Ferrari Racer at $11.9 Million Beats 1970s Porsche 911s

A Ferrari that competed in the 1953 Le Mans 24-hour race sold at the weekend for $11.9 million at an auction at Lake Como in Italy.

The red V-12 340/375 MM Berlinetta was estimated by RM Auctions Inc. to sell for at least 5 million euros ($6.5 million) at hammer prices. After a 20-minute battle between three bidders, one on the telephone, it sold to an unidentified buyer in the saleroom for 9.2 million euros with fees.

Earlier on May 25, another Berlinetta, a 1964 racer that competed in Italian hill climbs in the 1960s, sold for 902,750 euros, against an estimate of 925,000 euros -- the top price in a Bonhams auction at the Spa Motor Circuit, Belgium. Porsche 911s were left trailing by the Italian carmaker’s prices.

The top end of the market for collectable cars is dominated by Ferraris from the 1950s and 1960s. Michigan-based Hagerty’s “Blue Chip” index of the best collectible autos was at an all-time high of 240.9 in April, boosted by a 24 percent increase within the last year for classic models by the Italian supercar marque now owned by Fiat SpA.

RM’s 40-lot auction was held at Villa Erba in association with the nearby Concorso d’Eleganza, Villa d’Este --Europe’s foremost beauty contest for classic cars.

Champion Drivers

The MM “Competizione” was driven by champions Mike Hawthorn and Nino Farina at Le Mans and disqualified from the race for a technicality on lap 12. The seller had been identified by dealers as the U.K. collector, Paul Vestey, who also owns a 250 GTO, the most valuable of all Ferraris.

All 16 of RM’s Ferraris found buyers, with four selling for more than 1 million euros. A 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica owned by the U.S. collector Skip Barber sold for 2.2 million euros, just below the high estimate of 2.3 million euros. In Blu Sera Italver livery, it was one of 36 SWB Coupe Aerodinamicos built.

The Bonhams yellow 275 GTB Berlinetta also went to an unidentified buyer at the sale, who fought off competition from three telephone bidders and a rival in the room. The seller had owned the Ferrari for five years and its value had been enhanced by its well-documented competition history, said Bonhams. It was the London-based company’s inaugural sale at the race track, timed to coincide with the Spa-Classic race meeting.

Classic Porsches have also risen in value. This year is the 50th anniversary of the German company’s 911 model. The distinctive sports car design has undergone many evolutions, including the powerful RS (Rennsport - “race sport”) variant in 1973 and 1974, spurred by competition with Ferrari.

Desirable Designs

“These were years when Porsche produced their most significant 911 designs,” said Kenny Schachter, a London-based art and classic car dealer. “The juxtaposition of race and road makes these cars desirable.”

Bonhams’s Spa sale included a 3-liter 1974 Carrera RS Coupe estimated at 400,000 euros to 500,000 euros. The last of 109 examples to be built, it sold to telephone bidder for 437,000 euros.

A 1973 2.7-liter Carrera RS with an extensive racing history sold to a bidder in the room for 181,700 euros against a high estimate of 200,000 euros. Both featured the model’s distinctive “duck-tail” rear spoiler.

The auction record for a Porsche 911 is the $1.4 million paid at RM Auctions in Monterey, California, in 2011 for the 1970 911S that Steve McQueen drove in the movie “Le Mans.”

German Prices

Hagerty’s German Car Index of the most desirable postwar collectible models has appreciated 23 percent over the past 12 months and 47 percent over the past 36 months. It currently sits at an all-time high since its 2006 inception date.

Within this group, prices for Porsches have advanced 39 percent and 71 percent during 12 and 36 months respectively, according to the database.

A 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400 Coupe was the other big-ticket seller at Bonhams, raising 575,000 euros against an estimate of 450,000 euros to 650,000 euros.

Among other marques on offer at RM, a white 1962 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster fetched 1.1 million euros, beating its upper guide price of 800,000 euros. While “Gull Wing” variants of the sports car have sold for as much as $4.6 million at auction, this seven-figure price was high for the less rare Roadster version, dealers said.

The RM sale raised more than 27 million euros with fees against a low hammer-price estimate of 23.6 million euros. About 20 percent of the 38 lots were unsuccessful, including two Riva speedboats. The Canadian-based company released figures last night before its official post-sale announcement and said the largest proportion of bidders came from the U.S., followed by the U.K.

Bonhams’s auction raised 3 million euros with fees, below the presale hammer-price estimate of 5 million euros. More than half the offered cars failed to sell and all four of the top lots sold within estimate, reflecting rising expectations among sellers and selectivity among buyers.

Muse highlights include Guy Collins and John Mariani on wine, Scott Reyburn and Frederik Balfour on the art market, Farah Nayeri on film and Gwen Ackerman on Israel art.

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