A bright red Ferrari with a storied history sold for $51.7 million, with buyer’s fees, on Monday, becoming the most expensive automobile from that Italian carmaker ever sold at auction. The price nevertheless fell short of the auction house’s expectations at a time when the once red-hot market for collectibles has begun to cool amid geopolitical uncertainty and rising interest rates.
RM Sotheby’s, the automobile seller in which Sotheby’s bought a controlling stake in 2022, offered the 1962 Ferrari 330 LM/250 GTO by Scaglietti with an unpublished estimate of $60 million. Two bidders drove the price to $47 million before auction-house fees. (RM Sotheby’s declined to give any information about the buyer.)
Sotheby’s promoted the car as a luxury object, offering it in a stand-alone sale during its marquee fall auctions of fine art in New York. To drive the point home, the auctioneer, Oliver Barker — who is also chairman of Sotheby’s Europe — presided over the proceedings at Sotheby’s York Avenue headquarters, where the car was parked in front of a painting by the contemporary art star Jonas Wood.
There are only 36 Ferrari 250 GTOs in existence, produced between 1962 and 1964. Owners of the car instantly become members of an exclusive club that includes the fashion designer Ralph Lauren and Nick Mason, the drummer for Pink Floyd.
RM Sotheby’s described this particular car as “one of one.” Although it looks almost identical to a 250 GTO, it was originally configured as a 330 LM, an even rarer car with a slightly larger engine. Converted into a 250 GTO later in 1962, it is the only one ever raced by Scuderia Ferrari, the carmaker’s racing division. Ferrari sold it to a Sicilian surgeon in 1964 for $6,000.
The car, known as Chassis number 3765, failed to approach the current auction record for a classic car, which was set last year when RM Sotheby’s sold a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe for €135 million, or about $144 million today. (A Ferrari 250 GTO was reported to have sold privately in 2016 for more than $70 million.)
The $51.7 million price is still a considerable markup from the roughly $500,000 it sold for when it last changed hands in 1985 — or $1.4 million today — according to Gord Duff, RM Sotheby’s global head of auctions. An RM Sotheby’s spokesman confirmed the seller was Jim Jaeger, an Ohio-based collector and co-founder of a radar detection business.
Simon Kidston, a Geneva-based classic car dealer, said that the Chassis number 3765’s unique history may have hurt more than it helped. “It’s a great car. I don’t think, unfortunately, that everybody understands it,” he said. “In a market where appearances are very important and people like the comfort of belonging to a group of like-minded owners, anything that needs explaining is always a little bit more of a challenge to sell.”