What would it be? Fifty million? Seventy million? Seventy-five million? Buzz of the car’s impending sale were abound online, and things were no different inside the tents at Bonhams in Monterey. Everyone had their own idea of what the car might go for. The predictions were sky high, and so were the audience’s expectations.
Covering the sale of what could potentially become the most expensive car ever sold for my inaugural assignment with Speedhunters was a bit of a scary proposition at first. There is something inherently intimidating about cars of this caliber, even for someone who has had the good fortune of being around them before.
But I couldn’t be too worried, I was after all going to get to be around and photograph an example of one of the most legendary cars ever created – the Ferrari 250 GTO.
Rupert Banner, Vice President of Business Development for Bonhams New York, kindly took some time to speak with us about the car’s upcoming sale. “The thing with these cars is if you’re doing this for a living and if you’re surrounded by the hobby, you do from time to time see these cars. But to actually see one that is going to come in to the marketplace, it’s really a special moment. They don’t, they transact privately, very discreetly.”
There are very few cars that lie in the same realm as the GTO and most of them are other GTOs. With only 36 ever built, it’s an exclusive club.
This particular car had been in the same family since 1965, joining the Maranello Rosso Collection when Fabrizio Violati died in 2010.
It had since been sent to a specialist shop in the UK by Bonhams to insure that everything was up to spec, and that the car was completely driveable as it had been sitting idly since the owner’s passing. “It’s very important that the cars are actually driven in to the sale room,” Rupert told us.
When you’re handling the sale of cars on this level, it’s important to keep them safe. Bonhams made sure the large security detail assigned to the collection kept their distance so as not to distract from the vehicles, but would be able to swoop in with immediacy if any problems were to arise.
“We feel the forms, the shapes and just the wonderful looks of these cars,” Rupert explained. “You wouldn’t want to put a barrier around that so that no one could really see it. It destroys the myth.”
The collection was displayed with intentionally increased spacing between the cars so that they could be properly appreciated individually. And the 250 was definitely appreciated.
It must have been the most photographed car of the event, gaining the attention of anyone with access to a camera. Even as they were closing off the area where the collection was on display, spectators could not help but poke their heads in for another look.Auction Time
As the start of the auction inched closer so began the process of moving the collection to the staging area where they would remain until they were driven across the block. I went outside where I knew they’d eventually be wheeling out the GTO. Through a car-sized door in the tent I watched each Ferrari being carefully pushed off its platform via wooden ramps, and onto the showroom floor.
Every vehicle was well attended to, but when it came time to move the star of the show all hands were on deck. The 250 got a security escorted push to the staging area with the rest of the cars in the collection away from the eyes of spectators.
But that of course didn’t stop people from seeing it. The fence that stood between the crowd and the cars was just tall enough that you couldn’t see over it, but not tall enough to guard anyone from reaching over with their phones and cameras to get one last shot of the GTO before it hit the stage.
I was in that camp, so I reached over and fired some blind snaps hoping to get something worth sharing.
Before too long I ventured into the tent for the start of the auction. I arrived just in time for the announcement that the auction was going to be delayed due to traffic on Highway 1. Of course, traffic is always bad at 5:00pm, but the traffic this year in Monterey was heavier than ever, so last minute adjustments had to be made.
After what felt like a very long 15-minute delay, the auction began. The GTO was the third lot of the sale, following a lovely Dino and a beautiful brown 365 GTC.
The car pulled up on the stage to uproarious applause. This was the car that held everyone’s interest, and it was finally time to see what it would fetch.
Bidding started at $20,000,000 and quickly shot past 30 million.
But then, much to the contrary of the expectations of many, bidding slowed. There was a noticeable murmur of confusion in the room when people collectively realized the sale might not exceed 40 million dollars, let alone 50 or 60. The sale price slowly built in 50,000 dollar increments, with the bids slowly being fired between a phone bidder and a bidder in the room.
“SOLD” to the bidder on the phone, with a hammer price of $34,650,000. And with that, the orchestral music started playing and the GTO was wheeled off stage to much applause.
The final price for the car after buyer’s fees was ‘just’ $38,115,000. But is that so crazy? Spending that much money on one single car might be, but the fact that it sold for half what some people thought it would isn’t.
Realistically speaking, this isn’t the same 250 GTO that was crafted in 1962. After a serious incident in Montelhery the car was rebuilt by Ferrari and could be considered by some to be, for all intents and purposes, a ‘new’ 1963 GTO. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t an incredibly esteemed car. The achievements the car has made since its rebuild are still very respectable.
It’s a highly valuable car, it’s just not most valuable car, and Bonhams recognized that. They released their sale price estimate a week before the auction at 30-40 million. As we now know, they were spot on.
The interested buyer did their research and they spent an amount that they saw to be appropriate. In the end it’s still the most expensive car ever sold at auction beating the previous record, held by a Mercedes-Benz W196, by almost nine million dollars.
The 250 GTO is one of the most iconic cars ever made, so it’s no wonder there was such a buzz surrounding it. It was an exciting proposition – the chance to see the world’s most expensive automotive purchase take place in front of a live audience of thousands in the room and countless others online. While it didn’t quite pan out that way, it was still a record-breaking evening and a fantastic spectacle to boot.