Thanks to Mother Nature, many classic-car owners can't enjoy their vehicles on the open road in late January. So why not travel to balmy metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, and buy another car or three for the collection? Or perhaps offload some extras? At the 2016 Arizona auction week, no fewer than six auction houses sold 2491 cars (of 3104 offered) for $250.6 million to paddle-wielders in Arizona and to online bidders.
Barrett-Jackson arguably made the Arizona auctions famous with its extensive television coverage and seven-figure muscle cars, and its sales totaled $103 million this year. RM Sotheby's, however, dominated this year's list of megadollar individual cars, thanks in large part to "the most valuable automobile ever sold in Arizona auction-week history," a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster. Gooding & Company, Bonhams, Russo and Steele, and Silver Auctions rounded out the sales companies, offering cars for various sizes of pocketbooks.
Hagerty, the classic-car insurance company, tracked the results from each auction house. The following represent their account of the 25 priciest vehicles that were hammered as sold. Hmm . . . 25 cars out of 2491 is one percent. Seems appropriate, no?
The SA Aperta was a special model to celebrate the 80th birthday of Pininfarina, Ferrari's longtime design partner. As such, just 80 were built. The one sold in Arizona has just 1200 miles on the clock and wears Rosso Fuoco paint. Included in the sale were the factory leather floor mats—still in their delivery case—a factory hardtop with an accessory storage case that cost $10,000, and an extra U.S.-spec instrument cluster. Oh, and a clean Carfax report. Whew.
There's something to be said for being first, and in the case of , that something is that two worthy causes, namely the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and Camp Southern Ground, get healthy infusions of cash. Plenty of carmakers have adopted the practice of auctioning the first-off-the-line models for charity, and the $1.2 million that Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports and the Hendrick Automotive Group dropped on NSX #001 seems like a pretty fair price to pay to do some good.
Heir to a meat-packing fortune, Briggs Cunningham approached automobile racing with the zeal that only deep pockets can provide. Forced to produce at least twenty-five roadgoing examples to be qualified for entry at Le Mans in 1952, Cunningham leapt into action, contracting with Vignale of Italy to create coachwork for his Chrysler Hemi–powered cars. The third car bodied by Vignale, this is one of nineteen coupes produced and the only car from the run to have seen active racing action. It was restored after spending many years in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. At $1,210,000, the high bidder is not only getting a car, but a chunk of midcentury Americana.
The follow-up to one of the most iconic cars ever conceived, , the roadster launched in late 1957. This example was originally finished in light blue over red leather, but ended up with a white leather interior, whitewall tires—and the nickname "Liberace." A recent total restoration saw the adoption of the current color scheme, which RM claims is rare among SL roadsters, as well as new chrome and glass. The engine and chassis are numbers-matching, and it still has its original Becker Mexico radio and U.S.-spec sealed-beam headlamps.
This SS100 Jaguar is, according to the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust, the last 2½-Litre chassis built in 1939. Purchased by Belgian coachbuilder Van den Plas (not to be confused with British coachbuilder Vanden Plas) as a basis for a custom body prior to World War II, the chassis was stored in hiding until after the conflict, at which time it finally received its bodywork. One of two Van den Plas–bodied Jaguars exhibited at the 1948 Brussels Motor Show, the car made its way stateside in the 1990s, eventually finding its way into the hands of a well-respected restorer in California. After restoration, the car was preserved in climate-controlled storage, a fact no doubt considered by the bidders who drove its price to $1,402,500.
One of two examples built by Italian coachbuilder Ghia, this Series 62 coupe has been in a private collection for decades. Although very little documentation exists of its earlier life, rumors link the Ghia-built Cadillacs to both Rita Hayworth and John Perona, owner of Manhattan's El Morocco nightclub. Ultra-low-volume coachbuilt classics like this don't come along very often, and its hammer price of $1,430,000 seems like a bargain, regardless of pedigree.
Coming relatively late in the production run, this 300SL roadster has the bulk of improvements made over the model's life cycle, including an aluminum version of its direct-injected inline-six engine and four-wheel disc brakes. Said to have covered just 93,000 miles since new, this stunning SL still wears its original color scheme, packs its factory-installed engine, and has had no body panels replaced.
