£42.2M Ferrari 250 GTO is second-most expensive car ever sold at auction

by Andrew Newton
14 November 2023 4 min read
£42.2M Ferrari 250 GTO is second-most expensive car ever sold at auction
Photos by RM Sotheby's / Jeremy Cliff

A 1962 Ferrari 330 LM / 250 GTO has sold for $51.7M (£42,229,742) including buyer’s premium at a Sotheby’s auction in New York, adding a few more gold stars to the car’s already impressive resume. It’s the most expensive auction car of the year and the second-most expensive car sold at auction, ever. It could have brought more, and other examples of this Holy Grail Ferrari have reportedly sold for more privately, but for now the car is the most expensive GTO sold at auction as well as the most expensive Ferrari ever sold at auction.

Following its announcement in August, the GTO – Chassis 3765 LM – has been the most anticipated and talked-about auction car since last year’s sale of a one-of-two 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut coupe. The Merc became the first car to break nine figures, doing so in dramatic fashion with a world record sale at $142M (£119M). That record is likely to stand for quite some time, and if the Mercedes was a “once in a generation” sale, a Ferrari 250 GTO is one of those “just a few times in a generation” transactions. Still exciting, still significant.

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A Ferrari 250 GTO receives that characterisation because, really, it’s a lot more than just a car. It’s on the very short list of eight-figure automobiles, sure, but it’s also one of the most beautiful and influential designs on four wheels and many consider it to have become more art than vehicle. It’s a piece of history, as well: GTOs have an enviable racing pedigree achieved during some of the best years for a company known for entire eras of greatness at the race track. It’s also a ticket to the most exclusive events in the world – no car show, concours, historic race or rally, or museum exhibition is going to turn away a real-deal GTO. The famous GTO “Anniversary Reunion,” where every five years or so a cluster of GTOs meet up in some postcard-worthy region for a drive, is only open to the three dozen GTOs built. Finally, bringing home a GTO means you’ve reached the peak of car collecting: If you’ve had one, there’s little else to hunt down. And they do take hunting. GTOs tend to stay with their owners for a long time, and just three, including Chassis 3765, have come to auction over the past 10 years.

Ferrari GTO 250 rear

Developed for the 1962 racing season, the GTO was homologated (the “O” stands for Omologato) as the latest and greatest evolution of the well-proven and successful 250 GT. Among its many differences from its predecessor, the 250 GT SWB, was its improved bodywork. Aside from being very easy on the eyes, the more aerodynamic body allowed for higher top speed than the SWB, which was useful at high-speed tracks like Le Mans. The 3.0-litre Colombo dry sump-lubricated V12 engine also sat lower in the chassis, which helped in the corners. Even against stiff competition from the powerful Shelby Cobras as well as Jaguar E-Types and Aston Martins, the GTO took Ferrari to the top spot in the over 2.0-litre class of the World Sportscar Championship for 1962, ’63, and ’64.

Just two GTOs have crossed an auction block in recent memory before this week, both for all-time record prices at the time. Bonhams sold one with the more desirable Series I bodywork in Monterey in 2014, and despite a fatal in-period crash and a complete rebuild following, it sold for $38.1M (£22.8M). Four years later in Monterey, RM Sotheby’s sold one with the less desirable Series II bodywork but a cleaner history for $48.4M (£37.9M). Behind closed doors and away from the curious eyes of the public auction world, several GTOs have allegedly changed hands at prices ranging from £33M to £74M.

Like the GTOs sold in 2014 and 2018, and like many old race cars, 3765 has a few caveats. The primary factor is that it is one of a handful of cars fitted in-period with a larger 4.0-litre engine – technically, that makes it a 330 LM – despite its Tipo 1962 GTO body. With that engine, Mike Parkes and Willy Mairesse drove it to a class win at the Nürburgring 1000 km. After that, its three-carb engine was replaced with another 4.0-litre mill for Le Mans, this one fed by six Webers for an estimated total of 390bhp (90 more than the 3.0-litre 250 GTO). At the 24-hour French race, 3765 started fourth but Parkes locked up the brakes early on, slid into the sand, and spent half an hour digging the car out with a shovel. Though he got the car going again, a little past the six-hour mark, the engine overheated and gave up.

Ferrari GTO 250 Le Mans historical black white
Chassis 3765 at left at the 1962 24 Hours of Le Mans. (Photo: RM Sotheby’s/Courtesy LAT Images, Motorsport Images)

After those two races with Scuderia Ferrari, it then sold to private Italian hands, was converted to 250 GTO specs and raced as a 250 GTO, hence RM Sotheby’s labeling it as a “330 LM / 250 GTO.” The Targa Florio in 1965 ended in a DNF, but numerous first-, second-, and third-place finishes made 3765 the runner-up for that year’s Sicilian Hillclimb Championship. In 1967, after the GTO’s competitive racing career was over and before they got crazy-expensive, 3765 sold to a California owner who had it painted yellow. In 1973, it sold to engineer and Ferrari Club of America (FCA) chairman Fred Leydorf. In 1985, he sold it to Jim Jaeger of Ohio, who had it restored in the ’80s and owned the car until this week. It has won its class at the Cavaillino Classic as well as awards at the FCA National Concours d’Elegance, Meadow Brook Concours, and at the Amelia Island Concours, and taken second in the GTO class (out of 23 cars) at Pebble Beach. It also participated in the 250 GTO 45th Anniversary Tour in Sonoma, California. So, despite the naming confusion, the people whose opinions really matter appear to have long since accepted this car as a proper 250 GTO.

Auctioneer Oliver Barker opened bidding at $34M (£27.7M), and over the next several minutes bids arrived in $1M and $2M increments until settling at a $47M (£38.4M) winning bid, making for a £42.2M final price. A record-breaking Ferrari, then, as well as the most expensive auction car of 2023 by far – well over the $30,255,000 (£23.8M) achieved by the 1967 Ferrari 412P sold in Monterey back in August. But not a blowout price, either. As mentioned, other GTOs have allegedly sold for more privately, and if you account for inflation, 3765 actually sold for less than the Series II-bodied GTO from 2018.

It would be a stretch to call anything dubbed a “world record” price and anything that costs £42M a bargain or a good value. But this car does get into the same races, rallies, and events as those alleged $60M, $70M, and $90M GTOs at a hefty discount.

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  • Sidney says:

    Ferrari’s purity, with no government historically pumping in money, validates their achievements beyond Mercedes. It doesn’t matter what a Uhlenhaut sells for. It’s the consequence of a wrong culture. Bravo Ferrari, real No.1.

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