See previous articles "The top 100 most expensive cars of all time (part 1)"; "The top 100 most expensive cars of all time (part 2)"
Below is "The top 100 most expensive cars of all time (part 3)":
41 – 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster (US$7,480,000)
This particular 540K has a fascinating history, having been driven in Germany until the war, then commandeered by a conquering Soviet General. In 1962, it was discovered in the Soviet Union by a Swedish newspaper reporter who then had to negotiate its purchase and repatriation to the West at the height of the Cold War.
Mercedes-Benz’s success with the 500K was aided by the continuing defaults of its sporting luxury competitors as the Great Depression worked its way through the ranks of society, politics, royalty, and finance. In 1936, the company followed up on that success with the 540K. Regarded by many and respected by all as the high point of the Classic Era among German automobiles, the 540K reflected the restless pursuit of perfection by Mercedes-Benz’s engineers, technicians, and craftsmen, and by the coachbuilders of the Sindelfingen Werke.
The ultimate 540K was the Special Roadster. Constructed on a nearly 130-inch wheelbase chassis and stretching over 17.5 feet in overall length, it was a massive automobile in which to accommodate only two passengers. Yet, that awe-inspiring blend of cost-be-cursed size, performance, and style is what gave it a commanding presence that remains palpable in any surroundings. Better still, Hermann Ahrens and the Sindelfingen designers succeeded in so skillfully blending the car’s styling elements that its overall proportions are harmonious.
42 – 1929 Mercedes-Benz 38/250 SSK (US$7,427,010)
George Milligen was a teenager when the British press began to carry prominent coverage of the S-series Mercedes-Benz models of the 1920s. Mercedes' competition successes were followed by advertisements which justifiably screamed, in capital letters, THE FASTEST SPORTS CAR IN THE WORLD.
In the advertising style of the period the adverts read: The many years of the Mercedes factory in the manufacture of Sports Cars, combined with their well-known workmanship and materials used, has enabled them to construct this super sports model. The Model possesses a high maximum speed, a power of acceleration which was considered unattainable hitherto, wonderful hill-climbing and the highest possible degree of reliability.
It has put up a number of records in the Sports Classes and in the 1927 German Grand Prix, against considerable international competition (it) obtained FIRST, SECOND & THIRD PLACES.
It would be fourteen years before George Milligen would get an opportunity to engage directly with a Mercedes-Benz of his own, but this car which Bonhams sold at Goodwood in 2004 for £4,181,500 (US$7,427,010) was the car Milligen purchased second-hand just prior to WWII – this 1929 7.1-litre Mercedes-Benz 38/250 Model SSK Short Wheelbase Two-Seat Sports Tourer.
43 – 1912 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Double Pullman Limousine (US$7,379,785)
This 1912 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Double Pullman Silver Ghost Limousine, is one of the most recognizable classic cars in the world, thanks to being chosen as a model for the Corgi Classics series of die-cast model cars.
It was created at a time when custom coachbuilders flourished – craftsmen of extraordinary skill made one-off automobile bodies for the the rich. The Pullman Limousine style is named after American Railway Car manufacturer George Pullman's luxurious and extravagant railway cars, so the intention from the beginning was to create a grand opulent vehicle.
It was built on the Silver Ghost chassis, which had been proclaimed by the highly influential Autocar magazine as "the best car in the world" just five years prior, by Barker & Co. of South Audley St., London and delivered new to John M. Stephens in South Croydon.
Stephens had previously purchased the first-ever Silver Ghost, and he was the first of a string of prominent collectors to own the car. Since WWII, the car has been part of several of the world's finest automobile collections, including those of John C. Sword, Denis de Ferranti, Richard Solove and John M. O'Quinn.
The car that Sports Car Market magazine once described as "a masterpiece of elephantine Edwardian elegance" was expected to fetch in excess of £2,000,000 when it went under the hammer in June, 2012, but eventually the bidding stopped at more than twice that amount – £4,705,500 (US$7,379,785).
44 – 1904 Rolls-Royce 10 hp Two-Seater (US$7,274,300)
This car carries with it great historical significance, being the oldest known Rolls-Royce in the World.
It was just the fourth car to carry the Rolls-Royce name and Barker coachbuilders were commissioned to build the Park Phaeton coachwork.
It was then driven to Southampton, shipped across the channel to Le Havre then driven to Paris where it was exhibited at the Salon de L'Automobile, an exhibition that ran from December 9–25, 1904. It was then exhibited at the Olympia Motor Exhibition in London in February 1905 on the Rolls-Royce stand.
The entire story of the beginnings of the famous Rolls-Royce brand can be found on the official auction page for the car, which sold for £3,521,500 (US$7,254,290) in 2007.
