No qualifications, no comparison, no judgements: straight up and going only by the numbers, these are the most expensive cars ever sold at auction. A heady cocktail of a burgeoning vintage exotic market, soaring global wealth, and the psychological tips and tricks of professional auctioneering means that today, racing cars of the Fifties and Sixties—especially those red ones badged “Ferrari”—regularly sell for eight figures. It’s a common comparison to make after seeing the sticker price of, say, a Bentley Mulsanne Speed: “Man, that thing costs as much as a house!” Well, folks, the most expensive car on this list costs as much 152 houses.
10. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider
This is the Ferris Bueller car—at least, the car the Chevy-powered replica endeavored to be. Only 37 of these California Spiders were sold. Very, very few have the means to pick one up.
9. 1964 Ferrari 250 LM
This car is likely the best example of Ferrari’s first mid-engined car. First sold (and originally commissioned) by the heirs to the Fry candy fortune, this 250 LM was raced for the first two decades of its life, before becoming a blue-chip investment.
8. 1954 Ferrari 375-Plus Spider Competizione
This was an inside job, built by Ferrari for its in-house racing team. In 1954, the car, driven by Umberto Maglioli, came second in the famed Mille Miglia—though its best finish came 60 years later at the Goodwill Festival of Speed: an £11 million sale.
7. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider
Another day, another eight-figure California Spider. This car, as you can tell by its yellow marker lights, is French, and was bought by Robert Baillon in the Sixties as a future museum piece. However, the museum never came into being, and this luscious convertible spent decades rotting in a barn before being dusted off and sold last year at Artcurial in Paris.
6. 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale
Though not nearly as famous at its 250 GTO sibling, the Ferrari 275 is a formidable coupe. Meant to challenge the bruising Americans and their Ford GT40s and Shelby Cobras, the 275 sports aluminum body panels, a lightened chassis and a V-12 tuned for 70 horsepower over the standard 275. Though this model never took to the track, it’s a dead ringer for the car that took third at Le Mans in 1965.
5. 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/C NART Spider
Though he never owned it, this one-of-ten NART Spider was driven by Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair. That, plus a meticulous restoration, helped it garner that startling $27 million+ bid.
4. 1956 Ferrari 290 MM
Sure, the NART is one of ten, but this 290 MM is one of four. Built specifically to carry Juan Manuel Fangio through the 1956 Mille Miglia, this rakish Ferrari went on to many more years of success, dissolving many notions about Italian unreliability.
3. 1954 Mercedes W196
The lone Benz—or indeed, the lone non-Ferrari! Juan Manual Fangio also drove this silver bullet, and to this day the car bears the scuffs and grime from that race.
2. 1957 Ferrari 335S
It doesn’t get much more sensual than this. As the kids might say: fenders for days. Having been in races like the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Mille Miglia and even Le Mans, the 335 Scaglietti sailed to a close second this year at Artcurial, selling for over $35 million.
1. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
It’s the most beautiful car in the world. This, the winningest and most perfectly kept example of them all is, accordingly, the most expensive. Almost $40 million. Good God.