The 10 Most Expensive Cars Ever Sold At Auction

Get the inside track on the vintage motors with the heftiest price tags

Ahead of the 25th installment of the Goodwood Festival of Speed this month, where more landmark sales are expected to take place, auction search engine Barnebys reveals the top 10 most expensive classic cars ever to go under the hammer.

10. Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider (1961), $18,500,000 (2015)

The reveal of the California Spider came a long way down the line of adaptations and renovations to the traditional 250 design. The previous year, Ferrari had upgraded the GT Berinetta’s handling, reducing the wheelbase by 200mm. Then, the California Spider was shown to have a slimmer body over the chassis, disc brakes and a 280PS 3L V12 engine. Only 55 models were built, one of which was customised and notoriously featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This may have played some part in its auction price at Artcurial in 2015 of $18,500,000.

9. Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider (1939), $19,800,000 (2016)

A variation of the 8C road and race line produced throughout the 1930s, all fitted with the signature eight-cylinder engine, the 2900B was a 2.9L sports car intended for competition in the Mille Miglia and Le Mans Speciale. Further to the 2900A model, which never won but came in pole positions on three separate occasions, the 2900B made more concession to comfort and reliability. Perhaps the most recognisable Romeo model of all time, a 2900B Lungo Spider, was auctioned for $19,800,000 at RM Sotheby’s in 2016.

8. Jaguar D-type (1955), $21,780,000 (2016)

An innovation in aerodynamics in competition car design, the introduction of monocoque construction with an aeronautical approach brought a new element to the table. Sleek and efficient, D-types won the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1955, 1956 and 1957. In 1957, 25 D-type models were re-serviced in America after Jaguar’s temporary retirement from racing, when nine models were destroyed in a factory fire. One of the 90 D-type models left in existence achieved a $21,780,000 price tag at RM Sotheby’s in 2016.

7. Aston Martin DBR1 (1956), $22,555,000 (2017)

The DBR1 is most renowned for its victory in the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans (the fourth round of the FIA World Sports Car Championship), but has some other impressive accolades to its name from that decade. It’s one of only three cars (and the only non-Ferrari) to have won the Le Mans 24 Hours and World Sports Car Championship in the same year, and shortly held the record for most World Sports Car Championship wins for any single car – at six.

6. Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale par Scaglietti (1964), $26,400,000 (2014)

An earlier adaptation of the predecessor on this list, the GTB/C was a series of four lightweight Competizione Speciales developed for the 1965 racing season. With a 10 per cent reduction in overall size and a 250 LM engine, the FIA initially refused to homologate the model. Enzo Ferrari then promptly threatened to abandon the motor sport altogether, but luckily a compromise was found and 12 further lightweight models were produced for the 1966 season.

5. Ferrari 275 GTB 4/S N.A.R.T. Spider (1967), $27,500,000 (2015)

As part of the Ferrari 275 models produced from 1964-68 – a two-seat roadster with 280-300 horsepower and the first transaxle – a few Spider convertibles were bought by American dealer Luigi Chinetti for around $8,000 each. Chinetti customised 10 of these Spiders himself, the name N.A.R.T coming from his own North American Racing Team. These custom models are incredibly rare, one of which was sold for $27,500,000 at RM Sotheby’s in 2015.

4. Ferrari 290 MM par Scaglietti (1956) $28,050,000 (2015)

Winner of the 1956 Mille Miglia, from which its name is derived, the 290 MM’s legacy has lived on long enough to earn an auction price of $28,050,000 at RM Sotheby’s in 2015. The race model was powered by 3.5L V12 engine adapted from the 4.5L unit which Ferrari had developed at the time for its Formula 1 cars. The 290 MM was also responsible for Ferrari’s wins in the 1956 Swedish Grand Prix, World Sportscar Championship of that year, and the 1957 1,000km Buenos Aires.

3. Mercedes-Benz W196 (1954) $29,650,095 (2013)

This monster was a Formula 1 model designed for the 1954/55 season, equipped with a direct fuel injection adapted from the high-performance DB 601 V12 engine used in the Messerschmitt Bf 109E fighter jet in the Second World War. It won nine out of 12 races, and captured the only two world championships in which it competed.

2. Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti (1957),$35,711,359 (2016)

Through 1957-58, a mere four models of the 335S were produced. They sported a V12 engine with upwards of 390 horsepower and a top speed of 190mph. Exclusively a race model, the 335S is possibly most renowned for its part in the infamous 1957 Mille Miglia accident involving an exploding tyre and the tragic deaths of nine people. Almost six decades on, the 335S was auctioned for $35,711,359 at Artcurial in 2016.

1. Ferrari 250 GTO (1962), $38,115,000 (2014) 

Just 33 of the series one 1962 250 GTOs were manufactured, at an asking price of $18,000 in the US upon release. Fast-forward 52 years and its selling price at Bonhams in 2014 was $38,115,000. With a Tipo 168/62 V12 engine beneath the hood, the 250 GTO was nominated as the top sports car of all time by Sports Car International in 2004, dubbed the greatest Ferrari of all time by Motor Trend Classic and the ‘hottest car of all time’ by Popular Mechanics.