Regardless of whether the economy is in high gear or has downshifted, the collector-car market seems to cruise smoothly along at an impressive clip, as evidenced by the recent auctions on Florida’s Amelia Island. Complementing the annual Amelia Concours d’Elegance, which just had its 28th edition on March 5, were a host of sales events from leading automotive auction houses that took place in the days immediately preceding the exhibition.
A promising gauge of the collector market’s health, the live auctions hosted by RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Broad Arrow, and Gooding & Company set a record for Amelia. According to Hagerty, the classic-car insurer, curator of motoring experiences, and new owner of the concours, the total figure from all lots sold was $178.4 million, which reflected an 87 percent sell-through rate at an average lot price of $455,216.
“Besting the $140 million total from 2016, the  auctions at Amelia were successful by several different measures,” says Brian Rabold, Hagerty’s vice president of Automotive Intelligence. “Hagerty goes out and inspects the cars that are all offered for sale—we’ve been doing this for years—and this is one of the best years we’ve seen in terms of quality. All of the auction companies brought top-quality cars that sold for excellent prices, and, overall, that conspired to set the record.”
When asked about any patterns observed, Rabold mentions; “There are two trends we’ve been watching and that were really on display at Amelia Island. The first is analog supercars from the 1990s and 2000s—high-performance, low-production exotics. The other segment is the Radwood-era cars, those from the 1980s and ‘90s that appeal to collectors who are just starting to be active and who grew up around those cars, as well as more established collectors who recognize that those cars offer a lot of performance relative to older ones, and a lot more convenience.”
Yet when it came to the 10 most expensive cars sold at Amelia this year, it was mostly the long-revered manufacturers and models that reigned, with postwar Prancing Horses running away with many of the highest spots. All but three on this list are from Ferrari, while Gooding & Company and RM Sotheby’s were solely responsible for the highest sales. Here are the top results in ascending value.
1973 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider—$2,535,000 (Gooding & Company)
By now, even motorsport neophytes know the story of the 1966 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and how Ford bested Ferrari while finishing three abreast (with racer Ken Miles getting robbed of the win due to a technicality). What’s equally impressive, however, was Ferrari’s response. The following year, at the 24 Hours of Daytona, the Prancing Horse trampled the Blue Oval in the same side-by-side, trifecta fashion.
In 1969, Maranello made the 365 Gran Turismo Spider (GTS)/4, which was nicknamed the “Daytona” in homage to the decisive stateside victory. The timeless design is from Pininfarina while the aluminum-and-steel body was built by Carrozzeria Scaglietti. Crossing the auction block through Gooding & Company was chassis No. 16793, an example from 1973 that features a 352 bhp, 4.4-liter V-12 paired with a five-speed manual transaxle. Presented in Argento Metallizzato with a black interior, the pristinely restored car has kept its original chassis, body and drivetrain. Surprisingly, it only exceeded its low-end estimate by $35,000.
1953 Maserati A6GCS/53 Spyder—$2,590,000 (RM Sotheby’s)
Although Maserati is now more associated with grand tourers and sporty sedans, its early fame was forged by racing. After World War II, Ernesto Maserati—youngest founding brother of the namesake marque—had engine savant Gioacchino Colombo fine tune the former’s A6GCS six-cylinder mill and, while he was at it, reenvision the chassis. The finished product, the A6GCS/53, of which all but four out of the 52 examples made were bodied as spyders, missed the overall win at the 1953 Targa Florio but took the next two podium spots, as well as a subsequent class win at that year’s Mille Miglia.
The 1953 example presented by RM Sotheby’s has a provenance made more rarified by Juan Manuel Fangio. The racing great piloted it in front of would-be buyers and the media at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway. In the following decades, it went through numerous owners and competed in events ranging from the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1954 to the 2015 Mille Miglia Storica and 2016 Zoute Grand Prix road rallies. Its latest steward paid $2,590,000 for the honor of adding to its legacy.
