Mercedes, Record GT40 Head $220 Million Classic-Car Auction

By Scott Reyburn - 2012-08-20T17:11:27Z

Photograph by Gooding & Co. via Bloomberg

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1960 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder

Wealthy collectors paid record prices for a Ford GT40 and rarities by desirable marques such as Mercedes, Ferrari and Bentley at California's classic-car sales. Gooding & Co., RM Auctions, and Bonhams sales that ended last night raised in excess of $220 million, 33 percent higher than the $166.7 million generated at the bellwether West Coast sales last year.

Classic cars, like art and wine, have been attracting increased attention from wealthy individuals looking to diversify their investment portfolios. Existing buyers, aware of the worth of rare autos as a store of value in times of economic weakness, are also looking to improve their collections.

"There was a unique number of important cars," said Dietrich Hatlapa, founder of the Historic Automobile Group International (HAGI), whose Top 50 benchmark index of exceptional classic cars has gained 8.2 percent in the year through July. "The lineup was impressive, the prices were strong."

Gooding's 122 cars raised $115 million, a record for a two-day sale at the auction house. Gooding offered a 1960 Ferrari "competition" 250 GT California Spyder (left), formerly owned by the late New England collector Sherman M. Wolf.

One of only nine alloy-bodied long wheelbase versions made, it sold for $11.3 million against a valuation of $7 million to $9 million.