Image: 1965 Aston Martin DB5 featuring in the James Bond films Goldfinger and Thunderball, sold for A$8.7 million in 2019 | Source: Bonhams

Motorsport History: The Most Memorable Classic Cars to Sell Under the Hammer

The captivating world of classic car auctions is where the rarest, most expensive and exotic cars exchange hands for mega sums of cash. For years auctions have been the holy grail for car collectors. An opportunity to acquire a unique item that may never go up for sale anywhere else.

A 1962 Ferrari GTO sold for almost A$66 million in 2018. In 2021, the largest live auction audience ever was recorded when Lewis Hamilton’s winning formula one McLaren went under the hammer. “The most famous car in the world,” a James Bond Aston Martin featured in another world-famous auction.

There’s no doubt a classic car auction generates some spectacular sales. And behind it all, three world-famous auction houses RM Sothebys, Bonhams and Christie’s.

RM Sotheby’s

Arguably the most famous auction house in the world, RM Sotheby’s is based in Canada with offices in the United States and Europe. The world’s largest collector car auction house by total sales, RM Sothebys has sold a range of the most expensive cars ever.

The famous auction households are the record for the most expensive public-listed car ever sold. The 1962 Ferrari GTO fetched almost A$66 million in 2018. Only 36 cars were ever built and this particular model is only one of seven with series II coachwork.

The most expensive Aston Martin DB5 to ever be auctioned, used in the filming of the James Bond films Goldfinger and Thunderball, sold for A$8.7 million in 2019. Dubbed “the most famous car in the world”, the 1965 Aston was originally commissioned for publicity and promotional activity for Sean Connery’s 007 in the Bond film.

Another Aston Martin, a 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 broke records for RM Sothebys. The car sold in August 2017 for A$30.7 million is a world record price for a British-made car.

When Lewis Hamilton’s 2010 Turkish Grand Prix winning McLaren sold for more than $6.5 million, it was the largest live auction crowd ever. Around 140,000 racing fans were there to witness the spectacle at the historic Silverstone track.

Christie’s

Behind Sotheby’s, Christie’s is probably the first name to mind when you think of a famous auction house. Founded in 1766 by James Christie, the offices are split between two main locations in London and New York. While the British auctioneers may be more synonymous with record-breaking art auctions, some of its car-related sales are second to none.

A 1930 Bugatti Type 41 Royale (that cost just over A$58,500 when brand new) was sold by Christie’s in 1987 for a whopping A$13.3 million at the time. Adjusted for inflation, that’s now A$30.4 million.

13 years late in 2000, the auction house handled the sale of an A$11.45 million (adjusted for inflation) 1966 Ferrari 330 P3. The exceedingly rare P3 was built for endurance racing with only three were ever made. The former double Le Mans winner was stunningly beautiful for the time and produced 420 horsepower from a V-12 engine.

Bonhams

The privately-owned auction house is one of the world’s oldest and largest auctioneers, formed by the merger in 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. Today, the auction house is split between two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge with many more around the world.

While it’s mostly known for sales in the fields of fine arts and antiques, the famous auctioneers have handled the sales of some of the most expensive cars ever. Bonhams biggest sale is currently the second most expensive car ever sold at auction – another 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO worth just over A$56.6 million.

The 2014 sale instantly became a record breaker, beating it’s own record at the time for a 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196. Juan Manuel Fangio’s Formula One winning car sold for over A$40 million.

You can read more about Lewis Hamilton’s GP Winning McLaren here. Or learn about the Hypercar Bugatti Divo worth $8.2m here.

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