as compared to a 1990 auction sale price of $13 million. Prices rebounded significantly as the century turned. Last year, in a private sale, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold for $52 million.
This particular 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO has a very storied and public past. It came in second in the 1962 Tour De France. Later that year in a race in Montlhéry, near Paris, it was involved in a fatal crash; killing its driver Henri Oreiller. Some were worried that its fatal past would affect the selling price, especially since it is the only GTO to ever be part of a fatal accident. However, several years later, after extensive repairs, it was bought by an Italian car buff named Fabrizio Violati in 1965. Violati was an heir to an Italian mineral-water business. Up until the 2000s Violati raced the car multiple times throughout Europe in mountain-climb events and classic-car challenges. The car eventually was retired and became part of Violati’s Maranello Rosso Collection, his famous Ferrari museum, in San Marino. Violati sadly passed away in 2010, but having the car in his possession and collection for 49 years only served to improve the car’s renown. Violati’s family recently sold his collection to investors for over $100 million. Several cars from his collection were up for auction and sold through Bonhams.
The Ferrari used to be a uniquely American collector item, but in passing years its desirability has spread worldwide. Not only is it the highest selling car at auction, but seven of the most expensive cars sold at auction are Ferraris. The remaining 1962 GTOs are now located throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and even Mexico, where it was purchased in 2012 for $32 Million. The GTO has many fans, including Ralph Lauren, Craig McCaw, and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, who have all previously purchased these older models in the past. Because of the rarity of this model, combined with its smooth lines and classic look, it is destined to be a coveted collector item for many years to come. As the classic car collection industry continues to rise many are now seeing it again as an investment opportunity. Only time will tell if the upswing continues and investments pay off or if we are headed for another crash.