Serious automobile collectors will spare no expense when it comes to buying a rare or treasured vehicle. And some of the most sought after cars in the world have fetched truly outrageous sums of money at auctions held throughout the world. Whether it is the heat of the moment, the desire to outbid a rival car collector, or the fact that money really is no object, serious collectors pay over the top amounts at the leading car auctions in the U.S. and abroad. Here are the 10 most expensive cars ever sold at auction and the reasons why they were worth so much money.
10. 1965 Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe – $7.7 million
The Shelby Cobra is a classic car, and only six racing coupe versions of the vehicle were ever produced—making this particular model extremely rare. So, not too surprising that a collector paid a whopping $7.7 million in 2009 to own one of the very hard to come by racing coupe Shelby Cobras. And the car that was sold at auction had the added distinction of being the vehicle that won the 24 Hours of Daytona race in 1965, as well as the Maker’s Championship in Reims, France. The classic body and original blue colored paint also made this car very attractive to car collectors around the world who bid like crazy on this car when it hit the auction block.
9. 1937 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante Coupe – $8 million
One of the original sports cars, the 1937 Bugatti Type 57 Atalante Coupe is super rare and highly sought after by car enthusiasts around the world. The Atalante Coupe that went for auction in 2008 was once owned by a Count in Paris and had long been in the private collection of Bugatti collector Dr. Peter Williamson. The car that sold for $8 million at auction after Dr. Williamson’s death contained the original window glass and tan leather seats—making it even more valuable. And, the sale of this car at auction helped with a worthwhile cause. The $8 million in proceeds was donated to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire.
8. 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster – $8.3 million
The year 1937 seems to have been a good one for cars. This particular Mercedes-Benz Roadster sold at auction in London, England, in 2007 for $8.3 million. The unique feature on this car is the supercharged 540K engine, which was designed and engineered by Ferdinand Porsche (Yes, that “Porsche”). This car had been meticulously restored over the years, to the point where it won an award from the prestigious Antique Automobile Club of America in 1987, as well as a special mention at the Pebble Beach Auto Show in 1988. So revered was this car that it was bought and owned for years by Formula One head honcho Bernie Ecclestone before being put up for auction nearly 10 years ago.
7. 1962 Ferrari 330 TRI/LM Testa Rossa – $9.3 million
Ah, the Ferrari Testa Rossa. This car, and many different models of it, is wanted and desired by car collectors everywhere. At an auction held in Italy in 2007, a collector forked out $9.3 million to get his hands on the vintage 1962 330 TRI/LM Testa Rossa, which is distinguished by the fact that it is one of the first mid-engine car models engineered by Ferrari. Oh, and it won Le Mans in 1962. The car also has a V12 engine, totally independent suspension and tons of extra components to improve the car’s overall power and maneuverability. A dream for any serious car collector, this is one vehicle that lives up to its reputation.
6. 1937 Mercedes-Benz Special Roadster (Convertible Version) – $9.7 million
Perhaps the only thing more rare and valuable than the Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster featured at number eight on this list is a convertible version of the same car. American car and antique collector Sam Mann bought this car in 2007 at a California auction for the princely sum of $9.7 million. This car is truly exquisite and boasts a gorgeous and perfectly intact body that is longer than other versions of this car. Sam Mann has been showcasing this classic car at automotive shows around the world and winning awards in the process. Everyone who sees this car is floored by its elegance, class and the way the vehicle has been preserved.
5. 1931 Bugatti Royale Type 41 Kellner Coupe – $9.8 million
In the early 1930s, just as the Great Depression descended, car maker Ettore Bugatti designed a luxury car that he planned to sell to kings and queens around the world for royal functions and public appearances. However, royal families throughout Europe balked at the steep price tag charged and so only six of the Bugatti Royale Type 41 Kellner Coupe were ever manufactured, and a total of three were actually sold. To say this car is rare is an understatement. In fact, legend has it that Bugatti himself had one of these cars hidden behind a brick wall in his manufacturing plant to keep it from the Nazis who raided his offices and manufacturing center during World War II. No wonder this car got nearly $10 million at a London auction back in 1987. Plus, the car is powered by a vintage 12.7 liter airplane engine.
4. 1931 Duesenberg Model J Murphy Bodied Coupe – $10.3 million
Ever wonder what kind of a car you can buy with $10 million? It can get you a hard to find 1931 Duesenburg Model J Murphy Bodied Coupe. The Model J was designed by American industrialist and chocolatier Frank Hershey, and was built on a truck frame, leading the few people who have had the privilege to drive this vehicle to remark that it is literally like driving a large truck around. Fewer than 500 of the Model J cars were built before the short-lived Duesenburg company went out of business in 1937. But, in their heyday, this car was owned and driven by movie stars such as Clark Gable and James Cagney, as well as the British Royal family.
3. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder – $10.9 million
The Ferrari Spyder is considered the Holy Grail of classic cars by many collectors. This car truly is the essence of cool, which is why it garnered nearly $11 million at an auction held in Italy in 2008. This car is also famed for having a special three liter V12 engine, which was revolutionary back in the 1960s and helped to influence the manufacturing of many Ferraris that came after this version. Academy Award winning actor James Coburn owned this particular car from 1964 to 1988, and he reportedly resisted many attempts by his friend, actor Steve McQueen, to buy the car from him over the years. In 2008, it was bought at auction by British radio personality Chris Evans who paid a then-record sum for the car, which is one of the coolest and sleekest convertibles ever built.
2. 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa – $12.4 million
Fewer than 20 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossas were ever built, making them a legendary edition to the car maker’s cannon. And this particular model, which sold at a 2009 auction in Italy for more than $12 million, could boast that it won Le Mans. It also contained its original brakes and axle, as well as its racing number at Le Mans. The $12.4 million paid for the 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa in 2009 was a then-record amount paid for a car at auction. That is, until two years later, when another 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa sold at auction for even more money, shattering all previous records…
1. 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa – $16.4 million
At an auction held in Monterey, California, in 2011, a private collector shelled out $16.4 million for a vintage 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa. The car in question was an original prototype of the classic Testa Rossa line and it had been featured in races during the 1960s at Le Mans, Nurburgring and Sebring. The car also featured its original “pontoon” body and had a three liter, V12 engine under the hood. Add in the cherry red color and you can see why this vehicle was hard to resist. The $16.4 million paid for this car is the most ever shelled out for a Ferrari or any other car sold at auction. As Ferris Bueller famously said, “Ferrari. Accept no substitutes.”