1990 Ferrari F40 Coupe—$3,085,000 (Gooding & Company)
As Hagerty’s Brian Rabold told Robb Report, the demand for analog supercars is beginning to redline, as evidenced by this 1990 Ferrari F40 finishing in the top 10 overall at the Amelia auctions. The F40 is a milestone for multiple reasons, namely that it commemorates the marque’s 40th anniversary but, more poignantly, it was the last model that Enzo Ferrari saw developed to fruition. The project was born from the 288 GTO Evoluzione built for the Group B classification of racing through the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). The F40 was the street-legal successor that features a body by Scaglietti comprised of Kevlar, carbon fiber and fire-resistant Nomex. Powered by a 478 hp, twin-turbo fuel-injected V-8 with 426 ft lbs of torque, the car crests at 201.3 mph and can hit 62 mph from a standstill in 4.1 seconds.
Touted as one of only 213 examples built to US specifications, the F40 that sent Amelia bidders into a frenzy had only 1,236 miles on it when offered. Considering the F40 sold for just less than $400,000 when introduced 36 years ago, the $3,085,000 winning bid is a testament to this supercar’s superlative return on investment.
1953 Ferrari 250 MM Spider—$3,525,000 (Gooding & Company)
Automotive pedigree doesn’t get more premium than with the Ferrari 250 Mille Miglia (MM). The highly coveted model comprises only 31 examples, 12 of which were bodied by Vignale as spiders. After failing to finish in its initial race, the 1953 Giro di Sicilia, the 250 MM came back strong with a win at the same year’s Pebble Beach Road Races with Phil Hill behind the wheel.
A gleaming example from the golden age of motorsport, the variant presented by Gooding & Company is a Series II, which includes an off-set seat configuration and a fuel tank intended to go the distance with a nearly 40-gallon capacity. Most noteworthy is that it was one of the race cars that competed at that 1953 Giro Sicilia premiere before being campaigned often in Europe and South America. Chassis No. 0274 MM was eventually acquired by renowned Ferrari author and archivist Jess Pourret, who participated with the car in some of the most prestigious Ferrari-based drives and events, adding to its already impressive provenance.
1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 Coupe—$3,525,000 (Gooding & Company)
As implied in the moniker, Ferrari’s front-engined 275 Gran Turismo Berlinetta (GTB) featured a larger V-12 than its 250 GT predecessors. The engine now displaced close to 275 cc per cylinder (compared to 250 cc) and was equipped with four overhead camshafts (hence the “GTB/4” nomenclature). Another model drawn up by Pininfarina and wearing coachwork from Carrozzeria Scaglietti, the 275 GTB also has a five-speed manual transaxle and independent rear suspension. For the day, it was a car without compromise.
As far as auction results, this matching-numbers Prancing Horse, chassis No. 10803, finished in a dead heat with its 1953 stablemate listed above, and for good reason. With not even 10,800 miles on it in 56 years, the car had been with the same family for four decades. According to Gooding & Company’s lot description, it’s “one of the most original examples extant.” Yet that fact wasn’t enough to push it to its high-end estimate, which had been $4 million.
1985 Ferrari 288 GTO Coupe—$3,965,000 (RM Sotheby’s)
There’s a lot to be said for lineage. The Ferrari 288 Gran Turismo Omologata (GTO) spawned the Evoluzione variant that served as the springboard for the F40 after the FIA’s Group B class came to an abrupt end. Although the 288 GTO foreshadowed the F40’s ethos in its carbon-and-Kevlar construction and twin-turbo V-8, its own prominence in the collector market is well founded. While not quite as potent as the F40, the 288 GTO delivers 400 hp and 366 ft lbs of torque, output managed by a five-speed manual gearbox. This is enough to give the model a top speed of 189 mph and the ability to fire from zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. Those metrics presumably made it “the fastest road car ever produced at the time of its unveiling,” according to the RM Sotheby’s lot description.
For its Amelia auction, RM Sotheby’s brought chassis No. 56773, one of 272 produced for the public. It had been owned by the same family for the past 22 years and only had been driven 4,965 miles in total by the time the auction house received it. With Ferrari Classiche certification, it has its original body, engine, and gearbox, which explains its place among the top five most valued vehicles on this list.
