A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO became the second-most expensive car ever sold at auction on Monday, fetching $51,705,000 (roughly €48,300,000) at Sotheby’s in New York.
The classic scarlet chassis, formerly a Ferrari works racer but later refitted for road use, had been the property of an American collector for the past 38 years.
RM Sotheby’s, the luxury car subsidiary of the auction house, had predicted a slightly higher sale price — in the region of $60 million.
It did not identify Monday’s buyer of a car it touted as “a speed machine so celebrated that it qualifies as the very definition of a legend.”
Scuderia works model, raced at Nürburgring and Le Mans
The car, chassis number 3765, was inititally built for the racetrack by Ferrari and installed with a larger, experimental 4 liter capacity engine.
“As one of 34 GTO examples built with Tipo 1962 coachwork, and the only example originally equipped with a 4-liter engine, chassis number 3765 has been profiled several times in the Ferrari-focused publications Prancing Horse and Cavallino, and its period racing career was documented in magazines like Sports Car Graphic, Road & Track, and Autosport,” Sotheby’s said of the lot.
It finished second in the 1962 1,000 km endurance race on the German Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit, as well as competing in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans that year, when the team had to withdraw due to engine failure, according to RM Sotheby’s.
Chassis 3765, with Tipo coachwork by Scaglietti, was later restored and converted to road-going specs with a standard 3 liter engine as it was sold into private ownership in the US.
It changed hands several times before winding up with a collector in Ohio, Monday’s seller, Sotheby’s said.
The 1960s battles with between Ferrari’s 250 GTOs and Ford’s GT40s at Le Mans became a legendary endurance racing tale of the era and helps explain the car still commanding such high prices in the US as well as Europe.
The 250 GTO’s fame was also boosted by the popular Hollywood film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” in which a model featured heavily.
Not the most expensive auction sale ever, but…
For decades, the 250 GTO had been broadly considered the world’s most expensive car, even though many recent sales have been private with prices only reported or rumored.
The Uhlenhaut fetched €135 million, or $144 million at today’s exchange rate, which is thought to be at least $60 million more even than any past private car sale.
However, the model in question’s utterly unique nature — the result of its starring role in racing’s most deadly ever accident — explains the meteoric sale price in this case.
Only two road-ready 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupes were ever made. A racing model was involved in a major crash at the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans. It catapulted into the spectator area, as did its engine and other large parts of debris, killing more than 100 spectators and wounding many more.
Mercedes then canceled its plans to build more hard-top 300 SLRs for the road in the aftermath of the tragedy, and never sold the two road-going models it had made — until the shock, confidential 2022 auction.
The 250 GTO meanwhile can continue to claim to be the most expensive road-going car ever put into wider production and sold to the public. Another sold at auction for roughly $44 million in 2018 and private sales are rumored to have stretched as high as $60 million or $70 million.