Just 13 cars have ever sold at public auction for $20m or more – that’s around £15.2m at current exchange rates. The list is dominated by Ferraris, with the occasional Mercedes, Alfa Romeo and Jaguar. But as of 2021 there’s a new name in this most elite of collector-car circles – welcome to the $20m gang, McLaren F1.
The 10 most expensive cars sold at auction in 2021
The 240mph car was sold by Gooding & Co at its Pebble Beach auction in the US in August. As fast at accelerating in value as it effortlessly puts on speed, the seminal British supercar was already the most valuable British car ever sold at auction, as well as the world’s most valuable modern-era supercar. Now with someone paying $20,465,000 for an “as new” 1995 model, the McLaren F1 has become the 13th most valuable car ever sold at auction.
Following that there were five Ferraris in the top 10, plus a Matra, an Aston Martin and one of Lewis Hamilton’s old Formula 1 cars, the first time a Hamilton car has come up for sale. Not a bad year, wouldn’t you say? Here then are the 10 most valuable cars that sold at public auction in 2021…
1995 McLaren F1, $20,465,000 (£15.2m)
It was said this McLaren F1 was the closest anyone could ever come to having a brand new one. It had been locked away in a secret collection in Japan for most of its 26 years, its wheels turning a total of just 242 miles. It’s the world’s lowest mileage F1 then as well as the only example (of the 68 road cars) finished in this colour, a metallic brown named for McLaren director Creighton Brown.
In its day the world’s fastest car as well as the basis of the F1 that won Le Mans on its debut, the F1 came with an estimate of $15m. But at the Pebble Beach sale it went for millions more than that, costing someone an incredible 30 times the half-a-million that the car would have cost new in 1995.
The BMW V12-powered three-seater was on its original, date-coded Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres and came complete with the titanium tool kit, fitted luggage and TAG Heuer watch that every new owner received. What else would you expect for all those millions?
Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione, $10,840,000 (£8.2m)
Only two cars sold in 2021 for more than $10m and this is the second of them, sold by the same auction house at the same auction in Pebble Beach as the McLaren. It’s a Ferrari, and a rare one too, and not just because of its striking livery inspired by the green, white and red of the Italian flag.
It’s rare because it’s a competition version of the long-wheelbase Cali Spider, and of the 50 of those that Ferrari made, just 10 of them left the factory to Competizione spec. It was ordered by an amateur Italian race driver who no doubt made good use of its tuned V12, lightweight body and long-range fuel tanks.
We normally think of the SWB when racing 250s are mentioned but under the sexy skin of the California are the bones of the 250 GT Tour de France so it was always going to be a racecar at heart. And isn’t that paint job just a million bucks? Well, 10 million actually…
1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato, $9,520,000 (£7.2m)
RM Sotheby’s expectation for this British blue-chip road-racing icon was $11-14m so it could be said getting it for $9.5m was something of a steal. It was still enough to make it the third most highly-priced car of the year.
RM sold the DB4 GT Zagato at its Monterey sale, fitting because this was a US spec car from the start. It was ordered new by a US naval commander who got the factory to personalise it with an eggcrate grille, glass (instead of Perspex) in the windows and heavier gauge aluminium body. Only 19 DB4 GT Zagatos were made and of those only six were left-hookers like this one. Before it headed Stateside it was shaken down in a race at Silverstone – by Roy Salvadori.
1962 Ferrari 268 SP, $7,705,000 (£5.9m)
Another bargain, relatively speaking? Could be. RM Sotheby’s put a presale estimate of $8-10m on this super-rare V8 Ferrari, but as it turned out that proved a little rich even for the multi-millionaire collectors on California’s Monterey Peninsula.
But what a machine! You’d be right in thinking a 1960s Ferrari should rightly have a V12 under the bonnet, but this is a V8 and moreover it’s installed behind the seats. Ferrari made only four such engines – essentially two thirds of its V12, with single cam and four Webers, developing 250PS (175kW) – and installed two of them in a mid-engine development car, the 268 SP.
The car was put through its paces as a works entry at Le Mans by team drivers that included Mike Parkes and Olivier Gendebien before going to the US and competing in events like Bahamas Speed Week. Not a big-race winner then, but a hugely influential design, massively rare and such a pretty shape.
1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Competizione, $7,705,000 (£5.9m)
It’s the magic word again: Competizione. Any 275 GTB is in the millions but add the competition element and some racing history and, well, the sky’s the limit. RM Sotheby’s originally thought this one would make as much as $10m.
