Editor's Letter

Buying and Selling: Record-Breaking Auctions Offer Thrills

The rich are just like you and me when it comes to chasing the car of their dreams

Anyone out there have $48,405,000 incinerating a hole in your wallet for a used car? It seems patently absurd on the surface, but yes, there are enough people of certain means on the planet to bid up that much in an attempt to buy a single automobile—in this case the now mythical unicorn called the Ferrari 250 GTO.

It’s a price that set a record for a car sold at auction, occurring during the 2018 RM Sotheby’s event in Monterey, California, for a 1962 GTO. But that’s almost chump change compared to what David MacNeil, the owner of WeatherTech, paid for a 250 GTO earlier in 2018 in a private sale. MacNeil reportedly dropped more than $70 million to acquire one. That is not a typo. What in the wide world of sports is driving the mega-rich to possess these Enzo Ferrari masterpieces at those astronomical prices? We ask a guy who would know: Wayne Carini, of “Chasing Classic Cars” fame, who also specializes in Ferrari restoration and owns a classic car sales operation, F40 Motorsports. You can check out Carini’s take as well as our annual look at some of the other big-bucks auction results during Monterey Car Week.

Most 250 GTOs usually have another thing going for them: motorsports pedigree. Knowing that a car was driven in some of the greatest races by legendary drivers pins them to a moment in history, a provenance that normal roadgoing cars can’t match. In fact, many of the top sellers at RM Sotheby’s were cars with a distinct racing history, among them a 1966 Ford GT40 Mark II that was part of Ford’s historic 1-2-3 sweep of the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans ($9,795,000), a 1957 Porsche 550A Spyder integral to Porsche’s American racing heritage ($4,900,000), and a 1956 Maserati A6G/2000 Zagato racer that at $4,515,000 represented an auction record for the model.

Another record-setter was the one-off 1963 Aston Martin DP215 Grand Touring Competition Prototype, also with a racing history, which we anticipated in the November issue may reset the bar for a British car sold at auction. Whoa, did it ever. At $21,455,000, it topped the mark—set earlier this year at the Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed sale for a 1961 Aston Martin MP209 DB4GT Zagato—by some $8 million.

Like I’m sure almost all of you reading this are (if you’re a multimillionaire, you’re excused), I’m astounded by the prices these 24-karat-gold-heeled buyers are paying but not necessarily surprised. In many ways these cars can be considered a Monet, Picasso, or Van Gogh, only the artists are the likes of Pininfarina, Lyons, and Scaglione, among countless others. And like the art market, the car market can and does fluctuate, as our Rory Jurnecka often highlights in his Market Watch feature.

Back in the real world, what does all this record-setting auction action mean to you and me? Not much. But if you’re like me, you deeply appreciate what these cars represent, their place in the pantheon of automobiledom. My wife and I were just at the Louvre in Paris and had a chance to see the Mona Lisa. I was struck by the crowds around it, the fervor to get a look at it, a photo of it. These cars are the exact same thing. They evoke raw emotion and reverence. Like the Mona Lisa, their intrinsic worth is only what someone is willing to pay for them depending on the market. In the end, they’re inanimate objects, but ones worth honoring and admiring.

While price certainly is an object for the majority of us who can only afford to spend tens of thousands on a car as opposed to tens of millions, what you’ll never be able to put a number on is your own personal passion and enthusiasm for that special machine you have to own. And although auctions and local sales have been the go-to places for decades, finding said car or cars has become easier than ever thanks to the wonders of the interwebs. The classic vehicle market has opened up nationally and internationally thanks to sites like eBay Motors, Bringatrailer.com and many more. Now you can find even the most obscure models on the planet. Right, Jamie Kitman?

To be sure, the rich are different from you and me in a lot of ways (something I’m reminded of every year during Monterey Car Week). But I suspect their motivations are often the same when it comes to chasing after that car they simply have to have, when they hear that gavel crash down and know they finally own it.

Have you ever bought a car at auction? If so, what was the experience like for you? Also, what would you like to see more of from our auction coverage? Let us know at letters@automobilemag.com.

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