45 – 1953 Ferrari 250 Mille Miglia Berlinetta (US$ 7,260,000)
The Ferrari 250 Mille Miglia was tailor-made to compete in the marque long-distance races, using the new 3-liter V12 engine, a longer wheelbase chassis and the artistry of Carrozzeria Pinin Farina which created the two-seat closed-cabin bodywork. The new model was launched at the 1953 Geneva Salon as the Ferrari 250 MM (for Mille Miglia).
In May 1954, Road & Track tested a Ferrari 250 MM and recorded 0-60 mph (96.5 km/h) time of 5.1 seconds, and 0-100 mph (161 km/h) in 13.7. "Never before have I accelerated so rapidly, traveled so fast, or decelerated so suddenly," wrote R&T's Technical Editor.
The Ferrari 250 MM on offer is an outstanding example of Ferrari's first 3-liter V12-engined Gran Turismo family – launching the line that over the following decade would spawn the 250 Tour de France, 250 GT SWB and 250 GTO models. It was the 17th of 31 Ferrari 250 MMs to be built overall, and the 11th of the 250 MM Pinin Farina Berlinettas.
It was sold in America and the first race outing of the new Ferrari was the Sports Car Club of America San Francisco Region's 3rd Annual Members' Madera race meeting on September 20 that year. New owner Bill Devin finished third in the novice event before handing the car over to fast-rising Santa Monica driver Phil Hill, who won the main event of the day. Phil Hill would go on to win the Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship as a works Ferrari team member in 1961. Plenty of wonderful history with this car, which also includes Count Vittorio Zanon in its resume.
45 – 1959 Ferrari 250 LWB California Spider Competizione (US$7,260,000)
An alloy 1959 Ferrari 250 LWB California Spider Competizione had some credible racing results including fifth outright in the 1960 12 Hours of Sebring and third outright at the 1960 Nassau TT. It was sold by Gooding & Co for US$7,260,000 at Pebble Beach 2010
47 – 1955 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione (US$7,150,000)
This 1955 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione was one of the first 250 GT Competition cars. With coachwork by Pinin Farina, it was delivered new to legendary racing driver Alfonso de Portago and raced at the 1955 Nassau Speed Week.
A known, continuous ownership, the car participated in the Mille Miglia Storica 15 times between 1984 and 2013 and was completely restored and certified by the Ferrari Classiche Department. Matching numbers, and fully documented by Ferrari historian Marcel Massini.
47 – 1938 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Teardrop Cabriolet by Figoni et Falaschi (US$7,150,000)
More Art Deco mechanical artistry from French coachbuilders Figoni et Falaschi, though this car has the rare distinction of being the first Teardrop Cabriolet and the only short-wheelbase example with original chassis, engine, and body.
49 – 1959 Ferrari 250 GT SWB "Competition" Berlinetta Speciale (US$7,040,000)
In Ferrari’s early days, many different coachbuilders constructed bodies on the company’s chassis. Countless beautiful and vastly different motor cars were produced in this period, with each different to the next, to a greater or lesser degree. Wealthy owners would specify precisely what they wanted during personal trips to the factory, frequently in direct conversation with Enzo Ferrari himself. It was not unlike having a bespoke suit constructed by a fine Italian tailor: one’s personality, style, and preferences were all clearly visible in the finished product, as was the craftsmanship of the coachbuilder who brought the design to life.
Pinin Farina would eventually gain Enzo Ferrari’s favour as a preferred design house and by the time of the 250 GT SWB, Pininfarina bodies had become the norm for Ferrari. Although there were detail differences from car to car, the 250 GT SWB had fundamentally become a standardized design.
There was still a demand for custom coachwork though, and six 250 GT SWB chassis were built with custom bodies – four by Pininfarina and two by Carrozzeria Bertone. This car (chassis 1739GT) is the first Bertone-bodied car and was once described by Auto d’Epoca magazine as “arguably the most spectacular and important of coach built Ferraris—combines classic Ferrari elements of sensuous form with a racing soul.”
At Bertone, this chassis was graced with a one-off body that was designed by an individual who would become a hugely influential automotive designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro. At just 21-years-old, Giugiaro gave 1739GT a variety of unique exterior and interior options that would further distinguish it from other SWB models that were produced at the time.
Regardless of his youth, it was evident that Giugiaro had an eye for design, and the public’s stunned reaction at the first glimpse of the car at the 1960 Geneva Salon clearly helped improve his stature in the industry. Giugiaro would go on to work at Ghia before founding his own firm, Italdesign Giugiaro, where he is credited with designing many notable sports cars, including the Iso Grifo, the BMW M1, and both the Maserati Ghibli and the Bora.
As with all cars of one-off coachwork, 1739GT enjoys fascinating provenance and was commissioned by Dottore Enrico Wax, one of the wealthiest men in Italy, and a personal friend of Enzo Ferrari.