Ferrari built just 12 Competizione versions of the 275 GT Berlinetta in 1966, and this is one of those cars, what can be called the last of Maranello’s factory competition grand tourers. Race-spec included tasty items like 250 LM-type dry-sump six-carburettor V12 and super-thin aluminium coachwork.
This car competed at Le Mans three times, winning its class in 1967, and more recently has raced in the Fordwater Trophy at the Goodwood Revival. Here’s hoping the new owner brings it back to West Sussex for more.
1955 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione, €6,192,500 (£5.3m)
Another 1950s competition Ferrari but this one’s not just rare but unique with its one-off Pinin Farina coachwork. It was essentially a prototype for the 250 GT Tour de France.
The car, which starred at the 1955 Turin Motor Show, hadn’t been seen in public for 30 years until it turned up at the Circuit Paul Ricard, at Le Castellet, in November where RM Sotheby’s sold it as one of the 75 cars in the Guikas collection. French historic racer turned collector, Jean Guikas, spent 27 years hand-picking cars for what RM said was “one of the most significant and beautifully curated single-owner collections in Europe”.
The Ferrari fell a little short of the €7-9m it had been tipped to make but at just over €6m it was still the most expensive car to sell at auction in Europe in 2021.
1972 Matra MS670, €5,756,525 (£4.9m)
This is the car that gave Graham Hill his first (and only) win at Le Mans, and gave the French nation plenty to cheer about as well. When Hill, and Henri Pescarolo, won the 24 Hours in 1972 a French car hadn’t won at La Sarthe since 1950.
No wonder then that the French racing blue machine has near legendary status in its home country. The V12-powered MS670 confirmed Matra as a major endurance racing team, going on to win at Le Mans in 1973 and ’74. For many years it was star exhibit in the Matra museum until a French court ruled it had to be sold in a long-running wrangle over compensation for former Matra workers.
Artcurial was charged with its sale and it was top lot at its Paris sale in February, its selling price setting a new auction record for Matra values.
2010 McLaren Mercedes MP4-25A, £4,836,000
The eighth most expensive car at auction in 2021 was another McLaren – of the Formula 1 variety. The MP4-25A was far and away the most expensive F1 car to sell during 2021, not far short of the record-holding ex-Schumacher Ferrari that sold in 2017.
The McLaren’s claim to fame? It’s a winning former steed of another seven-time F1 World Champion, Sir Lewis Hamilton. It’s thought this is the first ex-Hamilton F1 car to be offered in a public auction.
Hamilton drove this MP4-25A, chassis number one, to victory in the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix. It was sold by RM Sotheby’s during the British Grand Prix weekend at Silverstone in July, bidding taking place while the machine was being noisily exercised around the circuit – to the delight of the fans.
1955 Jaguar D-Type, $6,000,000 (£4.6m)
This is a well-known D-Type for the simple reason – it’s red! Only a couple were ever painted red and in a sea of racing green or Scottish blue Ds this one certainly stands out, it did in the 1950s and it still does today.
A short-nose D-Type with triple Weber 3.4-litre XK straight-six pumping out 250PS (186kW), the 170mph red car was raced in period at circuits including Goodwood by Peter Blond. He bought it from that well known former top people’s car dealer, Bernie Ecclestone. The price then? £3,500.
Other owners have included Peter Grant, manager of Led Zeppelin, and a succession of keepers in the US after the car crossed the pond in 1982. The D-Type was the top-priced car at RM Sotheby’s Scottsdale auction in Arizona.
1958 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Tour de France, $6,000,000 (£4.6m)
Rounding out the year’s top 10 is another six-million dollar machine, another Ferrari and another big win for RM Sotheby’s at its Monterey sale.
This pale blue, red-striped example is the 52nd of the 72 LWB Tour de France models made. In period it came fourth overall in the 1958 Tour de France and in latter years it was a Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance award-winner, as well as a regular in historic road rallies with its American owners of 40 years.
A single-louvre, covered headlight example with its original aluminium Scaglietti coachwork and equally original chassis, engine and gearbox, RM said it was a “superlative example of one of the ultimate Ferraris of its era”. A very tasty six million bucks worth in other words!
Images courtesy of RM Sotheby’s, Gooding and Co and Motorsport Images.
Join our motorsport community
Get closer to motorsport at Goodwood! Join the GRRC Fellowship to be first in the queue for event tickets, to attend the GRRC-only Members' Meeting and to enjoy year-round, exclusive benefits.
Sign up for Motorsport news
Stay in the know with our newsletters that contain all the latest news, stories and event information.