A curvy red 1957 Ferrari became the most expensive car sold at auction, fetching $16.4 million at Gooding & Co. on Aug. 20 and topping a weekend of sales in which autos outshone equities.
The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa prototype, which competed in the Le Mans 24-hour race, was on the block with hundreds of other collectible autos during auctions coinciding with Monterey Car Week in California, an annual gathering of collectors and other enthusiasts.
Despite the recent stock market turmoil, buyers competed aggressively for trophy autos, establishing records for cars and auction houses.
“The ultra-rich remain ultra-rich,” said Marcel Massini, a Swiss-based Ferrari historian, who attended several auctions last week. “The very, very best sells easy and incredibly high.”
Sales at RM Auctions totaled about $80 million, topping its previous high of $67 million last year.
“The stock market being volatile almost helped us,” said Max Girardo, managing director of RM Auctions in Europe. “It makes classic cars even more desirable” because they are seen as safe tangible assets.
RM Auctions set a record for a Mercedes-Benz with the $9.7 million sale of a silver 1937 540 K Spezial Roadster. It was consigned by Sam Mann, a collector from Englewood, New Jersey. The same model fetched $8.25 million four years ago, according to Girardo.
“In an era when cash returns practically less than the rate of inflation, investing in tangible assets like automobiles brings you better returns,” said Dave Kinney, contributor to Automobile magazine. “And they give you more satisfaction.”
The top lot at Bonhams, a 1957 BMW 507 Roadster with its engine rebuilt by Motion Products Inc., sold for $1 million, reaching its presale high estimate.
One of the star lots, a 1925 Rolls-Royce New Phantom, custom-designed for the Bengal tiger hunting expeditions of India’s Maharajah of Kotah, failed to sell. It was expected to bring $750,000 to $1 million.
Also unsold was a 1963 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III Drophead Coupe owned by Sammy Davis Jr., which was expected to bring between $475,000 and $550,000.
At Gooding, a 1931 Duesenberg, which was expected to fetch as much as $7 million, sold for $10.34 million, topping the $4.5 million auction record for a “Duesy.”
A Pet Lion
The car was commissioned by Captain George Whittell Jr., who had a pet lion and a 40,000-acre Lake Tahoe estate. He liquidated his entire stock portfolio for $50 million just two weeks before the 1929 crash.
At RM Auctions, Steve McQueen’s slate-gray 1970 Porsche 911s, featured in the Hollywood film “Le Mans,” sold for $1.4 million, setting a record for the model at auction.
Gooding sold McQueen’s black 1931 Brough Superior SS80 motorcycle for $176,000, compared with the presale estimate of $100,000 to $200,000.
Sheryl Crow’s 1959 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Roadster, expected to fetch $50,000 to $80,000, brought in $143,000. The proceeds from the sale of this white convertible will benefit the community of Joplin, Missouri, which is recovering from a devastating tornado in May.