A rare 1955 Mercedes-Benz car sold for a record amount at auction recently. But it isn’t the only super expensive classic on the market.
A 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante set new auction and marque records at the Gooding Pebble Beach 2022 sale. It is the fourth car on our list to achieve over $10 million at auction.
The 1955 Mercedes 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe
A 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe smashed records, becoming the most expensive car ever sold at auction. The classic Mercedes-Benz fetched 135 million euros, or about $143 million, in Stuttgart on May 5—more than double the previous record set by a Ferrari 250 GTO that went for a little over $70 million in 2018.
Just two of these rare vehicles were ever made, and they’re among the most coveted collector cars around. The Mercedes’ gullwing doors and unique appearance make it instantly recognizable, but its speed and performance are what truly set it apart. In fact, this is the same car that won back-to-back Formula 1 drivers’ championships for Juan Manuel Fangio in 1954 and 1955. And while the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut isn’t a race car, it was designed as one and can hit speeds of up to 180mph.
That makes it the fastest road-going car of its time—even faster than Porsches and BMWs of that era, which could only reach about 170mph. When British racing driver Stirling Moss and journalist Denis Jenkinson drove it at the 1956 Mille Miglia, they finished in a jaw-dropping 10 hours, 7 minutes, and 48 seconds, putting the Mercedes far ahead of its rivals.
The Mercedes 300 SLR is now owned by an unnamed private collector, who has agreed to display it on special occasions. According to Hagerty, the buyer is “a well-known figure in Britain’s automotive industry” and a longtime collector of specialist cars. Mercedes has agreed to allow the buyer access to its other 300 SLR.
The company hopes the sale will help it create a global fund to support environmental science and decarbonization scholarships. It also says the sale proceeds will “support the advancement of a new generation of scientists and engineers.” But who would want to buy this one-of-a-kind classic car? Sign up for the Fortune Features email list to get our best stories, investigations, and interviews straight to your inbox. We promise not to spam you with irrelevant content. It’s free, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
The 1963 Aston Martin DP215
One of Aston Martin’s most important cars ever built is set to cross the auction block in Monterey next month. The 1963 Aston Martin DP215 Grand Touring Competition Prototype is expected to fetch $20 million or more, making it the most expensive British car ever sold. It is one of four completely original racing prototypes built by Aston Martin under David Brown’s watch in the early 1960s.
The DP215 was the pinnacle of Aston’s racing programs under Brown and was designed by chief engineer Ted Cutting. It is also the only one of the four that made it to Le Mans.
At the time, it was the fastest Aston Martin ever built. It is powered by a straight-six engine that produces 345 horsepower. It was driven at Le Mans by Phil Hill and Belgian racing veteran Lucien Bianchi. They were unable to win but were able to compete well enough that Aston decided to end their racing efforts after the race.
Aston Martin kept DP215 and used it for testing purposes until 1966 when, during an accident during testing on Britain’s M1 motorway, the Aston Martin collided with a Bedford Dormobile. Both were badly damaged, but, incredibly, no one was injured. Aston Martin then decided to sell the car for scrap value.
Nigel Dawes purchased the DP215 in 1976 and began a long process of restoration. He consulted with Cutting throughout the process and even had Cutting rebuild a correct-type S532 gearbox for the car. Throughout the decades since the DP215 has been meticulously restored and has participated in many events.
The DP215 will be auctioned off at RM Sotheby’s Monterey event on August 24. RM Sotheby’s expects it to fetch $20 million or more. That would make it the most expensive classic car ever sold. Several other rare and valuable vehicles will also be on the docket at the classic car auction, including a Ferrari 250 GTO test car and a trio of Ford GT40s that finished third in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. You can follow all the action from the auction on our special Monterey Car Week page.
The 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
Ferrari made a lot of incredible race cars in the 1950s, but there’s one that has become “the Holy Grail” to many collectors: The 1962 250 GTO. It was a racy long-nosed grand tourer with a ferocious Colombo V-12 engine that was driven by some of the greatest racing drivers of all time, including Carroll Shelby, who called it “the best car I ever drove.” In fact, this car won the Le Mans 24 Hours four times and placed in the top five at 11 other races between 1956 and 1958. It was a truly legendary car, and this particular example—chassis number 34313—is believed to be the most authentic and original of the 36 that were produced.
The 250 GTO was first homologated for Group 3 GT racing in 1962 and debuted at the 12 Hours of Sebring that year. It dominated the class, finishing second overall behind the outright winners—Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien in a Jaguar E-Type Low Drag Coupe—and twelve laps ahead of the Equipe Nationale Belge team driving another 250 GTO. The car was a sensation, and its values started to climb rapidly. By the 1970s, it was worth more than a million dollars. The value crashed for a while, but it’s surged again in recent years. A few examples have changed hands for more than $35 million, and this particular 250 GTO is expected to break the record when it hits the auction block next month.
RM Sotheby’s is asking $60 million for this GTO, which would make it the most expensive classic car ever sold at auction (though a few have changed hands privately for even more money). That’s not an unreasonable price, given its pedigree and performance.
But the real question is: How much will the owner of this car want to pay for it? The answer is likely to be north of $70 million, which would propel this rare Ferrari into a league previously reserved for fine art. And that might be the true definition of the most expensive classic car. As a bonus, it’s also a beautiful machine to look at.
The 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta
During Monterey Car Week, one of Ferrari’s most prized models—the 250 GT Berlinetta—earned the distinction of becoming the most expensive classic car sold at auction. A stunning example of the car, a 1964 GTB/4 NART Spider, was purchased by Canadian fashion mogul Lawrence Stroll for $27.5 million.
Ferrari’s long-wheelbase Berlinetta variant of the 250 GT was built from 1959 to 1963, with just 165 cars produced. It was a race car with a powerful engine, and its attractive design was the work of Pininfarina. The car was so good that Sports Car International named it seventh on its list of “Top Sports Cars of the 1960s,” and Motor Trend Classic ranked it fifth.
This particular example of the 250 GT Berlinetta is a rare “Lusso”-spec model that was designed by Ferrari and built by Carrozzeria Scaglietti. It is the 21st Lusso built and was delivered to a dealer in Belgium in early 1963. It was fully restored from 2009 to 2011, and all its numbers match.
In the same sale, a 1968 Ford GT40 Gulf/Mirage became the most expensive American-built classic car ever sold, garnering $13,750,000 at RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction in 2016. It was one of just 36 production Shelby Cobras with Gulf Oil livery and extreme originality. It also had a storied racing career, including serving as the mobile camera car for Steve McQueen’s 1971 film Le Mans.
It’s hard to argue with the value of these two cars, but the market may be shifting. Experts suggest that the classic car market is experiencing a slowdown as the baby boomers who once drove vintage cars to their retirement homes are selling them off in bulk. Whether younger collectors have the same interest in older, high-performance models is unclear. Still, the auction results of the past couple of years prove that the sky’s the limit when it comes to classic cars. Those with the means to acquire these iconic automobiles will continue to find them worth every penny. Just don’t expect to see another $30 million Ferrari at the next auction. For that, you’ll need to start saving now.