You may have heard recently about a 29-year-old British man who sold a rare F1 McLaren vehicle for $5.5 million. Sound like a lot?
Pffft! It doesn’t even come close to a world record.
Car value is often determined by two things: The rarity of the vehicle itself, and the rich and sometimes bizarre history of the specific car. Here are the three most expensive cars ever sold, and how they fetched so much. (No word on how much car insurance costs for these puppies…)
#3) Mercedes Benz 540K Speziale Roadster
Sale Price: $12 Million
This sold so highly for two reasons: One, its unique history and, two, managing to avoid a dark period in the history of Mercedes.
See, the 540K is a fairly rare car and many of them were destroyed. Why? Because they were the preferred roadster of the Nazi Party. So when this one hit the market, it was one of the few Mercedes collectors could buy with a clear conscience. In fact, only 70 were ever made, and a fair number of those are of interest to the German government as historical items. Only a few, such as the custom car of Jack Warner of Warner Brothers fame, can even legally be sold.
Even more impressive was its odd past. Owned by a German baronness, the car was found in a barn in Connecticut, in pristine condition as if plucked from time. It even had cigarette butts with lipstick and vintage maps in the glove box. It was lovingly restored and sold to a collector at auction.
#2) 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa
Sale Price: $17 million and $13.5 million
Testa Rossa is Italian for “red head,” and between 1956 and 1961, only 34 of these machines were built. But they have one heck of a racing pedigree: A Testa Rossa won Le Mans in 1958, 1960, and 1961, and in fact, the two above sold for such high prices because they were lovingly-kept race winners. The only more valuable model than this one is the 250 GTO… and whatever one of those might be sold for, nobody knows: There’s no publicly available auction information.
#1) Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe
Sale Price: $20 million for the Kellner, $13 million for the Berlin De Voyager
Bugatti was arguably the last word in luxurious rides in the early part of the 20 century, but it was also a marque plagued by bad timing. Right when Bugatti was putting together the Bugatti Type 41 — a car aimed at being the most luxurious (and heaviest) car ever built — the Great Depression hit. Of a planned 25 cars, only six were made, and only three of those were sold.
The Kellner has an interesting history: It was hidden by the Bugatti family on their estate to avoid the Nazis taking it, and then sold in 1950 for $3000 and two refrigerators. That owner sold it to a Swedish real estate tycoon, and when he went bankrupt, it was sold to a Japanese company. Who currently owns it?
Nobody knows, believe it or not.
The Berlin, meanwhile, wound up being sold to the man who founded Domino’s. That’s a lot of pizza!