“The rise of Ferrari across the board has been a bit of phenomenon of the last 10 years,” begins Peter Haynes from RM Sotheby’s. Not only have the incredibly rare models from the 1950s and 60s rocketed in value but in recent years the prices of even 1980s and 90s Ferraris have jumped significantly — $575,000 for a 2001 Ferrari 550 Barchetta, anyone?
But is that about to change? “It’s a relatively limited pool of people that want to buy the very high value cars,” says Haynes. “You could potentially argue that Ferrari has been overheated because there have been far too many big Ferraris coming to market.”
A 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix Racing Two Seater is one of the stars of this year’s Bonhams sale.
What sends an auction into a frenzy is when a seriously significant car that has been in private ownership for a very long period of time finally comes up for sale.
“There are lots of lovely Bugattis that haven’t come to market over recent years. Lots of D-Type Jags. And now that they are, they are shining,” says Haynes.
And after years of unavailability, a Le Mans-winning D-Type is coming up and it has a conservative estimate of $20-$25 million. “A big, historically significant car doesn’t need to be a Ferrari to make a record price. A Le Mans-winning D-Type Jag is always going to be one of the most valuable cars in the world,” says Haynes.
This 1955 Jaguar D-Type won the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans.
© Patrick Ernzen Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
But the D-Type isn’t a solo performer. There is a 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix Racing Two Seater ($14-$20 million+) that went under the hammer at Bonhams’ Quai Lodge auction on August 19 (It actually sold for $4 million, narrowly edging the Ferrari LaFerrari at the same sale). Or a 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider by Touring, one of only 12 in the world if you had upwards of $25 million to spare and attended the RM Sotheby’s sale. It closed for $19.8 million, making it the 8th most expensive car ever sold at auction.
A new order?
And then then there’s the total wildcard. The original Shelby Cobra, the car that Carroll Shelby himself built and owned until the day he died. A car that has never, ever come up for sale and one that represents Genesis verse one, chapter one in the bible of American international motorsports history. A normal Cobra can fetch upwards of $1.5 million. This one could fetch 20 times more. In the end, when the gavel fell, the car sold for $13.8 million, making it the most expensive American car ever sold at auction. It is, by our reckoning, number 21 on the list of most expensive cars in the world sold at auction.
“All of these cars are absolutely capable of entering the top 10, which up to now has been almost exclusively dominated by Ferrari,” says Haynes. From what we have seen, only the Alfa 8C lived to this billing, which is still a big thrill.
The very first Shelby Cobra CSX2000
© RM Sotheby’s
As well as Ferrari fatigue, any possible rearranging of the top 10 is also down to changing tastes. Every year the average age of auction attendees drops as does the age of the cars they covet. This leads to even Japanese models becoming motoring icons and thus collectible.
“We can only guess what our kids may be potentially interested in buying when they hit their 40s,” explains Haynes. “How will they view something like a Ferrari Daytona? They might think it’s very cool or they might think its a horrendous antique not worth the garage space. It’s going to be interesting.”