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Old 02-04-2011, 10:38 AM   #1
Always under your radar!
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Default Million-Dollar Dream Cars

On Jan. 22 a 1963 Pontiac ambulance sold for $132,000 at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Ariz. The price is notable because the gray Bonneville was expected to sell for much more than that–it was said to have carried President John F. Kennedy from Air Force One to the capitol after he was killed.

But a series of questions about the car’s authenticity meant that an estimated $1 million price tag was greatly reduced.

Ray Wert, editor-in-chief of the car blog Jalopnik, which first reported the inquiry, says that while JFK’s mysterious ambulance not a case of fraud per se, it does raise questions about due diligence in the classic car world.

Indeed, just like in the art world, authenticating a classic car is essential for establishing its value. The ambulance didn’t meet its pricing expectations, but many other cars last year did bring in $1 million and more: a $6.71 million 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza Brianza Spider and a $5.84 million 1937 BMW 328 MM “Buegelfalte” each made our list of the top 10 most expensive cars sold at auction last year. This list of million-dollar classics has the others.

Behind the Numbers

A 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta We created this list using data provided by Hagerty Insurance, a Traverse City, Mich-based company that specializes in insuring classic cars. The sales prices quoted in this story include the buyer’s commissions collected by the auction houses.

The cars include models from Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, BMW, Ferrari, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Talbot-Lago. They span in date from a 1927 Mercedes-Benz S Boattail Speedster to a 1964 Aston Martin DB5–which brought in a $4.1 million payout, helped in large part by its identity as the James Bond car.

The ‘27 Mercedes is notable because it embodies Mercedes’ world-dominating engineering in a strikingly beautiful design aesthetic–a feat unusual for Mercedes at the time, says McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty Insurance.

“Mercedes had a very high level of perfectionism in the way that they built their cars, but the downside is not a lot of them are very pretty in comparison to others of the same era,” Hagerty says. “The Talbot Lago, for instance, has that swoopy, beautiful, delicate shape, while some of the Mercedes are considered ponderous–they’re heavier, and they didn’t have the same kind of performance.”

The Boattail speedster, however, is one of the prettiest body styles you could put on any car, Hagerty says. There just aren’t many pre-war Benzes that look as good.

Ferrari Leads the Pack

The No. 1 car on our list is the 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione, which sold for $7.26 million by Gooding & Co. at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance last August. The California Spider features a 508 D chassis, covered headlights and the most powerful engine still fitted to a California Spider, a Tipo 168. In short, it’s notable for its vintage (1959 was a halcyon year for the Italian marquee), its brand and its configuration.

Anything built in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s with that cavallino rampante on it has maintained strong sales in the past few years, even through the recession. The fact that the California Spider Competizione is a so-called Enzo Ferrari–one developed by the company founder himself–makes it even better.

“Ferrari seems to be the gold standard,” says Bill Warner, founder and chairman of The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

The other reason the Ferrari (and others on the list, like the $3.74 million 1956 Jaguar D-Type Sports Racer) did so well is its racing blood.

“It’s that last word–competizione–that gets it,” Hagerty says. “That’s like the Holy Grail of being a really cool vehicle that was meant to be raced.”

Other Ferraris that cracked our top 10 include the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta, which went for $6.11 million; the 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Berlinetta, which fetched $4.62 million; and the 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica Cabriolet Pininfarina SWB, which earned $3.7 million.

Prices Going Up This Year

If last year’s list of top sellers looks good, just wait. Total sales at the Scottsdale Auctions in Arizona last week were near 2007 levels; Gooding cleared $64.59 million at its Pebble Beach auction, the highest-ever recorded sales total in its Pebble Beach history (competitor RM Auctions culled $67 million in sales at its own off-site events).

Hagerty says classics sellers can expect a strong year in 2011. Warner takes a more conservative view–the “really good stuff” (Ferrari California Spider, Ferrari short-wheel-base Berlinettas) will always sell well, but the less-good stuff will go for less than expected, he says.

What does that mean for prospective buyers? Do your homework before going to a sale–know what you want and talk with people who are experts on that subject. And balance your budget before you leave. There’s no need to borrow against Junior’s college education just to get a sweet ride that may, on a good year, gain only a few percentage points in value.

Most importantly, be ready to get competitive.

“There are still a lot of very, very wealthy people in the world who are building car collections,” Hagerty says. “They’re not going to be the only one in the market bidding on what they want.”

Top Five Million-Dollar Cars

1959 Ferrari 250 GT

#1: 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione

Price: $7.26 million

Sold by: Gooding & Co.

1933 Alfa Romeo 8C

No. 2: 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza Brianza Spider

Price: $6.71 million

Sold by: Gooding & Co.

1961 Ferrari 250 GT

No. 3: 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta

Price: $6.11 million

Sold by: Gooding & Co.

1937 BMW 328

No. 4: 1937 BMW 328 MM 'Buegelfalte'

Price: $5.84 million

Sold by: RM Auctions

1938 Talbot-Lago T150

No. 5: 1938 Talbot-Lago T150 Competition Lago Speciale Teardrop Coupe

Price: $4.62 million

Sold by: RM Auctions

Click here to see the full list of Million-Dollar Dream Cars

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Old 02-04-2011, 01:56 PM   #2
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I always see so many cars/trucks I'd buy on Barrett-Jackson if I had money. I don't know about buying a car and never driving it though (can't see anyone ever driving any of these dream cars), seems like quite an indulgence - to buy a million-dollar+ car and simply garaging it?
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Old 02-04-2011, 02:01 PM   #3
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I could/would never buy a car and not drive it. They weren't built to be trophies, they were built to be driven.
Those prices are just ludicrous haha
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Old 02-04-2011, 02:13 PM   #4
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aka Sunday cars. IF you have money, you could afford to have that type of luxury, to drive a different car, every week, heck... even every day
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Old 02-04-2011, 07:30 PM   #5
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It's a different world and mindset at that price. It's less about enjoying the car, and more about being a steward for its continued existence.
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