250 GTO Sets Ferrari Record at $26M

After the doom-and-gloom of late 2008 and a painful 2009, dealers and collectors at events like the Scottsdale auctions, Cavallino, and Rétromobile in Paris are abuzz with the news of record-setting, top-level trades.

There’s a lot of very specific info contained in this column, and you might wonder where it all comes from. In fact, I have been trading in the Ferrari market since 1974, and have been “trainspotting,” i.e. collecting chassis numbers and histories, all that time.

In addition, all of us Ferrari chassis-number-chasers talk to each other (or, in today’s world, email) constantly. Plus, web sites like anamera.com and barchetta.cc have up-to-the-minute postings about expensive collector cars that have sold.

Of course, it’s SCM’s policy not to reveal the names of the participants in private transactions, unless they have already been identified in the press. So buckle your seat belt, and hang on. It’s been a great ride for exotics the past few months.

The market has launched
In the last few months, over a dozen ultra-high-end Ferraris have changed hands. Two examples from the 1950s include the ex-Lorenzo Zambrano 166 MM Touring barchetta, s/n 0058M, and the ex-Manny Del Arroz 375 MM, s/n 0490AM, both trading in the $5m range.

Both cars were stellar: s/n 058M is one of the most original barchettas in existence, while s/n 0490AM was an amazing barn find. When restored, it became one of few Ferraris to win its class with 100 points at Pebble Beach.

All these were no-stories cars with bulletproof history
Jumping to the 1960s, 250 GTO s/n 3943 has just sold for a Ferrari world record price of $26m; Ferrari 275 GTB/C s/n 9057 was sold after Rétromobile for $3.475m and 275 GTS/4 NART spyder s/n 11057 sold for $7m. Again, these were “no-stories” cars, with the GTO described by Ferrari historians as “bulletproof” in its race and ownership history; 275 GTB/C s/n 9057 was one of only twelve very light third series 275 GTB/Cs built; while all ten 275 GTB/4 NART spyders have “no-stories” histories.

From the 1970s, Ferrari 512 M s/n 1030 sold for $2.9m, while 365 GTB/4C Daytona s/n 14437 sold for $3.5m. Both were excellent examples, with the 512 M described in Ferrari historian circles as “never crashed, no stories, with a well-documented race history,” while the Daytona is one of only five first series alloy-bodied Competition Daytonas.

The ultimate car deal
Looking further into the sale of 250 GTO s/n 3943, I believe this will be regarded as the best “car deal” of the year, if not the decade. Major collections were expected to come to market at distress prices in 2008–09, but only the Kroymans Collection did. A veteran mega-car dealer in the San Francisco area sold his 250 GTO to buy the Kroymans Collection for $23.6m—in essence he sold his bulletproof-history 250 GTO for a full market price of $26m to purchase a lesser 250 GTO, s/n 4757, for a deeply discounted number in the $15m–$17m range, plus 21 other collectible Ferraris from the Kroymans Collection for a distressed price of about $6.6m.

The best long-term buy of all time?
This author sold 166 MM s/n 0058M in November 1998 for a far more modest $1.2m, so the latest sale as mentioned above at $5m represents a serious long-term market improvement. Going longer term, the seller of 250 GTO s/n 3943 bought it in 1983 for $300k, so the sale of that car for $26m must be the best long-term buy of all time.

This author knows 512 M s/n 1030 well, having sold it in April 1994 for $825,000, so the recent sale for $2.9m represents yet another long-term hold and great gain. As for the 275 GTB/4 NART spyder, in January 1998, s/n 11057 sold to the recent owner/seller for $1.5m, so his recent $7m sale represents another strong long-term gain.

Using the few 275 GTB/4 NART spyders as examples of appreciation indicators, we begin with the purchase of s/n 11057 for $1.5m in January 1998. Months later, in August 1998, John Moores’s 275 GTB/4 NART, s/n 10691, sold at Christie’s Pebble Beach auction to a Seattle collector for $2,092,500. There were no other sales until August 2005, when 275 GTB/4 NART s/n 9437 sold at Gooding Pebble Beach for $3,960,000.

The latest sale of s/n 11057 at $7m has now redefined the ever-upward 275 GT/4 NART market, and the next sale will almost certainly be for more. As a car guy, I have to say that the best-of-the-best Ferraris beat the hell out of stocks, bonds, or real estate.

Aston DB3S and Jaguar D-type set records
Moving to the best-of-the-best British cars, Aston Martin DB3S Works team car s/n DB3S8 has traded hands at $7.2m, while Jaguar D-type Works team car s/n XKD603 has traded for close to $10m—both record prices.

But again, look at the provenance. DB3S8 was a Works car, finishing 1st at Spa with Paul Frere driving, followed by runs at Le Mans, Sebring, Nürburgring, and Silverstone. Meanwhile, XKD603 was another Works car, with a 2nd at Le Mans in 1957 and races at Silverstone, Nürburgring, Reims, and more. To bring more tears to the eyes of those who wish they had bought classics many years ago, XKD603 was purchased by the recent seller in 1976 for a mere $14,400, yet another great long-term investment.

Cobra Daytona, GT40, and Corvette Grand Sport join the party
In the world of the best American iron, Shelby Cobra Daytona s/n CSX2601 has been sold to a collector in Argentina for $8m, GT40 s/n 1046 was sold for $9.2m, and Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport s/n 002 was sold for $4.5m.

The Cobra Daytona was the FIA Championship-winning car, finishing 2nd at Sebring and 1st at Monza, at Spa, at Nürburgring, and at Reims. GT40 s/n 1046 has the distinction of being the 1966 Le Mans winner, while Grand Sport s/n 002 is one of only two Grand Sport roadsters built, finishing 1st in class at Sebring in 1966.

All these big sales were private treaty
All of this represents a sea-change in pricing across the top end world of collector cars, from Ferraris to Astons to Jags to American iron. What is interesting is that every sale was a quiet private transaction. There is no lack of buyers at this level, most value their privacy, and very few owner-sellers are willing to take this level of exotica to auction and risk a low bid in front of the wrong audience that would diminish the value of their car.

However, mere mortals can take comfort in upward movement in the low-to-mid-level Ferrari market as well. In Scottsdale, 330 GTC s/n 11517 sold for a very impressive $374k at Gooding, and 250 PF Cab s/n 1803 sold for an equally impressive $797k at Russo and Steele. I believe we’ll continue to see both auction sales and private sales grow steadily this year. There’s new-found confidence in the collector car market, and buyers are speaking loudly with their wallets and wire transfers.

Ferrari Historic Challenge bites the dust
On a more somber note, on January 22, Antonello Coletta, the head of Ferrari Corse Clienti, announced the suspension of the Shell Ferrari Historic Challenge in Europe after 14 years. While a single event will be organized for historic Ferraris at the World Finals, the European Ferrari Historic Challenge is effectively dead.

The North American Ferrari Historic Challenge opened as usual at the Cavallino Classic, but Ferrari North America has not scheduled any further events. Though there is no lack of vintage races, from the Mille Miglia Storica and Monterey Historics to the Le Mans Classic and Tour Auto, the Shell Ferrari Challenge was special, bringing out diehard Ferrari fans who will now surely miss it. And without question, the demise will seriously impact the value of the 430 Challenge cars that were already a hard sell, as now they have no exclusive parties at which to play.