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Top-10 All-Time Record-Breaking Car Auctions

Posted on July 16, 2015

Top-10 All-Time Record-Breaking Car Auctions

Over the past three decades the record auction price for cars has been set 10 times – and each of those cars has had a story to tell.

The beauty of searching the world for cars to import back to New Zealand is that each collector is driven by their own passion – either for vehicles with historical significance, with beautiful design elements, with links to famous events or people, or which are simply rare or unique.

And while the top-10 all-time record auction prices might well take these cars out of the price range for many Kiwi collectors – they still show a renewed general upwards trend in the price of rare cars (after the slump during the 1990s recession) and the lengths true fans are willing to go to in order to get behind the wheel of their pride and joy.

10) July 12, 1984: 1936 Mercedes-Benz 500K Roadster sold at Christie’s for US$1,450,000
One of just 58 built between 1934 and 1936, the 500K Roadster was a supercharged style icon of its day capable of clocking more than 100mph and looking like a Hollywood megastar. This mix of performance and luxury makes any 500K Roadsters coming up for auction today still command top dollar.

9) April 30, 1985: 1934 Alfa Romeo Tipo B sold at Christie’s for US$2,788,513
This pioneering open-wheeled, single-seat racing car set its record price by combining sporting pedigree with historical importance. This year’s model was restricted to Italian clients only – at the behest of Enzo Ferrari – and the nine vehicles made that year took all top-three spots at four grand prix.

8) May 1, 1985: 1957 Aston Martin DBR2 sold at Christie’s for US$3,424,490
Note the date of this auction – this British racing car outsold the 1934 Alfa by the best part of three-quarters of a million dollars just 24 hours after the Italian car went under the hammer at Christie’s. Although the DBR2 doesn’t have quite the winning heritage as the Alfa, it is an absolutely beautifully designed race car with links to Stirling Moss and Carroll Shelby.

7) June 15, 1986: 1931 Bugatti Royale Berline de Voyage sold at Kruse for US$6,500,000
Sometimes a car’s history outweighs its looks – and this stunning model (one of just six) has an incredible history. It was bricked up by the Bugatti family at their French home during World War II to prevent the Nazi’s getting hold of it; it was then sold to US Le Mans driver Briggs Cunningham in 1950 for a fee which included two fridges; having passed through the collections of US greats Cameron Peck and The Harrah Collection, it ended up briefly with Tom Monaghan – the founder of Domino’s Pizza – and is now part of the Blackhawke Automotive Museum in California, where it is occasionally on display.

6) November 17, 1987: 1931 Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe sold at Christie’s for US$9,800,000
Just six of these were built between 1927 and 1933 and were intended to be sold only to royalty – it’s the stuff of folklore that Ettore Bugatti refused to sell one to Albania’s King Zog because of the monarch’s bad table manners! This was originally also bought by Cunningham alongside the Berline but he kept hold of it until he sold his whole collection in 1987.

5) May 18, 2008: 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider sold at RM Auctions for US$10,894,900
This gorgeous piece of styling (Pininfarina design and Scaglietti construction) was sold to UK DJ Chris Evans for more than double its estimate – possibly down to the fact that it had previously been owned by Hollywood’s Magnificent Seven star James Coburn.

4) May 17, 2009: 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa sold at RM Auctions for US$12,402,500
Everyone loves a “red head” (that’s testa rossa in Italian) – especially when its rarity means it’s one of only 34 ever made and it comes with a race pedigree which includes Le Mans victories, and 10 separate races in the Americas between 1958 and 1961.

3) August 21, 2011: 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa sold at Gooding & Company for US$16,390,000
And what could trump a 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa? Yes, another one – this time the auction record went to the prototype version which was used as a four-wheeled testing platform for the 250TR’s development.

2) July 12, 2013: 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 sold at Bonhams for US$29,607,760
Prices started to surge into the stratosphere a couple of years ago as rare racing models went under the hammer attached to great names from Formula One. This W196 was driven by the greatest driver of all time, five-time champ Juan Manuel Fangio, to the second of his world titles in 1954.

1) August 14, 2014: 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold at Bonhams for US$38,115,000
It might be a slightly grim history, but this record-breaking car was one of only 39 ever built and driven by French ski champ Henri Oreiller, who died of his injuries after crashing it during the 1962 Tour de France Automobile.


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