This Mercedes has almost as much eye appeal as the top-selling car on this list, another 540K that sold for more than six times this Benz's price. So what if this one originally had a "Cabriolet B" body and wears a later "Cabriolet A" conversion? We'd still take it.
In 1991, as "the closest you'll ever come to experiencing a nervous breakdown." In today's vernacular, we might call it "batshit crazy." This car has barely 3700 miles on it, and the total was surely rolled in small chunks. It's doubtful that the included three-piece Schedoni leather luggage set was ever filled for a cross-country excursion, but there's still hope.
The 5000GT came about because the Shah of Iran didn't think the standard Maserati 3500GT was special enough for him. So, upon the Shah's request, Maserati engineered a way to invigorate the 3500GT chassis with the new 5.0-liter V-8 destined for the 450S racing car. How rare is the 5000GT? Maserati made only 34 copies, and eight coachbuilders handled body-building duties. Allemano made the majority, 20, but that doesn't make this Maser any less lustworthy in our eyes.
We're quite familiar with the brawn of Porsche's incredible, 887-hp hybridized 918 Spyder, having run one to 60 mph in . That's still the quickest time we've ever recorded from a production car, and the 918 also for our annual Lightning Lap extravaganza, which it set in 2014. This particular example was built in late 2014 and fitted with a plethora of options, including the performance-enhancing Weissach package. This bundle cost more than $80,000 and cut 88 pounds of mass via magnesium center-lock wheels, lighter pull straps in place of door handles, cloth seat upholstery, and the deletion of the glove box, air conditioning, and audio system, among other changes. The bundle also rendered the windshield frame, side-mirror caps, and removable targa panel in clear-coated carbon fiber, and swapped in a carbon rear anti-roll bar.
As opposed to the high-strung (and now eight-figure) 250GT California, the 250GT cabriolet "was a true gentleman's Ferrari designed for high-speed touring in comfort," according to RM Sotheby's. This car, number 98 of 200, originally was sold in Belgium and has also resided in Oklahoma, Texas, California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Hawaii. We're sad that its next stop won't be our garage in Michigan.
How much is 900 miles worth to you? In the case of this 918 Spyder, that amount is $200,000—that's the premium it commanded over other 918 on this list, which had clocked nearly 1500 miles by the time of its sale. Otherwise, this 595-mile example appears to be essentially identical to the other one, having also left the factory with the optional Weissach package, high-end Burmester audio system, front-axle lift system, and a few other baubles.
Recently treated to a comprehensive freshening, this 275GTS is number 167 of only 200 examples built. When Car and Driver reviewed the 275GTS in the pages of our October 1965 issue we proclaimed, "Our fears that the 275GTS might be a compromise were groundless. This car is all Ferrari, from its low, throaty whine to the snick-snick of its five synchro gears." Given the sheer financial feats of bravado that Ferrari buyers are known for, we're kind of surprised it didn't bring more than $1,760,000.
Designed by Marcello Gandini at the ripe old age of 27, the Miura is arguably the first car to deserve the "supercar" moniker. Claimed to be the only Miura SV ever delivered with a Bleu Medio finish, this example was refinished in its current Giallo Fly yellow color scheme some years ago. One of only 11 Miuras to be outfitted with a single (versus split) oil sump and reportedly one of five to be delivered to the U.S. with air conditioning, it's no wonder the bidding hit the $2 million mark.
Along with the 918 Spyder and the Ferrari LaFerrari, the P1 ushered in the age of the megapower hybridized hypercar. Rocketing to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds, the P1 reduced our reviewer to a quivering, expletive-spewing blob when . The one sold by Bonham's in Arizona is number 371 of the 375-unit production run and is the final U.S.-market car built. Showing fewer than 300 miles from new, this P1 was ordered with more than $100,000 in options and included all of the factory accessories like the customized scale replica given to the original owner, the charging station, and its tools and books.
