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10 most expensive cars sold in 2022

by Nik Berg
27 December 2022 6 min read
10 most expensive cars sold in 2022
Photo: James Lipman

There may be a global recession, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the upper echelons of the classic car market, where 10 per cent inflation is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the rise in value of the world’ most collectible cars.

In fact 2022 was a record year, with the highest price ever paid for an automobile, and the greatest total sum for online and in-person auction sales in a year. The unprecedented £115 million fetched by a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SLR more than doubled the previous high point of £52m paid for a Ferrari 250 GTO in 2018. And collectively, more than $3 billion, nearly £2.5bn, was spent by the end of October, according to Hagerty data, exceeding 2021’s total with two months still to run.

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Here are the 10 most expensive cars sold at auction in 2022.

10: 1958 Maserati 450S

Sold for: £7.6m
Where: California, USA
Auction: RM Sotheby’s Monterey, August

The only Maserati to make the list is the ninth of ten 450S race cars built with coachwork by Fantuzzi and shares a Carroll Shelby connection with the third-placed Ferrari. Shelby’s Texas-based race team ordered the car new from the factory for privateer racer Jesse “Ebb” Rose. Rose did rather well, winning his first SCCA Regional race and several more. It was retired from racing in 1960 and passed between US owners until it was sold to its new keeper in the UK. Among its owners was British Baron John Ailwyn Fellowes who had the car fully restored in the early Seventies. Over the ensuing years the car found homes back in the USA, in Japan and again in the UK. This much-travelled Maserati sold after RM Sotheby’s auction ended in August where it went for over £7.6 million ($9m).

9: 1924 Hispano-Suiza H6C

Sold for: £7.8m
Where: California, USA
Auction: RM Sotheby’s Monterey, August

If prices were paid based on name alone, this 1924 Hispano-Suiza H6C “Tulipwood” Torpedo by Nieuport-Astra would surely come top of the 2022 list. Adding an even more exotic touch to this car’s story is the fact that it was raced by aperitif heir André Dubonnet in the 1924 Targa Florio and Coppa Florio, finishing in a creditable sixth and fifth place, respectively. Part of Dubonnet’s success must come to down to the marvellous mahogany bodywork which he commissioned from aircraft makers Nieuport-Astra and weighed just 70-odd kilograms. The car passed through the hands of noted automobilists including Roland Coty and Alexander Keiller and then in the 1950s it was restored by Standard Oil’s Gerald Albertini. It had a second rebuild in 1985 and was dubbed the Most Significant Hispano-Suiza at the 1986 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. £7,815,000 ($9,245,000) was the hammer price at RM Sotheby’s Monterey Auction in August.

8: 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster

Sold for: £8.37m
Where: California, USA
Auction: RM Sotheby’s Monterey, August

There’s nothing like a regal connection to ramp up value. This 1937 Mecedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster was delivered the last King of Afghanistan, Mohammed Zahir Shah who ascended to the throne at the age of just 19. At the outbreak of World War II the car was dispatched for safe keeping to the Afghan embassy in Paris, where it survived. The car spent a few years in London before undertaking a journey across the Atlantic to the collection of American Vernon D Jarvis who displayed it in Florida. Later sold to another collector, Robert Bahre it was hidden away for decades before being put up for sale at RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction in August where it went for £8,372,781 ($9.9m).

7: 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB

Sold for: £7.76m
Where: London, UK
Auction: Gooding and Company London, September

It wouldn’t be a top ten list without a Ferrari 250, now would it? 2022’s highest priced example was a 1960 SWB GT with coachwork by Scaglietti which sold for £7,762,500 at Gooding and Company in London in September. When new, the car was raced at Le Mans, Goodwood and Montlhéry and, more recently, took part in the Le Mans Classic, Goodwood Revival and Tour Auto. Its history was thoroughly documented by Ferrari archivist Marcel Massini and it was recently restored in a collaboration between Lanzante and Ferrari Classiche.

6: 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante

Sold for: £8.7m
Where: California, USA
Auction: Gooding and Company Pebble Beach, August

You could buy three new Chirons for the price that this 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante fetched at Gooding and Company’s Pebble Beach auction in August. It is one of just 17 examples built by Jean Bugatti and claimed to be the best of them all. Powered by a 3.3-litre supercharged inline eight-cylinder engine producing a rather mighty 200bhp it would easily top 120mph. It also topped £8.7m ($10m), after undergoing a full restoration by Bugatti specialist Ivan Dutton.

