Most expensive car ever sold online could fetch more than $4 million

A 2001 Ferrari could become the most expensive car ever sold in an online auction this week, amid expectations that it could sell for more than $4 million.

The sale by RM Sotheby’s is part of a series of online auctions being held this month by classic car companies to replace the auctions usually held in Monterey, California, as part of the Concours D’Elegance. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the sales will be almost entirely online this year.

So far, prices and sales suggest that demand for classic cars — especially vintage Ferraris — has held up well throughout the pandemic. The strength of the sales also suggests that wealthy collectors are willing to buy six-figure and seven-figure cars without inspecting or driving them, which could shift more auctions online even after the Covid crisis. 

Total auction sales of collectible cars for year to date have reached $711 million, down only 8% from last year. And the numbers are likely to head far higher after the remaining summer auctions.

“People are driving more, enjoying their cars more and just looking for something fun to do that gets them out of the house,” said McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty, a classic-car insurance company. He added that with interest rates so low and many of the wealthy benefiting from strong markets and recent asset sales, the financial underpinnings of the classic car market are strong.

“When collectors see an opportunity right now, they want to strike,” he said.

2001 Ferrari 550 GT1 Prodrive Remi Dargegen

©2020 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

The big headliner this week is RM Sotheby’s sale of a 2001 Ferrari 550 GT1 Prodrive racecar, which was one of only 12 built and won several races in the early 2000s. It’s expected to sell for between $3.9 million and $4.9 million, which would make it the most expensive car ever sold at an online-only auction.

RM Sotheby’s also has a bright yellow 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 by Scaglietti that’s estimated to sell for between $2.5 million and $2.75 million. And it has a striking 2014 Pagani Huayra — one of just 100 bespoke examples produced between 2011 and 2016 — that could fetch up to $2 million.

967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 by Scaglietti

Darin Schnabel ©2020 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

“The number of cars being sold this summer may be down, but prices have not taken a hit,” said Kenneth Ahn, president of RM Sotheby’s. 

The current record for a classic car sold online is held by another Ferrari — a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose that went for $3.08 million at a Gooding & Co. online auction on Aug. 7. The auction took in a total of $14.5 million, with five cars selling for $1 million or more, including a 2003 Ferrari Enzo, a 1995 Ferrari F50 and a 1934 Duesenberg Model J Town Car.

“The demand for quality cars has not faded during such uncertain times,” said David Gooding, president and founder of Gooding & Co.

The shift online has helped attract younger buyers to classic cars. Ahn said that the average age of RM Sotheby’s bidders has fallen by a decade this year, to between 50 and 60, with buyers in their 40s also becoming much more active. Analysts say millenials are also driving growth, bidding up the prices of 1990s cars as well as older four-wheelers, Ford Broncos and vintage vans that they can use on trips. 

To improve their online sales, the auction companies have added more detailed photography and video of the cars as well as more interactive features.

2014 Pagani Huayra

©2020 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

“Younger buyers go to their phone first,” Hagerty said. “So the auction companies and dealers are showcasing the cars in a more modern, consumer-grade way.”

The big question for the industry is how it changes post-Covid.The world of classic cars has always been built around events — big gatherings of collectors, auction companies, enthusiasts and corporate sponsors around the country. While selling cars online is less expensive, allowing auction companies to cut costs and fees, online sales can’t replace the events.

Many expect that after the pandemic, the physical auctions may be smaller and online sales will continue to handle the less expensive, more commodotized collector cars.

“I think you could see physical auctions scaling back after this,” Ahn said. “But the social aspect of car collecting, with people gathering with other car collectors is very important. So I think that will come back.”

2001 Ferrari 550 GT1 Prodrive Remi Dargegen

©2020 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

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