Most-Expensive Car Ever: 1962-3 Ferrari 250 GTO

A 1962-63 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta achieved $38,115,000 at the Bonhams Quail Lodge Sale as the most-expensive car ever sold at public auction.

1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold by Bonhams
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO © Bonhams

A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta with coachwork by Scaglietti became the most-expensive car ever sold at public auction when $38,115,000 was paid for the Ferrari at the 2014 Bonhams Quail Lodge sale in Carmel, California. This iconic Ferrari 250 GTO was raced by amongst others Jo Schlesser and was in the Maranello Rosso Collection of Fabrizio Violati for the last 49 years. The 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO took over the title of the most-expensive car ever sold at public auction from the 1955 Mercedes Benz W196R “Silver Arrows” Formula 1 car that achieved $29,650,095 at the Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale in 2013.

The Most-Expensive Car Ever – Ferrari 250 GTO

The $38,115,000 world record price paid for the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO at the Bonhams Quail Lodge sale on August 14, 2014 came as no real surprise. As soon as it became known that Bonhams has been entrusted with selling ten cars, including a 250 GTO, from the famed Maranello Rosso Collection, a record price was widely expected. Bonhams was so sure of achieving the highest price ever paid for a car at public auction that the 250 GTO was offered without any reserve.

In recent years, persistent rumors did the rounds of Ferrari 250 GTOs trading at prices above €30 million in Italy and the UK in private sales or closed auctions but the Bonhams sale in Carmel was the first public auction in recent years to have a 250 GTO on offer.

The previous record highest prices paid for Ferraris at public auctions were:

  • $27,500,000 paid for a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider at the RM Auctions sale in Monterey in 2013 – the highest price ever paid for a road-going car.
  • $18,309,613 paid for a 1954 Ferrari 375-Plus at the Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed sale in 2014 – the highest price ever achieved for a racing Ferrari.

These two cars now follow the 250 GTO as the second and third most-expensive Ferraris ever. As a homologation special, the Ferrari 250 GTO can equally well be raced or used on the road.

The World Record 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

All Ferrari 250 GTOs are special and the model that achieved the word record $38,115,000 is of course no exception. Bonhams described the Ferrari 250 GTO as the “most iconic, most habitable, street-useable, race-winning, World Championship-winning – and simply gorgeous – closed two-seat Coupe car” ever produced by Ferrari.

For racing in the 1962 3-liter class FIA GT World Championship, Ferrari homologated (“omologato”) 39 Ferrari 250 GTs in 1962 and 1963. Only 28 cars survived as true 250 GTOs with 3-litre V12 engines.

The record-beating Ferrari 250 GTO was completed in September 1962. Chassis serial 3851GT was the 17th 250 GTO (or 19th if the 4-litre engine models are counted too). Only days later, it was raced by the famous French privateer Jo Schlesser, with Henri Oreiller as co-driver, to second place in the 1962 Tour de France Automobile race. Oreiller crashed fatally shortly after on October 7, 1962, at the Mothlhery Autodrome.

racing Ferrari 250 GTO
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO © Bonhams

Schlesser had the car repaired by Ferrari. As the car required a major rebuilt, as was common with active race cars, this Ferrari is thus often termed as 1962-63 model. Schlesser subsequently sold the 250 GTO to Paolo Colombo, who achieved 12 class victories in 14 hill-climb races entered in 1963. In 1964 and 1965, Ernesto Prinoth competed in several further races.

In 1965, the 250 GTO was bought by Fabrizio Violati, who would later form the Ferrari Club Italia and owned the Collezione Maranello Rosso, one of the most-important collections of historic Ferraris. He participated in historic races in this valuable 250GTO until near the time of his death in 2010. As a result, Chassis 3851GT probably participated in more races than any other Ferrari 250 GTO. This 250 GTO is thus unrestored but in a complete, race-ready condition.

Not only Bonhams at Quail Lodge in Carmel, but also several other auction houses including Gooding at Pebble Beach and RM Auctions at Monterey had fabulous cars on offer at the 2014 Monterey classic car week in California with spectacular results.

More on Monterey Classic Car Week 2014