Photographer: Theodore W. Pieper ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's
Photographer: Theodore W. Pieper ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

The 10 Most Expensive Cars at the Pebble Beach Auctions

What to watch for in vintage cars as the best of the best hit the block.

Preliminary estimates have this week’s car auctions in Monterey, Calif., pulling in a total of $290 million, down 14 percent since 2016. 

But as anyone who has attended the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance knows, that downturn won’t dampen spirits a bit. There are still many million-dollar classics to be had at the auctions surrounding the prestigious annual car show. Below are the 10 cars expected to hammer the highest across all sales.

Events begin Thursday on the coastline near Carmel, Calif. with six auction houses—Gooding & Co., RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Russo & Steele, Worldwide Auctioneers, and Mecum—holding sales.

1956 Aston Martin DBR1
1956 Aston Martin DBR1

RM Sotheby’s, Monterey, Aug. 18-19

Lot: 148 
Estimate: $20 million

This long, low stunner is the first of only five DBR1s ever made. It was the model that won Aston Martin the Le Mans championship racing title in 1959 and the same year won the 1,000KM of Nürburgring with the racing champion Stirling Moss behind the wheel.

The car produces 301 horsepower with a 250 pound-feet maximum torque at 6,000 rpm on its straight-six racing engine. Sotheby’s calls it “arguably the most important Aston Martin ever built,” with a significance that cannot be overstated. Outfitted in racing spots and a classic racing green, it is currently fitted with a correct reproduction engine for racing, but it comes offered with the original engine as well.

Photographer: Tim Scott ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

 1995 McLaren F1
1995 McLaren F1

Bonhams, Quail Lodge, Aug. 18

Lot: 73 
Estimate: Undisclosed (Hagerty Price Guide: $10.4 million $14.5 million)

Bonhams claims this McLaren is “generally regarded as the finest sports car ever manufactured.” There may be some who beg to differ, but the car is undoubtedly remarkable. It was the first McLaren F1 imported into the U.S. and is offered by its original owner. It has a massive 12-cylinder, 627-horsepower engine and a six-speed manual transmission, with four-wheel independent suspension.

Bonhams put it well in the auction catalogue: “The factory-published figures say it all: 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds; 0 to 100mph in 6.35 seconds; 0 to 200 mph in 28 seconds, 30 to 70 mph through the gears in 2.15 seconds, and that top speed of 240 mph.”

McLaren made 64 of them; this McLaren F1 is chassis number 044. 

Source: Bonhams

1970 Porsche 917K
1970 Porsche 917K

Gooding & Company, Pebble Beach, Aug. 18

Lot: 144 
Estimate: $13 million to $16 million

This is possibly the most desirable Porsche race model, the one famously used by Steve McQueen in his film Le Mans and labored over for years by Porsche engineers before it finally came to production. It comes with an unusual air-cooled, flat 12-cylinder engine that got 630 bhp at 8,300 rpm and a five-speed manual transmission.

The car has a thin fiberglass body over a lightweight frame that Porsche manufactured incredibly fast: It unveiled the first new car at the Geneva Auto Show in March 1969 and by Monday, April 21, company engineers staged 25 completed 917s in a perfect row to show car inspectors sent by the International Sporting Commission (CSI) of the FIA. Never before had so many world-class racers been built in so short a time, recount Gooding’s catalog notes.

This one has experienced only three private owners and decades of long-term storage, which has ensured that it is one of the best examples available on the market today.

Photographer: Mathieu Heurtault, courtesy of Gooding & Company

1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/C
1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/C

Gooding & Company, Pebble Beach, Aug. 19

Lot: 120
Estimate: $12 million to $16 million

This is one of only 12 GTB/Cs made—the C means it was the competition version of the historic Ferrari 275 GTB. It comes with a V12 engine that could hit 333 bhp on the five-speed manual transmission. And despite its limited production, the 275 GTB/C model was very successful on the racetrack, winning the races at Monza, Montlhéry, Nassau, and Le Mans.

Along with that silver bullet body and lucky number 98 on the sides and front, the car comes with a period-correct, original tool kit and an original leather handbook folio containing an owner’s manual, spare parts catalogue, and dealer directory. Better yet, it has not been seen on the public stage since 2007, which means it’s relatively unknown—and thus appealing.

