Those that have collected classic cars know just how expensive they can be. Even in the worst condition, the people who are selling them know that they’re still worth a lot because they can be restored to their former glory and end up worth a fortune. Then, there are some people who have kept their classic cars in pristine condition over the years and sold them decades after they were released to wealthy avid collectors.
Even the smallest towns around the world have classic cars roaming around, and some of them are worth a lot of money. Only a handful, though, have reached a certain tier where they could be considered among the world’s most expensive classic cars. Here are those five cars that sold for the most, and who ended up being the proud owner of them. Before we get to the list, the rankings have been adjusted for inflation based on the year they were sold.
5. 1956 Ferrari 290 MM
This is the first time that you’ll see a Ferrari on the list, but certainly not the last. Coming in at the fifth spot overall is the 1956 Ferrari 290 MM, which won that year’s Mille Miglia and was driven by the legendary Manuel Fangio. Only four of them were built overall, and the predecessor of the Ferrari 290 S was placed for sale in late 2015.
The Ferrari ended up fetching just over $28 million at auction, which translates into over $32 million today. The car was kept in tip-top shape since the 1950s and made the anonymous buyer of the car extremely happy. It’s unclear if the winner ended up taking it on the streets, but that’s highly doubtful.
4. 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196
Like Ferrari, there isn’t just one Mercedes-Benz on the list, and the first one is the 1954 W196, which was designed by Rudolf Uhlenhaut, a name that you’ll hear again. When it was driven during the 1954 and 1955 Formula 1 seasons, it was able to win nine out of the 12 races it started. This made the car a legend and a hot commodity for auction houses.
In July 2013, the W196 was finally put up for sale after it was verified that it was the original version of the car that was driven in Formula 1 races. The auction (which was held in the United Kingdom) ended with a winning bid that was just under $30 million, and with inflation was $34.4 million.
3. 1957 Ferrari 335 S
Only one of the five most expensive classic cars was sold in the country of France, and it was the 1957 Ferrari 335 S. The Spider Scaglietti model was driven during the 12 Hours of Sebring by both Peter Collins and Maurice Trintignant, finishing in sixth place.
Even though it didn’t win, this car was able to fetch tens of millions when it was auctioned off on February 15, 2016. The winning bid was at $35.7 million, which is over $40.3 million today. Who ended up winning the auction? All that was revealed was that he was an “international bidder.”
2. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO (Twice)
We’ll stretch the list a little bit to include six total because the second and third-most expensive classic cars ever sold were both 1962 Ferrari 250 GTOs. The first was sold for $38.1 million in Carmel, California in August 2014, and four years later in the same state, another GTO was sold for $48.4 million. Bonhams took care of the first auction, while RM Sotheby’s auctioned off the second.
When the first GTO was sold in 2014, it was the most expensive car ever sold and was known for its 1964 Tour de France championship. The car had gone through a few owners and ended up in the hands of David MacNeil, who founded WeatherTech in Chicago during the late 1980s. The second GTO won the 1962 Italian GT Championship, and like its predecessor, became (at the time) the most expensive car sold.
1. 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlehaut Coupe
After several years of no car breaking the record for being the most expensive ever sold, a 2022 auction made sure that the record was absolutely shattered. The 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe sold during a May auction that year for a whopping $142 million. That’s right, this 1955 beauty was nearly triple the price of the second-most expensive car.
So what made this Mercedes-Benz so special? Well, there were only two of them made by Rudolf Uhlenhaut and Mercedes-Benz, so the rarity alone was worth the price for a collector who decided to remain anonymous. After the auction, the buyer said that the car will be on public display for certain occasions and also sit at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.