The story behind the commissioning of 1739GT came from former Ferrari Vice President Amerigo Manicardi, who related that Wax had expressed interest in a speciale during a meeting with Enzo at the factory, if he would allow him one of the first short-wheelbase chassis that were then under construction. Both men walked to the Competition Department, where Enzo pointed to the first chassis in a line of just three. Enzo said that even though this specific chassis was earmarked as a Works team car, it would instead be immediately assigned to Wax’s account.
According to Ferrari historian Stan Nowak, this is “possibly the one Ferrari that possesses all the criteria to contend for Best in Show at any major international concours, including Pebble Beach—one-off coachwork, influential design, debut at international salon, commissioned by prominent personality, built on special chassis, abundant brightwork, impeccable history.”
50 – 1964 Ferrari 250 LM (US$7,014,433)
An almost identical car to the 1964 Ferrari 250 LM which sold for US$14,300,000 in New York in November, 2013, and another sold for US$11,550,000 at Pebble Beach this year, so this car's price is more a reflection on how long ago it sold than its value today.
Though Enzo Ferrari tried hard in 1964 to convince the FIA that the new 250 LM was indeed just a variant of the 250 GTO which it replaced, and hence did not need to have 100 units produced for homologation purposes, no-one accepted the proposal. Even the car's name, which by all other Ferrari nomenclature rules should have been the 275 LM, is part of Ferrari's ruse.
As a result, the FIA refused the 250 LM homologation status and the cars were required to run in the much more competitive prototype classes. Nonetheless, their record is exceptional. In total, the 1964 cars would enter more than 50 races, winning more than a dozen of them outright – along with many other podium finishes. Notable examples included races at Snetterton, the Coppa Intereuropa, the Kyalami GP, and Elkhart Lake. Drivers notching victories in the LM included Roy Salvadori, Nino Vaccarelli, Willy Mairesse, and David Piper.
Only 32 of the 320 hp V-12 250 LMs were built, and the 250 LM will almost certainly go the same way as the GTO with ever appreciating value.
51 – 1964 Ford GT40 Prototype (US$7,000,000)
One of the pioneering prototypes of the now-legendary GT40 juggernaut and one of the few that remains today, GT/104 is one of only two famously prepared and raced by Shelby American for the 1965 season.
One of the first race cars of any kind to benefit from computerised aerodynamic computation and the budding field of telemetry, it was crucial to the development of the GT40 into World Championship form, proving the project’s potential at Le Mans, reaching the podium at Daytona and participating in Ford’s first year in international competition. Its development involved such famous names as Lunn, Wyer and Shelby; it was driven by the top stars of the era at the world’s most famous venues.
As the first ever 1965 Shelby American-specification GT40, chassis GT/104 is widely regarded as the most original and correct prototype Shelby American team car and possesses what Ronnie Spain has described as "one of the clearest provenances… of all GT40s."
52 – 1965 Ford GT40 Roadster Prototype (US$6,930,000)
Ford's GT40 dominated endurance racing in the mid sixties, but it was also considered as a roadster for public sale. This car is the first of six GT40 prototype roadsters built, the eighth of only 12 GT40 prototypes and the only roadster to remain in as-built condition. It was driven by Ken Miles, Carroll Shelby, Jim Clark, and other legends (see historic images on the official auction page).
Ronnie Spain, GT40 historian and author of GT 40: An Individual History and Race Record wrote: "GT/108 is one of the finest, and certainly rarest, examples of the Ford GT40 in existence. Its rarity value is stamped all over its history."
53 – 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Speciale Aerodynamica (US$ 6,875,000)
Ferrari’s collaboration with Pininfarina on the Superfast theme created a new streamlined 250 GT car which was shown at the the 1960 Turin Salone dell'Automobile. The highly aerodynamic shape offered not just superb aerodynamics but an elegant new form factor. At the Geneva Salon of 1962 a Superfast III revision of the innovative, aerodynamic, high-performance limousine was unveiled, offering a more open 'greenhouse' cabin window treatment. A Superfast IV followed, but the design of Pininfarina's peerless 'Coupe Aerodinamica' would also be applied to only four, we believe, 250 GT Berlinettas with shorter 2.40-metre wheelbase – the Passo Corto or 250 GT SWB chassis length - of which this fine example is one. And it is from the Coupe Aerodinamica theme that the so-called GTO Prototype car was produced to compete at Le Mans in 1961, leading ultimately to the legendary Ferrari 250 GTO itself.
54 – 1958 Ferrari 250 GT Series 1 Cabriolet (US$ 6,820,000)
This Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet S1 Pinin Farina is a very early example, being only the eighth of some 40 units built overall. Its chassis was delivered to the Pinin Farina plant on September 9, 1957, and upon its completion with this strikingly handsome body it was exhibited at the 39th Salone dell'Automobile in Turin from October 30-November 10 that year. After a well-documented life in South America, the 250 GT was acquired by Italian enthusiast Fabrizio Violati and inducted into his Collezione Maranello Rosso in San Marino.
