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The 5 most expensive cars

1995 McLaren F1

Photo: Mike Maez | Gooding & Co.

The Super Bowl of super-rich car collecting kicks off in Monterey, California, this week as more than $300 million worth of rolling trophies comes up for auction.

After an unexpected surge in classic car sales and prices during the coronavirus pandemic, Monterey Car Week and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance marks the biggest test of demand for the most expensive classic cars. Lingering health concerns over Covid and a lack of international buyers will also cast a shadow over an event that typically gathers tens of thousands of wealthy car fans to attend parties, launch events, races and auctions.

So far, however, sales and auctions are shaping up to be some of the strongest on record.

“There is huge pent-up demand,” said McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty, the classic car insurance and collector services company. “This week could be extraordinary.”

More than 1,000 vehicles are expected to come up for auction this week, according to Hagerty. Total sales are expected to reach $325 million — up 28% over 2019, the most recent year for sales after the event was canceled last year due to Covid. Monterey is known for having the most prized and expensive cars, and this year at least 115 vehicles are expected to fetch $1 million or more.

All the major car auction companies — from Gooding & Co., to RM Sotheby’s, Mecum and Bonhams — save some of their best collections and most prized cars for the ultra-wealthy Monterey crowd. Mecum this year has “The Big Al Collection,” a fleet of more than 80 cars that includes everything from Corvettes and Camaros to a seven-figure LaFerrari and rare Porsches.

Mecum CEO Dave Magers said the company is seeing the strongest demand in its history, with much of it coming from new collectors who started learning about classic cars online during the pandemic and are now bidding online. Mecum’s sell-through rate, or the percentage of cars coming up for auction that actually sell, is running about about 85% this year — much higher than historical averages.

“When the sell-through rate goes up, prices go up,” he said. “Everything is lifted.”

Gooding will be selling the collection of the late rock star Neil Peart, the famed drummer and lyricist for the band Rush. The collection includes a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 (of James Bond fame) expected to fetch up to $725,000, a 1964 Shelby Cobra 289, expected to top $1 million, and a 1970 Lamborghini Miura that could sell for $1.5 million.

“The buyers right now don’t hesitate,” said Gooding CEO David Gooding. “If they want something, they go for it. It’s an attitude of ‘things are uncertain, I’m not going to wait.'”

Here are the top five cars by estimated sale price coming up for auction this week, according to Hagerty.

1995 McLaren F1

1995 McLaren F1

Photo: Mike Maez | Gooding & Co.

Gooding & Co. estimate is in excess of $15 million.

Jay Leno once called the McLaren F1 the best four-wheeled investment he ever made. McLaren only built 106 F1s, and they originally retailed for under $900,000. Now, F1s often trade for more than $20 million. Known as the “Formula 1 car for the road,” the F1 is often credited with relaunching the McLaren sports car brand and ushering in the modern super car era, with highly specialized vehicles designed to dominate on the track and on the road, with a top speed of 240 mph.

The F1 being sold by Gooding is especially prized because it only has less than 250 miles on it, making it what many call a “one-off time-capsule” car. Painted in a striking “Creighton Brown,” it has been kept and meticulously maintained by a Japanese collector since its purchase. “This is fresh to the market, never-before seen,” Gooding said.

1970 Porsche 917 K

1970 Porsche 917 K

Source: RM Sotheby’s

RM Sotheby’s estimate is between $16 million to $18.5 million.

The Porsche 917 K was a legend in racing, and the car being sold by RM Sotheby’s has special star power as the winning car in Steve McQueen’s classic film “Le Mans.” It was rebuilt at the Porsche factory in 1971 and continued to race for another two years on the track and for the next two decades at historic events.

A different Porsche 917 K that also appeared in “Le Mans” was sold by Gooding at Pebble Beach in 2017 for $14 million.

1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato

1962 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagat

Source: RM Sotheby’s

RM Sotheby’s estimate is between $11 million to $14 million.

In 1962, Aston Martin built the ultimate DB4 for both the road and track, called the DB4 GT Zagato. Only 19 were ever built, so they rarely come up for sale. The car being sold by RM Sotheby’s was owned by the late car collector Paul Andrews, and has the original engine.

1959 Ferrari 250 California LWB Spider Competizione

1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione

Source: Gooding&Co.

Gooding & Co. estimate is between $10 million and $12 million.

The Ferrari 250 GT California Spider is part of car collecting royalty — famed for its timeless style, rarity and performance on the race track. Or as Ferris Bueller famously described his joy ride for the day, “It’s so choice.” Ferrari made only 106 Cal Spiders, which is one reason they have traded for more than $18 million.

The car being sold by Gooding is more geared toward racing, hence the “competizione” badge. Ferrari only made 50 of the long-wheel-base variations of the Cal Spider, and only 10 of those were prepared new by the factory for competition, making this one of the rarest of the rare Cal Spiders. This particular car was built for amateur racing driver Dott. Ottavio Randaccio, who raced it in several Italian circuit races and hill climbs. With its Italian-colored paint scheme and meticulous restoration, the car could easily top its estimate.

1998 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLK GTR

1998 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLK GTR

Photo: Josh Hway | Gooding & Co.

Gooding & Co. estimate is between $8 million to $10.5 million.

As part of its racing program, AMG developed the CLK GTR, which won the FIA GT championship in 1997 and dominated the track in 1998. To comply with the racing rules, AMG had to build 25 CLK GTR’s that were legal for the road, which makes them among the rarest in the world. The car being sold by Gooding is the ninth of the 25 built and has less than 900 miles on the odometer. The car is powered by a 6.9-liter V-12 that generates 604 horsepower and has a top speed of 214 mph. And of course, it’s painted in Mercedes’ signature silver racing color.

Correction: This article was updated to correct some of the auction house estimates. Gooding & Co. estimates the McLaren F1 will sell for more than $15 million and the Mercedes-Benz will go for up to $10.5 million. RM Sotheby’s estimates the Porsche could nab as much as $18.5 million and the Aston Martin could fetch up to $14 million.