Six-day classic car auctions ring up record sales

Katya Kazakina
Bloomberg News
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A $38.1 million Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta led the annual parade of classic car auctions in California to a record tally of more than $350 million.

The sales at Bonhams, Gooding & Co., RM Auctions were part of the six-day auto extravaganza, which ended over the weekend, in the coastal towns of Carmel and Monterey and at the ocean-side Pebble Beach golf course.

The values of vintage cars have risen with other high-end collectibles, including art and wine, as wealthy individuals’ appetite for alternative investments grows. The price for the red Ferrari 250 GTO smashed the global auction record of $29.7 million set a year ago. The new high is a 132 percent increase from 2011, when a 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa prototype fetched $16.4 million at Gooding.

“The market is the highest it’s ever been,” said McKeel Hagerty, chief executive officer of Hagerty, a Traverse City-based insurer and classic car database. “There are new buyers from Europe, Asia, Latin America, some from the Middle East.”

By the end of Saturday, the auction houses sold 702 lots of the offered 1,192 lots, totaling $352.4 million, according to Hagerty. The results surpassed the previous year’s record tally of $312 million, Hagerty said.

Ferraris were the most expensive and sought-after, taking most slots among the top 10 of the week, according to Hagerty.

“The Ferrari market has changed drastically in the past three years,” said Marcel Massini, a Swiss-based Ferrari historian who was there. “Prices for these models easily tripled since then.”

Massini spoke from the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where 20 of 250 Testa Rossa models were displayed, a group worth about $1 billion, he said.

At the auctions, the $38.1 million Ferrari 250 GTO was the top lot. Estimated by Bonhams at $30 million to $40 million, the Ferrari was bought in 1965 by Fabrizio Violati, whose family made its money in agriculture and mineral water bottling and distribution, according to the auction house. The car placed second at the 1962 Tour de France Automobile race. Violati, who died in 2010, was the fourth and last owner of the Ferrari, Bonhams said.

The record price for a car is held by a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO racer, which sold for $52 million in a private transaction in October, Bloomberg News reported. The previous global auction record was achieved by a 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R Formula 1 racing car that fetched $29.7 million at Bonhams last year.

“It’s a highly romanticized car,” Hagerty said of the Ferrari 250 GTO model from 1962-63. “Only 39 of them were built. Every single one of them was known from the day it was built. It was the last of what you refer to as a dual purpose car: You can drive it on the street and race it.”

RM Auctions, based in Blenheim, Ontario, about 60 miles east of Detroit, offered 32 Ferraris among the 129 cars this year. The sale was led by a 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale, only one of three ever made, that fetched $26.4 million.

A 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 owned by the late actor Steve McQueen, estimated at $8 million to $12 million, sold for $10.2 million at RM Auctions.

A red 1964 Ferrari 250 LM, estimated at $8.5 million to $12.5 million, sold for $11.5 million.

Gooding, based in Santa Monica, had 121 cars for sale during two evening auctions. The first, on Aug. 16, tallied $60.4 million, with 17 cars selling for more than $1 million.

The priciest of the 64 offered lots was a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider that fetched $15.2 million, against the estimate of $13 million to $15 million.

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