55 – 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza (US$6,710,000)
55 – 1956 Ferrari 250 GT LWB Berlinetta 'Tour de France' (US$6,710,000)
This 1956 Ferrari 250 GT LWB Berlinetta is unofficially known as the “Tour de France” model thanks to it winning the 1956 running of the legendary French (now defunct) public roads sports car race.
Ferrari had shown its new series-production 250 GT at the Geneva Motor Show of 1956. While the coupe on display featured an elegant body that would go on to be produced in quantity by Boano, thus providing necessary homologation, the underlying chassis proved to be the basis for the competition car, or berlinetta, that Ferrari sought to enter into the FIA’s new GT racing classifications.
Pininfarina designed a new lightweight body that was built by Scaglietti, using thin-gauge aluminium and Perspex windows and a minimally upholstered cabin. The finished car, then known officially as the 250 GT Berlinetta, was ultimately made in a sparing quantity of 77 examples that are further sub-divided by subtle differences in coachwork over the model’s four-year production run.
The Berlinetta was immediately successful, when Olivier Gendebien and Jacques Washer co-drove the very first car to a First in Class and Fourth Overall at the Giro di Sicilia in April 1956, with fifth Overall (and first in class) at the Mille Miglia later that month.
The model’s defining success occurred in September, when Marquis Alfonso de Portago, a Spanish aristocrat and privateer racer, drove one to a dominating victory in the 1956 Tour de France Automobile, a result that sealed the model’s reputation. The 1956 Tour de France Automobile covered 3,600 miles over a week which included six different circuit races, two hill climbs, and a drag race. Enzo Ferrari was so pleased with the outcome that the 250 GT Berlinetta was subsequently and internally, though never officially, referred to as the Tour de France.
The Berlinetta wore the name well, also winning the 1957, 1958, and 1959 installments of the French race in the hands of Olivier Gendebien, as well as a Third Overall at the 1957 Mille Miglia.
This particular unit is the very first example constructed of the second series design that featured 14-louver sail-panels, and was initially purchased by Southern California building construction magnate Tony Parravano who found that the American sanctioning body did not recognize it as a production car. The car subsequently changed hands before eventually being purchased by Walt Disney Studios for use in the 1966 film The Love Bug, the celebrated Disney classic about “Herbie,” the racing VW Beetle with a soul. Carandmotors has some images of the Berlinetta during its cinematic career.
The Ferrari subsequently fell on hard times, and quite remarkably for a car now in the 100 most valuable in the world, was reportedly abandoned on the Hollywood Freeway at one stage during the seventies. Redemption eventually came, and the story can be read in great detail on the official RM Auctions page.
57 – 1939 Delahaye 135 Competition Court Torpedo Roadster (US$6,600,000)
Delahaye built just 30 cars using the Competition Court chassis and only two short wheelbase variants are known to have survived to this day – this car is one of them.
It’s pedigree is far grander however, as it wears a body tag verifying the involvement of famous stylist and illustrator Georges Hamel (Geo Ham) in its styling.
The design for the Torpedo Roadster that clothes the chassis is based on the famed 1936 Paris Auto Show car, traditionally recognized as a collaboration between Figoni and the illustrator. The body was subsequently built by Figoni’s equally famous Carrosier, Figoni & Falaschi and hence we have a gorgeous motor car sitting atop a competition chassis and engine – a street version of the purely competition Type 135 S.
57 – 1957 Ferrari 250 GT California LWB Prototype Spider (US$6,600,000)
This car carries some extraordinary history. It is the original Ferrari 250 GT California Spider prototype, a car which launched one of the most iconic series of sports cars in history.
As the prototype California Spider, it has many unique one-off features that never carried over into any of the production models, but it was nonetheless, the car which appeared in the brochures and publicity of the soon-to-be-released California in early 1958.
59 – 1957 Ferrari 625 TRC Spider (US$6,511,207)
One of only two factory-built 625 TRCs ever built, this 1957 Ferrari 625 TRC Spider was sold with a fully documented provenance by RM Auctions in Monaco in May, 2012 for EUR 5,040,000 (US$6,511,207). It was purchased new by famed racing driver and pioneering American Ferrari importer, John von Neumann and has been successful in both period and vintage racing history, with a history including such luminaries as Richie Ginther.
60 – 1931 Bugatti Royale Berline de Voyager (US$6,500,000)
The Bugatti Type 41 was one of the most luxurious and immense cars ever produced. Designed by Jean Bugatti, only a handful (different sources claim 6, 7 and 8 in total) were produced. The second Bugatti Royale in the list belonged to Bill Harrah – the owner of a 1,400 strong car collection. It was sold in 1986 in Reno, USA during an event called "Evening Royale."