Ferrari Race Car Sells for $28 Million at RM Sotheby's Auction

Ferrari Sells for $28 Million at Auction
  • Janis Joplin's psychedelic Porsche fetches $1.7 million
  • At $14.3 million, Aston Martin sets record for a British car

A red 1956 Ferrari race car fetched $28.05 million, leading sales at a Sotheby’s auction in New York and becoming the most expensive car of 2015.

Estimated at $28 million to $32 million, the 1956 Ferrari 290 MM was part of the “Driven by Disruption” auction at the firm’s RM Sotheby’s unit on Dec. 10, featuring 31 vehicles as well as 28 lots of rare car memorabilia. The evening sale tallied $75.1 million, falling short of the low presale target of $90 million. Of the 59 lots offered, 48 found buyers.

1956 Ferrari 290
1956 Ferrari 290
Source: Sotheby’s

Prices for classic cars are leveling off, following a period of record sales driven by expanding global wealth. As in other segments of collectibles, buyers are becoming more selective. Even the Ferrari brand, most desired by investors and collectors, is feeling the pinch. The RM Sotheby’s auction included nine Ferraris of which two didn’t sell. While the 290 MM’s $28.05 million became the top price of the year, it fell short of the $38.1 million paid in 2014 for a Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta, which remains a record for a car sold at auction globally.

The evening’s top lot was originally designed for Juan Manuel Fangio, one of the greatest Formula One racing drivers, to compete in the Mille Miglia, a 1,000-mile race through Italy. It has been raced by other famous drivers, including Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips.

Psychedelic Porsche

Earlier in the sale, a psychedelic 1964 Porsche once owned by rock legend Janis Joplin fetched $1.76 million, versus the estimated presale range of $400,000 to $600,000.

1964 Porsche 356
1964 Porsche 356
Source: Sotheby’s

Joplin bought the car in 1968 for $3,500 and drove it daily, often accompanied by her dog, according to the catalog. The surface is hand-painted with California landscapes, Zodiac signs, smoke and portraits of the Big Brother and the Holding Company band members. Since 1995, the car has been on loan at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.

Another highlight was a green 1962 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato. One of 19 made, it fetched $14.3 million, setting an auction record for the model and any British car, but falling short of its presale low target of $15 million.

1962 Aston Martin Zagato
1962 Aston Martin Zagato
Source: Sotheby’s

Failing to sell were two 1953 Ferraris: a 250 Europa Coupe, estimated at $3.8 million to $4.5 million, and a 212 Inter Coupe, targeting $2 million to $2.4 million. A silver 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, estimated at $5 million to $7 million, also didn’t find a buyer.

Prices include the buyer’s commission charged by the auction house; the estimates don’t.

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