Top seven of the world's most expensive cars sold at auction

12th April 2023

A 1955 silver Mercedes Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe

Classic cars are among the most lucrative assets on the investment market. As pristine examples of ultra-rare models become fewer and farther between, the values at auction have skyrocketed of late. This has resulted in hammer prices that few thought possible until very recently.


To many, it won’t come as a surprise that a list of the most expensive cars sold at auction would be monopolised by Ferrari, but Mercedes-Benz doesn’t let them have it all their own way. What may be a shock to some is that the likes of Bugatti or Lamborghini do not feature anywhere on the list. Another intriguing takeaway is that each and every car here was produced in the fifties or sixties. 


7. 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale: $26,400,000

Number seven on our list is the Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale. One of just three examples built for homologation purposes, the 275 is one of the rarest cars to feature on this list. The car it was built to homologate – the 275 GTB – was destined for a showdown with the Shelby Cobra Daytona and Ford GT40 at the 1965 running of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 275 crossed the line in third behind two of the established Ferrari 250 LMs, thanks in large part to its Ferrari-first independent rear suspension. The Speciale boasted significant weight reduction and an extra 70bhp from its tuned V12 giving it a significant performance advantage over the standard 275 GTB.


This example was sold on 16 August 2014 by RM Sotheby’s.

A silver 1964 Ferrari 275 GTBC Speciale

6. 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4S NART Spider: $27,500,000 

The NART (North American Racing Team) Spider is the result of Luigi Chinetti identifying an appetite for an open-topped sports car in the USA. Luigi subsequently requested a number of 275 convertibles and Enzo Ferrari himself was happy to oblige. Only 10 were produced, this one’s valuation was undoubtedly buoyed by its appearance in the Steve Mcqueen film The Thomas Crown Affair. 


RM Sotheby’s sold this car on 17 August 2013.

A red 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB4S NART Spider

5. 1956 Ferrari 290 MM: $28,050,000

A one-of-four race car, this 290 MM contested the 1956 Mille Miglia with the one and only Juan Manuel Fangio at the wheel (ultimately finishing fourth overall), it was also subsequently driven by Alfonso de Portago and Wolfgang von Trips. At the time of sale, it set records for the most expensive car sold by RM Sotheby’s, most expensive car sold in New York City and most expensive car of 2015. 


Sotheby’s sold this example on 10 December 2015.

The rear of a red 1956 Ferrari 290Mm By Scaglietti

4. 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196: $29,600,000

This Mercedes-Benz W196 was piloted by the aforementioned five-time champ Fangio to victory at the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring and swiftly followed it up with another win at the Swiss Grand Prix, en route to the second of his five titles. This is the only privately owned example (the rest are either owned by Mercedes itself or are housed in museums) and sold for £20,896,800.00 Sterling at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, a new world record at the time. 


This example was sold by Bonhams on 12 July 2013.

A silver 1954 Mercedes Benz W196

3. 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti: $35,711,359

Like many of the cars on this list, the 355 Scaglietti has a rich racing pedigree. The accolades this car collected comprise finishing sixth at the Sebring 12 Hours in March of 1957, second at the Mille Miglia and was the first model to record a 200kph average speed lap at Le Mans. Sir Stiring Moss also claimed victory at the Cuba Grand Prix of 1958 in this very car. 


The car sold at the Artcurial Motorcars Retromobile auction on 5 February 2016.

A 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti

2. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO: $38,115,000 & $48,405,000

Two, yes two Ferrari 250 GTOs made it to our list. The first ook the record for ‘most expensive car sold at auction’, holding onto the title for four years only to be dethroned by another 250 GTO. Competing in the 1963 FIA World GT Championships was its intended purpose, a series it duly won. 


The first was sold by Bonhams on 14 August 2014 RM Sotheby's while the second was sold at Monterey on 26 August 2018 by RM Sotheby’s.

A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta

1. 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe: $142,000,000

At number one on our list is the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe. Named in honour of chief engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut (who used it as a company car!), this is just one of two prototype cars in existence. Unlike many of the racing cars from this list, the Uhlenhaut never took to the track in anger but it was inspired by Juan Manuel Fangio’s two-time Formula 1 World Championship-winning W196 R and featured an improved 302bhp, 3-litre straight-eight engine. Its starting bid was more than the second-place 250 GTO’s final hammer price.


This example was sold at an invite-only RM Sotheby’s auction in Stuttgart, 2022.

A 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe

Honourable mentions

$22,550,000 – 1956 Aston Martin DBR1

Auctioneer: RM Sotheby's

Date sold: 19 August 2017


$21,780,000 – 1955 Jaguar D-Type

Auctioneer: RM Sotheby's

Date sold: 19 August 2016


$20,465,000 – 1995 McLaren F1

Auctioneer: Gooding & Company

Date sold: 14 August 2021