Ferraris Lead the Pack at $390 Million Pebble Beach Car Auctions

1964 Ferrari 250 LM
The 1964 Ferrari 250 LM sold for $17.6 million. Source: RM Sotheby's via Bloomberg

Ferrari led the pack again.

The Italian sports cars accounted for seven of the top 10 sales at auctions in California that fetched $390.6 million.

The sales were part of a six-day auto extravaganza that ended Sunday in the coastal towns of Carmel and Monterey and at the Pebble Beach golf course. The preliminary tally fell short of $402.6 million in equivalent sales last year, according to Hagerty, a Traverse City, Michigan-based insurer and classic car database that tracks auction results.

Prices for classic cars are leveling off following a period of record sales driven by expanding global wealth. While demand for Ferraris is still strong, even these cars felt the pinch. The top lot this year was a $17.6 million Ferrari, compared with 2014, when a Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta fetched $38.1 million, a record for a car sold at auction globally.

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This year, 128 Ferraris were offered -- the largest number ever at classic car auctions -- and 25 percent didn’t sell, according to Hagerty. The totals provided by Hagerty include post-auctions’ private sales but exclude sales at a smaller company, Rick Cole.

“Buyers are highly selective, even if it’s a new buyer with all the money in the world,” said McKeel Hagerty, chief executive officer of Hagerty. “Overpaying for a car can be embarrassing later.”

RM Sotheby’s sold the week’s top lot: a red 1964 Ferrari 250 LM, one of 32 of its kind, for $17.6 million, a record for the model.

Private Collection

The car was part of a private collection of 25 automobiles that included other Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bugattis. The group took $75.4 million, setting a record for a private collection sold during a single-day auction. The previous $66 million record for the category was set last year at Bonhams.

An orange 1998 McLaren F1 sports car sold for $13.8 million. A 2005 Ferrari Enzo, built as a gift for Pope John Paul II, fetched $6.1 million.

RM Sotheby’s said it tallied $172.7 million during the week, including post-auction private sales. The biggest disappointment was a yellow 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione which was estimated at $17 million and failed to meet its reserve price. The car didn’t sell privately as of Sunday, according to an RM Sotheby’s spokeswoman.

In Demand

A red Ferrari led the sales at each of the three major auction houses.

“Ferraris are like Patek Philippe watches,” said Doug Wolford, chief executive officer of Convergent Wealth Advisors, a Potomac, Maryland-based wealth management firm with $6 billion in assets under management. “There will always be people who want them.”

A red 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider -- one of only 37 of its kind -- fetched $16.8 million at Gooding & Co. on Sunday, within the estimated range. Gooding said it sold $128.1 million of cars.

Bonhams sold a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT Competizione Alloy Berlinetta, a sports car that placed third at the 1959 Tour de France car race, for $8.5 million. It had an estimate of $9 million to $12 million. Bonhams said its sales totaled $46.7 million.

Fiat, Jaguar

Ferraris weren’t the only popular cars on the block. A 1956 Fiat Eden Roc, which was designed to drive people from a house to a beach, hammered for $660,000. With no doors and no roof, the sleek, cream-colored vehicle resembles a boat on wheels. One of only two made, it has mahogany bumpers and a wraparound rear seat. The car ferried three pretty, young women as it entered the saleroom for its auction debut.

Another Fiat -- a 1953 green-blue Fiat 8V Supersonic that had the same owner for 36 years -- sold at Bonhams for $1.8 million, matching its low estimate. A 1953 Jaguar C-Type Works lightweight roadster fetched $13.2 million at RM Sotheby’s, a record for the model.

By the end of Sunday, six auction houses sold 803 of the offered 1,386 lots, representing a 58 percent sell-through rate and average sale price of $479,557. That’s a decline from last year’s average of $540,366 and 61 percent sell-through rate, according to Hagerty.

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