Built in April 1965 and certified by Ferrari's Classiche program, this 275GTB was sold new to an American but spent its first year on the road in Europe before coming to the New World. The color isn't original—it was changed from Bleu Scuro (dark blue) during restoration—but it looks fantastic in the current Azzurro, and the auction company believes the 48,704 miles on the odometer might be the actual total.
You're looking at one of just 23 competition 427 Cobras ever built—the 10th, in fact. Sold originally to the son of the South Carolina governor in 1965, who planned to use it on both street and track, he deemed the car "too wild" and sold it just two months after taking delivery. It subsequently was driven to the 1968 SCCA A-Production national championship—wearing actual gold-leaf stripes as seen here—by its third owner. Rolled in a race by the next owner in 1971, at which point it also lost its original engine, the car was sold three additional times by 1978 before being restored in the 1980s. It changed hands just twice more over the next three decades, with the 1978 buyer taking possession again in 2012.
The follow-up to the twin-turbocharged, insaniac F40, the V-12–powered F50 hit 60 mph from a stop in just 3.8 seconds in . Claimed to hit 202 mph by the factory, our owner-supplied example topped out at 194 mph—but that's still hellaciously fast. The F50 seen here originally was used as a promotional tool and show car, having been the car placed upon the stand at the model's 1995 Geneva auto show debut. It also is claimed to have seen use as a development chassis and been piloted by Niki Lauda and Jean Alesi. It was sold into private ownership in 1998 before being imported and federalized to U.S. regulations in 2007. The car shows just over 1000 miles on its odometer and was sold with its original factory hardtop and books—no word if it also came with the F50 driving shoes that were included with other examples of the breed.
Sold new to John Duval Dodge, son of John F. Dodge of Dodge Brothers car company fame, this is reported to be the only Duesenberg Model J delivered new to a customer in Detroit. A winner of multiple concours, this LeBaron-bodied Duesy has a well-documented history and underwent a complete restoration beginning in 2008. Later, it won Best in Show, American, at the 2010 Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance, held, appropriately, on the grounds of the Dodge mansion. The next month, it earned Second in Class at Pebble Beach. Not too shabby.
If we had access to an Enzo—the spiritual successor to the F50 and the F40 also appearing on this list—for a dozen years, it definitely would have racked up a lot more than the 2700 miles on this car. Here's hoping that the new owner will exercise that 6.0-liter V-12 in our neighborhood, just so we can hear its howl. That was one of the many standout aspects of the Enzo experience when back in 2003.
With a well-documented history of ownership among noted West Coast car collectors, this Murphy-bodied Duesenberg is built on a Model J chassis. This highly collectible model showed just a tick over 17,000 miles on the odometer at the time of auction. Bidders responded with predicable enthusiasm for this rare find.
One of only four examples built, this Ferrari checks all the boxes that can turn an auction into a bidding war: a well-documented history including numerous photo shoots; a V-12 engine; several Ferrari club showings; and a well-known previous owner, in this case Maria Maddalena Da Lisca, the wife of pasta manufacturer Pietro Barilla. Originally painted in silver, the car was refinished in this dark metallic blue after being exported to the U.S. in the early 1970s. At $3,410,000, it landed a little shy of its $4,000,000 estimate.
You're not the first person who fell in love with this car at first glance. None other than Briggs Cunningham (see car #23 on this list) bought this car directly from the Ferrari stand at the 1950 Paris auto show. Months later, it finished first in class at the inaugural event at Sebring International Raceway, a six-hour marathon, at the hands of Ferrari's distributor in America, Luigi Chinetti. In more tame applications, it's been displayed at Goodwood, Pebble Beach, and Monaco.
This beauty outsold the next-priciest Arizona offering by more than $3 million. Why? Well, it's one of only "a handful" of preproduction 540Ks extant. Many people consider the 540K to be the most beautiful "interwar" automobile. This long two-seater is the most desirable 540K Special Roadster configuration, according to RM Sotheby's, which means high doors, a long tail, and left-hand drive. Six such cars are thought to remain today. It originally was sold in New York to an heir of Corning Glass for about $14,000, or more than $230,000 in today's money. It's totally original, with only about 10,000 miles on the odometer. The car's history is completely documented, and it has almost always been "a centerpiece of great collections." At this price, that status won't change.