Photographer: Mathieu Heurtault, courtesy of Gooding & Company

1963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight
1963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight

Bonhams, Quail Lodge, Aug. 18

Lot: 52 
Estimate: Undisclosed (Hagerty Price Guide: $4.4 million to $7 million)

This lightweight version of the iconic Jaguar E-Type is a rare example in competition mode. It has an inline 6-cylinder engine that gets 293 bhp on a five-speed manual transmission, faring moderately well in the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans and other endurance races of the day.

In total, just 12 examples of the E-Type Lightweight were built, even though the original production target was 18 cars. This one is special in particular because its components are highly original, and it has been maintained in pristine condition.

Photographer: Pawel Litwinski/Bonhams

1959 Aston Martin DB4 GT
1959 Aston Martin DB4 GT

RM Sotheby’s, Monterey, Aug. 18-19

Lot: 147 
Estimate: $6 million to $8 million

This green coupe is the “Design Project” prototype of the famous Aston Martin DB4 GT model, the most revered Aston Martin street car besides the Zagato. Stirling Moss drove it; at one time Gerald Lascelles, the Queen of England’s cousin, owned it.

When it raced at Le Mans and Silverstone, the car ran with a 3.7-liter 280-bhp engine, and according to Sotheby’s notes, it’s also unusually incredible to drive: “This car feels light, lively, and easy to drive fast, and it is surprisingly quick. It is communicative, tight, and precise,” Sotheby’s reports. “It inspires confidence. It asks to be driven and is hugely rewarding. That it was conceived as a gentleman’s racer 59 years ago is hard to believe.”

Photographer: Tim Scott ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

1958 Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France Alloy Berlinetta
1958 Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France Alloy Berlinetta

Bonhams, Quail Lodge, Aug. 18

Lot: 85 

Estimate: Undisclosed (Hagerty Price Guide: $9 million to $10.5 million)

This is the classic dual-purpose Ferrari with “Ferrari Classiche” certification and a successful, glitzy period racing history—all the things you need to make a really primo, very expensive Ferrari. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s painted in the ultimate Ferrari red.

The car comes with a 260-horsepower engine and four-speed manual gearbox, plus extensive documentation and photos of it racing such famous races as the 1958 Coppa Sant' Ambroeus at Monza. It’s the third of 37 cars that featured a single-vent sail panel, and the 42nd example of 77 total “Tour de France” (TdF) Berlinettas built.

Photographer: Pawel Litwinski/Bonhams

1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB
1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB

RM Sotheby’s, Monterey, Aug. 18-19

Lot: 220 
Estimate: $8.5 million to $10 million

Here’s yet another classic dual-purpose Ferrari with “Ferrari Classiche certification” and several show awards to its name, not to mention in the the lauded 250 GT “Short-Wheelbase” variety. It was owned and maintained for 40 years by two of the country’s most respected Ferrari collectors before being sold to the current owner, who had it repainted to the current color.

As just the 110th of 167 total examples built, the car is so good it sat on Ferrari’s official stand during the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. 

Photographer: Theodore W. Pieper ©2017 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

1956 Maserati 300S Sports Racer
1956 Maserati 300S Sports Racer

Bonhams, Quail Lodge, Aug. 18

Lot: 38 
Estimate: $6 million to $7 million

This is one of the finest racing models from the golden age of motor sports—it’s beautiful and immensely drivable, especially in such exclusive rallies as Italy’s Mille Miglia. It has an inline six-cylinder engine that gets 245 horsepower over a four-speed manual transmission.

Stirling Moss, Maserati's No. 1 driver in 1956, described the 300S Maserati as "one of the easiest, nicest, best-balanced sports-racing cars ever made." In fact, the current owner is a well-known driver himself who is a two-time class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He has owned and maintained the car since 1998.

Photographer: Pawel Litwinski/Bonhams

1928 Mercedes-Benz S-Type 26/180 Sports Tourer
1928 Mercedes-Benz S-Type 26/180 Sports Tourer

Gooding & Company, Pebble Beach, Aug. 19

Lot: 154 
Estimate: $5 million to $6 million

This is a rarely seen example of 1920s Mercedes-Benz touring car and the only Mercedes to make the list of top 10. It’s also incredibly new on the auction scene, having been fully restored and is now made available for the first time since 1964. It has an inline six-cylinder engine that gets 180 horsepower on the four-speed manual gearbox.

It’s also rare: Of the 146 S-Types that were made in 1927 and 1928, only 58 S-Type cars survive today, and most reside in major, permanent collections throughout the world.

Photographer: Brian Henniker, courtesy of Gooding & Company