1931 Duesenberg Model J Murphy Convertible Coupe—$4,295,000 (RM Sotheby’s)
Surprisingly, only one prewar car cracked the top 10 when it came to highest bids—this stunning, two-tone 1931 Duesenberg Model J Murphy Convertible Coupe. The Duesenberg brothers had begun making automobiles early in the 20th century as basically powerful and beautifully built chassis and engines that provided the underpinnings for artisan coachbuilders to use as a canvas. Sadly, the Great Depression eventually helped drive the stateside marque out of business.
Chassis No. 2414 features the “Disappearing Top” coachwork by the Walter M. Murphy Company of Southern California, and is one of only 25 examples dressed in this bodywork. With such a striking presence, it’s no wonder that, roughly a decade after it was made, it caught the eye of George Schweiger Jr, owner of a rental agency responsible for many of the star cars seen on the big screen during the period. This one was featured in a photo shoot with Jayne Mansfield as well as the film What Happened to Baby Jane? with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Another moment in the sun came when it won its Class at the 2005 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
1995 Ferrari F50 Coupe—$5,065,000 (RM Sotheby’s)
Another milestone model from the Prancing Horse, the F50 honors the, you guessed it, Golden Anniversary of Ferrari. Upping the ante from the F40, this commemorative car—with a removable hardtop—features the former’s body composition of Kevlar, carbon-fiber and Nomex, but Pininfarina gave it styling that’s more organic and curvaceous. The F50 is also more of a fury than its predecessor, with a 513 hp, naturally aspirated V-12—derived from Ferrari’s 1992 Formula 1 machine—that gives it a top speed of nearly 202 mph and allows it to crush zero to 62 mph in less than 3.9 seconds.
Of the 349 produced, the F50 presented by RM Sotheby’s was the 36th example made and had the same owner from new until last year. Complete with custom luggage and only 834 miles on it, the car crossed the auction block for more than $5 million.
2010 Pagani Zonda R Coupe—$5,340,000 (RM Sotheby’s)
In the automotive world, Horacio Pagani is a modern-day Leonardo da Vinci, a futurist and innovator with not only a clear vision, but the exceedingly rare ability to execute it without compromise. A student and ardent admirer of Leonardo, Pagani has adopted his Renaissance mentor’s “Art and Science” ethos and applies it to supercar creations without equal. The Pagani Zonda R is one such masterwork. Debuted in 1999, the Zonda put Pagani on the map, but the man behind the machines keeps pushing boundaries and, in 2007, premiered the Zonda R for clients looking to take it to the next level on a closed course. With its 780 hp, 6.0-liter V-12—adopted from the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR racer—and six-speed sequential transaxle, the Zonda R can cover zero to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds and reach 233 mph. And any question of its performance prowess was resoundingly silenced when it set a production-car lap record at the Nürburgring in 2010.
That same year, chassis No. 05 was built, one of the only 10 examples of the Zonda R that were made. Four years later it was given Pagani’s “Revolución Specification” that included enhancements such as a 30 hp increase in output, improved dampers, magnesium wheels, and additional aero considerations. Selling through RM Sotheby’s for $5,340,000, the car also presents the opportunity to enter the 2023 Pagani Art in Pista series comprising a total of 10 track days in various parts of the world.
1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider—$18,045,000 (Gooding & Company)
No matter how rarified the field, there is always one player that stands out and turns heads, whether it’s the iconic actor that hushes an already star-studded room or the Olympic athlete that makes the rest of the competition look like a junior-varsity squad. At this year’s Amelia Island auctions, that automotive performer was a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider, the only one of its kind in a breathtaking aquamarine color scheme.
This variant of the 250 GT was the brainchild of Ferrari’s stateside importers Luigi Chinetti and John von Neumann, both looking for the ideal model for the Golden State’s ideal weather. Offered with either a long wheelbase (LWB) or a shorter one (SWB), the car soon became the quintessential roadster, with only the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL even coming close. Of the 106 examples of the 250 GT California Spider made, a total of 56 were SWB versions, and only 37 were fit with covered headlights. The car at auction is one of the latter, and is believed to have been one of the display cars at the 1962 New York International Auto Show. It once again drew attention when it hammered for more than $18 million through Gooding & Company. It’s a sum made more impressive by the fact that the car was sold by a previous owner for $2,400 in 1972.