5: 1937 Talbot-Lago Teardrop Coupe

Sold for: £10.15m
Where: California, USA
Auction: Gooding and Company Pebble Beach, August

An award-winning Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Teardrop Coupe once owned by Tommy Lee, one of California’s movers and shakers in the 1930s and ’40s hot rod scene, caused a stir at Gooding and Company’s Amelia Island Auction in March, where it sold for approximately £10,150,00 ($13,425,000). The French fancy featured coachwork by Figoni et Falaschi which saw it win the Prix d’Excellence on its debut at the 1938 Concours d’Elegence Fémina in Paris. In later life the car also won First in Class at Pebble Beach and Best in Show at Amelia Island. With its four-litre inline six-cylinder engine and 140bhp it was remarkably rapid for its day and it didn’t take long for a buyer to scoop it up.

4: 2003 Ferrari F2003 GA driven by Michael Schumacher

Sold for: £13m
Where: Geneva, Switzerland
Auction: RM Sotheby’s Geneva, November

When Michael Schumacher won the 2003 Formula 1 title (his fourth of five consecutive championships with Ferrari, and sixth out of seven in total) this was the car that helped him to five victories. Put together by the “superteam” of Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and Paola Martinelli it was so dominant that Schumacher had wrapped up the drivers’ championship with six races to go. What’s more the F2003 was only introduced during the fifth round in Spain, and Schumacher had only been on the top step of the podium once in the first four races. Chassis number 229 was the most successful of six examples built with its three-litre V10 engine powering him into the record books, surpassing Fangio’s long-held score of five world championships. At RM Sotheby’s Geneva auction on 9 November the car sold for 14,630,000 Swiss Francs or around £13 million.

3: 1955 Ferrari 410 Sport Spider

Sold for: £18.6m
Where: California, USA
Auction: RM Sotheby’s Monterey, August

The storied racing history of this Ferrari was key to its remarkable £18.6 million ($22m) hammer price at RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale in August. Like the Mercedes 300SLR in this list, it was designed for a race that never was: the 1955 Carrera Panamericana. With the event cancelled after the awful events at Le Mans that year, when a collision caused a Mercedes to crash into spectators, the car was instead recruited to campaign the 1956 World Sportscar Championship where Juan Manuel Fangio battled for the lead of the first race of the season, the 1000km of Buenos Aires, but was foiled by a broken differential. The car was sent back to Modena and sold to American John Edgar who put Carroll Shelby behind the wheel, taking the win on his very first outing at Seafair in Washington. Shelby would describe the car as “the best Ferrari I ever drove.” Success followed success, including at auction.

2: 1998 McLaren F1

Sold for: £21.1m
Where: California, USA
Auction: RM Sotheby’s Monterey, August

At over £600,000 pounds when it was launched in 1992, the no-compromise McLaren F1 was the most costly new car in the world but it has proven to be one of the best automotive investments. Prices just keep soaring, as demonstrated by the sealed bid sale of a 1998 road car at RM Sotheby’s auction. Chassis number 059 (of 64) achieved over £21.1 million, despite being surprisingly well-used. The first owner racked up 4,676 miles before its initial service and more than 16,400 in total – although the seller added barely 300 miles in its last ten years, electing to keep it in a climate-controlled garage instead. Despite requiring recommissioning the car set a new standard for F1 sales, in part, because it had a unique headlamp arrangement to provide better high-speed illumination. Not that the seller ever needed it. Hopefully the new keeper will put the F1 to more use, but given the unstoppable financial appreciation of Gordon Murray’s masterpiece it sadly seems unlikely.

1: 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut coupé

Sold for: £115m
Where: Stuttgart, Germany
Auction: RM Sotheby’s private sale, May

Will we ever see another sale like it? May 5th 2022 will go down in history as the day the world’s most expensive car was sold. At RM Sotheby’s auction one of just two Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR coupés designed by Rudolph Uhlenhaut, the head of Mercedes’ test department, achieved £115 million (€135m). The car was conceived to take on the Carrera Panamericana and other endurance road races but Mercedes withdrew from motorsport following the tragedy of its 1955 Le Mans crash. Instead Uhlenhaut converted two examples to road use, creating the fastest car of its day with a top speed of 180 mph. Both cars were kept by Mercedes until chassis number 196.110-00008/55 was offered for sale and achieved this extraordinary price. The proceeds are being used to establish a new worldwide fund to provide education and scholarships for young people in the fields of environmental science. The private collector also agreed to make the car available for public display on special occasions.

Read more:

Driving the Mercedes 300 SLR “Uhlenhaut coupé” – the world’s most expensive car
2023 UK Bull Market List: 10 collectable cars primed to take off this year
Christmas car quiz 2022

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Comments

  • John+Eden says:

    Q. What’s the difference between a painting masterwork and a classic car? A. Your painting investment will probably be stored out of sight in a bank vault, whereas your classic car will be regularly on the road. I mean, it will be on the road, won’t it? Surely?

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