27 March, 2018

Auction Stories: 2017's Most Expensive Car Auctions

Read time 12-13 mins

2017 was a record-breaking year for car auctions. One of the biggest stories was Aston Martin taking the accolade of the most expensive car ever sold at auction from Jaguar just one year after the D-type's then-record bid of $21.78m.

Here we will outline the 5 most expensive cars bought at an auction in 2017 along with an honourable mention and what made them command such a high selling price.

1) 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 - $22.55m

During the lead up to the auction, the DBR1 was labelled as "the most important model in Aston Martin history". What made this model so famous?

For starters, there were only 5 ever made and this DBR1, in particular, was chassis 1. The DBR1 triumphed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the World Sportscar Championship. In addition, it dominated the 1000km Nurburgring circuit between 1957 and 1959 and this released the stranglehold held by Ferrari.

The DBR1 was sold in August by Sotheby's at their classic car auction in Monterey, California. It was the first DBR1 ever available in a public sale.

You can read more about the history of the DBR1 in racing through our Aston Martin article here.

2) 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider - $17.99m

It's no secret that Ferrari holds the accolade of their classic vehicles being responsible for extreme hammers. Why?

It's difficult to count how many Ferraris have stayed in the hearts of their dearest fans and this Ferrari would have been responsible for a lot of them. 

Designed as an open-top version of the 250 GT and one of only 50 made, there were estimates of between 14 and $17 million. What makes this car so remarkable is that it almost exceeded its estimate and it wasn't even in red!

To add to its exclusivity, the car has a lot of things going for it. Most notably, its heritage.

  • It’s one of only eight built with an aluminium body.
  • It also finished third place in its class and fifth overall at the 1959 Le Mans.
  • It's in pristine condition. 

This all came together to spark a bidding war that set new heights for classic Ferraris.

This Ferrari is also part of the iconic 250 GTO line which made it into our "Top 5 Ferraris of all time" list which you can view here.

3) 1995 McLaren F1 - $15.62m

The McLaren F1 is one of the most iconic supercars of its time and a perfect illustration of their founder's vision which you can read more about here. Harnessing F1 technology, it pushed the boundaries of car design and performance. The McLaren P1 is considered the successor to this vehicle which confirms its legacy. 

What makes this McLaren F1 so phenomenal goes beyond what it can do and what it was meant for but instead, the circumstances surrounding it:

  • One owner.
  • 9,600 miles on the clock.
  • One of 64 McLaren F1's made road legal with 7 of which were made road legal in the US.

The winning bidder would be receiving a McLaren the envy of many and this was translated into its massive hammer price. It will be difficult to find a McLaren in this condition so the 15 million-dollar auction tag can be somewhat justified. 

4) 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/C - $14.52m

Another Ferrari in this list, the successor to the iconic 250 series was the 275. The GTB/C is regarded as the 250 GTO of 1966 and has a hat-trick of attributes such as being extremely rare, fast and beautiful.

The GTB/C cars were specifically made for the 1966 racing season and a British-entered GTB/C won class victory in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The reason why these cars are so sought-after is due to the fact that only 12 were made during Ferrari's golden age of racing. Of the 12 GTCs made, only 8 were designated as left-hand drivable.

These cars were buoyed by being tailor-made using the best weight-saving techniques. For example, the bodies were made with the thinnest aluminium shells ever used by Ferrari and the windows were made of lightweight Perspex instead of glass.

5) 1970 Porsche 917K - $14.08m

The most expensive Porsche ever sold at auction and what a Porsche this is!

The Porsche 917k was responsible for triumphing at the 1970 and 1971 Le Mans race. Although this car, in particular, was not used in the race, it did find screen time in the Steve McQueen film 'Le Mans'.

During the filming of this movie, the car was owned by former F1 driver Jo Siffert who leased it to the studio. Years later after his passing, a French collector purchased the vehicle and it was not seen for over 25 years until it was unearthed in Paris in 2001. 

After an extensive restoration by Graber Sportgarage in Switzerland, this 917k is the most representative version of one of the most successful racing Porsches.

This barn find of the century was auctioned off at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for a record fee.

Honourable Mention - Ferrari La Ferrari Aperta #210 - $9.98m 

The Honourable mention for this list is another Ferrari but this time one of their current supercars, the LaFerrari.

The LaFerrari was the worthy successor to the Ferrari Enzo. The Enzo was the pinnacle of Ferrari's technology and expertise and this supercar had pushed the boundaries of known performance and design and completely dwarfed other Ferraris at the time. If you would like to know more about how supercars differ from sports cars then take a look at our article "Not every sports car is a supercarhere.

When the LaFerrari debuted in 2014, they were nearly impossible to get. This is for two reasons. First, you needed to have $1.4 million to spare and be high enough on their clientele list. Over 1,000 people had applied to buy one and Ferrari only made 499 cars. 

Charitable Auction LaFerrari #500

However, Ferrari did make another coupe version of the LaFerrari which went for $7m to benefit the rebuild of central Italy after it was ravaged by earthquakes in 2016. You can read more about the story in our article "The 500th La Ferrari has sold in auction to benefit Central Italy earthquake victims" here

Fast-track to the LaFerrari Aperta, only 209 were made. Ferrari created another to benefit the "Save the Children Charity" in Italy. #210 was auctioned for $9.98M. This beat the record for a 21st Century car which eclipsed the 500th LaFerrari Coupe.

What is the difference?

This Aperta thas a unique exterior which features a metallic Rosso Fuoco body and a metallic Bianco Italia double racing stripe. The interior features a black Alcantara upholstery and glossy black carbon fiber with red stitching and inserts on the seats to continue the exterior’s theme.

Final Words

The prices for these vehicles are continuing to rise as Bonhams sold a classic red version with only 230 miles on the clock for $3,68m and Mecum sold a matte black painted version for $4.7m with only 211 miles on the clock.

With cars seen as a safe investment, there is no doubt that these records will be broken again in the future.

If you enjoyed our countdown of the 5-most expensive cars sold at auction then check out our "5 Most Expensive Artworks sold at auction in 2017" which features a long-long Leonardo Davinci painting which destroyed the all-time record for a piece of art in an auction.

1956 Aston Martin DBR1
The 5 Most Expensive Cars Sold at Auction in 2017
The 5 Most Expensive Cars Sold at Auction in 2017
The 5 Most Expensive Cars Sold at Auction in 2017
The 5 Most Expensive Cars Sold at Auction in 2017
The 5 Most Expensive Cars Sold at Auction in 2017