The 16th $20-million-car in history could sell this week
Cars that sell for more than $10 million are rare, but cars that sell for more than $20 million are very special indeed. There have only ever been 64 cars in history that have fetched more than USD $10 million at auction, and just 15 cars that have ever fetched more than $20 million ... and there might be another by the end of the week.
Even more curious is that the car that is likely to sell for more than USD $20.0 million went to auction in February at the official Retromobile Auction of Artcurial, where it received a bid of €20.0 million and the bid was deemed insufficient and the lot was passed in.
The car in question is a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM (Châssis n° 5901, Moteur n° 5901 in the Artcurial Catalogue), one of just 32 units made by Ferrari to replace the Ferrari 250 GTO as its primary sports racing car, but unlike all but one of the 32, this car never raced.
One of its sister cars (Chassis and motor 5893) won Le Mans in 1965, but this car became part of Luigi Chinetti's N.A.R.T (North American Racing Team) and it went to the Daytona 24 Hour Race in February 1966 all prepped and ready-to-rock as the spare car, but wasn't needed. When it got back to home base an offer was made and it sold without having had a wheel turn in anger.
Hence it has all original panels, original everything with matching numbers and it has never done the grandpa's-axe impersonation (six heads and five handles) that most race cars experience. It is completely original metal, which is several superlatives beyond rare, particularly for a car that has been to the summit and exists in such rare numbers.
It's also an explanation as to why the vendor decided to forgo the €20.0 million bid on 5 February and wait for the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it sat on display in the Artcurial Tent while history was made all around it. It didn't even feature a slot in the official June 30 Artcurial Le Mans Classic sale, preferring to go it alone as a single car auction to be held on 6 July 2023.
Just what happens on Thursday will be fascinating to watch, as that €20.0 million February bid with buyers premium added is €25.0 million and that translates to USD $26,977,500 - a price that would have made it the seventh highest price ever paid for a car at public auction.
There were only 32 examples of the Ferrari 250 LM constructed from 1963 to 1965, and 30 of them dominated the racetracks of the world for the next decade.
Much has been made about the collectibility of the Ferrari 250 GTO, which have attracted prices of US$38,115,000 in 2014 and US$48,405,000 in 2018, but those who have driven both a GTO and a 250 LM leave little doubt as to which is the better car.
British racing driver David Piper campaigned both in period and in a Classic & Sports Car article, he is quoted thus "I have lots of affection for LMs and still love driving mine. For me it's twice the car a GTO is and is still very underrated. It's more sophisticated, much quicker and the gearbox and steering are fabulous. On really fast circuits such as Daytona, Sebring, Le Mans and Reims, it was very quick in a straight line and would outperform many more powerful cars."
Finally, here are the cars and the links of the top 15 cars sold at auction in history: from the top by row, Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé ($143,653,500), 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO ($48,405,000), 1962-63 Ferrari 250 GTO ($38,115,000), 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport ($35,779,886), 1956 Ferrari 290 MM ($28,050,000), 1967 Ferrari 275 GTS/4 NART ($27,500,000), 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale ($26,400,000), 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 ($25,613,280), 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 ($22,550,000), 1955 Ferrari 410 Sport Spider ($22,005,000), 1956 Ferrari 290 MM ($22,005,000), 1935 Duesenberg Model SSJ ($22,000,000), 1955 Jaguar D-Type ($21,780,000), 1963 Aston Martin DP215 ($21,455,000) and 1995 McLaren F1 ($20,465,000).
Editor's note: The decision to turn down that €20.0 million bid on the 1964 Ferrari 250 LM was ultimately a costly one, because with buyers premium added it would have been a €25.0 million (USD $26,977,500) bid and in the end, the Ferrari 250 LM sold at its second auction for EUR €15,771,200 (USD $16,867,298)