A 1962 Ferrari GTO Berlinetta became the highest-priced car ever sold at public auction Thursday as its price was bid to $34.65 million at Bonhams in Carmel, California. Including the buyer fee, the total for the GTO exceeds $38.1 million.
Yet that winning bid was well below speculation that the holy grail of vintage racing cars would exceed $50 million. Pre-auction estimates were based on reported amounts paid in the most recent private sales for the rare and illustrious competition machines.
The Berlinetta was one of 10 Ferraris from the Maranello Rosso Collection offered without reserve at the Bonhams auction, which took place near the historic Quail Lodge. A huge crowd of onlookers packed the auction tent to witness the sale of the GTO, as well as a full contingent of news media.
The bidding quickly roared to $24 million, then crept up in relatively tiny increments as a bidder in the tent and a phone bidder battled it out. The crowd laughed and groaned as the phone bidder raised the ante by $50,000 steps each time the other one raised his offer by more respectable amounts.
“When is the next time that a Ferrari GTO will come to auction?” the auctioneer asked to rev up the bidders as the pace slowed to a crawl.
The phone bidder was reportedly the victor, although the winner’s identity was not immediately revealed.
Only a handful of the endurance-racing champion GTO cars were produced. This one, with chassis number 3851, was the 19th built. It first competed in the 1962 Tour de France, finishing in second place.
As well as apparently being the most valuable collector cars on the planet, the GTOs were the last front-engine competition cars built by Ferrari.
None of the other Ferraris in the collection sold for anywhere near the price of the GTO, although the 1953 250 Mille Miglia Berlinetta racer hammered sold for $6.6 million. That was well below the expected low estimate of $9 million.
Or as the auctioneer said, “What a buy, sir.”